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January 2009
I was planning on taking a hiatus from posting until February, but this one is too good to pass up. Thanks to everyone who emailed me about it.

Back in the 1970s Elaine Murphy noticed an unusual condition, Guitar Nipple, described in the British Medical Journal. She suspected it might be a hoax, which inspired her to invent a similar bizarre condition, Cello Scrotum, which she detailed in a letter to the journal. She got her husband to send the letter in his name.

Thirty years on the couple noticed someone had referenced their report, and so they decided it was time to come clean.

Coincidentally, there is a medical condition called Violin Deformity. It's the name plastic surgeons use to describe excessively wide hips.

And, of course, the Murphys were not the first scientific spoofers. I've reported previously on one Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis who wrote a letter to Medical News back in 1884 describing "an uncommon form of vaginismus". He claimed to have treated a couple who became locked together during intercourse as a result of a vaginal spasm. The letter was a hoax, and its true author was Sir William Osler.

I'll begin regular posting again on Monday.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 29, 2009
Comments (15)
This has to be fake. If he really did eat the Bhut Jolokia, the world's hottest pepper, he wouldn't be talking by the end of the video. His tongue would be too blistered and swollen. Still, it's a good video. (via J-Walk)

Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 14, 2009
Comments (27)
I've had no time to post anything recently, and that'll likely continue until the end of this month. The problem is that a British version of my second book, Hippo Eats Dwarf, will be coming out this year, but it'll be a significantly revised version. I have to get the manuscript to the publisher by February 1, and I still have a lot of work left to do on it. The next two weeks are going to be busy.

When I have to choose between blogging and doing something that actually makes some money, the money, in the short term, usually wins. In the long term, of course, my non-commercial instincts always kick in sooner or later, and I return to my poverty-making pursuits.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 13, 2009
Comments (14)
Time magazine listed the Where The Hell Is Matt? video (which shows Matt Harding doing an odd little dance in various locations around the world) as the #1 viral video of 2008. But at a conference on December 11, Harding confessed that the video was just a hoax. He said the whole thing had been shot in front of a green screen, and that animatronic mannequins had been used to make it look like people were dancing with him. Check out the full video of his confession:



Now, when I watch this, I think it's obvious he's being sarcastic. He's making fun of people who are so paranoid they think everything is fake.

However, not everyone seems to recognize the sarcasm. I've run across some websites in the past few days that are reporting Harding's "confession" as a straight story, with no mention of sarcasm. For instance, check out this Associated Content article, which doesn't seem to be just playing along with the gag.

As the saying goes, "we are at our most gullible, when we are most skeptical."
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 07, 2009
Comments (13)
In the past few days I've had a number of people report that there seems to be a virus on the site. I've also had it happen to me twice that I'll try to load a page of the site and instead be transferred to a spam site.

Could you all let me know if you're having similar problems. The more info I have, the easier it will be to track down the source of the problem.

I suspect the virus is being loaded onto the site via the ads, and I've contacted the ad hosting company. But there's a remote possibility a virus is actually on my server.

Anyway, I'm working on the problem.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 05, 2009
Comments (12)
There's another new book out to add to my library of hoaxes. It's Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders by Paul Maliszewski. From the product description:

From James Frey and his fake memories of drug-addled dissolution to Stephen Glass and his fake dispatches from the fringes of politics to the author formerly known as JT LeRoy and his fake rural tough talk, we are beset by real-seeming fiction masquerading as truth. We are living in the era of the fake.
Fakers is a fascinating exploration of the varieties of faking, from its historical roots in satire and con artistry to its current boom. Paul Maliszewski journeys into the heart of our fake world, telling tales of the New York Sun's 1835 moon hoax, the invented poet Ern Malley (the inspiration for Peter Carey's novel My Life as a Fake), and Maliszewski's own satiric letters to the editor of the Business Journal of Central New York (written, unbeknownst to the editor, while he worked there as a reporter). Through these stories, he explains why fakers almost always find believers and often flourish.

One of these days I'm going to get around to adding a bibliography of books about hoaxes to the museum. It's on my list of things to do. But right now I'm busy working on revising and updating Hippo Eats Dwarf for an English edition that should be out sometime this year (assuming I get the revisions done on time).
Categories: Books
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 05, 2009
Comments (3)