The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
February 2009
Did Ismail the Bloodthirsty really father 888 children?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 23, 2009
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the 18th century Moroccan ruler Ismail the Bloodthirsty holds the record for being the most prolific father ever. He supposedly fathered 888 children, which means he had to father about 15 children a year for 60 years. But Dorothy Einon, a researcher at University College London, argues in her article "How many children can one man have?" that even if Ismail had access to a steady supply of fertile women, it would have been impossible for him to father this many children. Problem One: The infrequency of ovulation. Ismail would need to accurately time when the women were actually fertilizable, which is…
Categories: Comments (23)
The Atlantic Swim Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 17, 2009
A couple of people emailed me about this, though I think it's more a case of miscommunication rather than a deliberate hoax. A little over a week ago the media reported that 56-year-old Jennifer Figge had become the first woman to swim the Atlantic. But then people started to do the math, and realized that if she had really swum 2100 in 25 days, then she had performed a superhuman feat. Two days later the AP published a retraction, quoting Figge's spokesman who stated she swam only 250 miles, not 2100. Which is why it seems more like a case of miscommunication to me. Figge didn't appear to…
Categories: Sports Comments (4)
Love in the age of Facebook
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 17, 2009
It's hard to tell how much of this story is genuine. Stuart Slann supposedly learned the hard way part of the truth of the old joke that on the internet the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents. In Stuart's case, Emma, the woman he thought he met on Facebook, was actually two guys playing an elaborate prank on him. Apparently they lured him into driving nine hours to meet Emma in Aberdeen, and then they revealed the truth to him. And since this is the age of YouTube, the pranksters also created a video (now widely viewed) to celebrate the humiliation of their victim.
The Australian Spaghetti Harvest
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 16, 2009
Many thanks to Chris Keating, who has not only uncovered the long-lost Australian tribute to the BBC's Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax, but has posted it on youtube. The date when this was broadcast is still uncertain. Seems to have been in the early to mid-1960s. It aired on Melbourne station HSV-7. The presenter is Dan Webb. Whereas the BBC's original broadcast described the bumper spaghetti crop that the Swiss were enjoying, the Australian version develops the story further by telling the story of a group of Sicilian farmers who were brought to Australia in the hope of developing the Australian spaghetti industry. Everything went well until their crop was blighted by the dreaded…
Categories: April Fools Day, Food Comments (4)
Fake Calls
Posted by The Curator on Wed Feb 11, 2009
James Katz, a professor of communication at Rutgers University, has studied the phenomenon of people who fake calls on cell phones. He's found that a very high number of people do this (above 90%). Reasons include: to avoid talking to someone nearby, to look important, or to look busier than they are. Katz has been quoted as saying: "They are taking a device that was designed to talk to people who are far away and using it to communicate with people who are directly around them." Two apps available for the iPhone demonstrate the robustness of this trend: Fake Calls will make it look like you just received a call. Similarly, Fake Text
Categories: Technology Comments (28)
The Dalai Lama Twitters and then is gone
Posted by The Curator on Wed Feb 11, 2009
February 1: The Dalai Lama joins the micro-blogging service Twitter and starts posting updates, which soon almost 20,000 people are following. February 9: Twitter announces that the Dalai Lama's account is a fake and cancels it. This explanatory message was posted on the Twitter blog: One of the essential doctrines of Buddhism is Impermanence. The word expresses the notion that everything we can experience through our senses is in flux, constantly changing, and ceasing to be—nothing is permanent. Is there some meaning, therefore, in the sudden disappearance of a Twitter account thought…
Baby Brain
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 09, 2009
News from the frontiers of medicine: "Baby Brain" is a myth; that syndrome being the supposed decline in intelligence that women suffer while pregnant. A study led by Dr. Helen Christensen of the Australian National University in Canberra tracked 2500 women over ten years and "found no difference between their brainpower before and during their pregnancies." Baby Brain reminds me of Josh Whicker's 2004 Hoosier Gazette hoax in which he claimed that a five-year Indiana University study had found that "having children significantly lowers parents’ IQs." If I remember, that fooled a lot of the media, including Keith Olbermann. Anyway, I still believe there's such a thing as Internet…
Categories: Birth/Babies Comments (8)
Dildo Boulevard
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 09, 2009
First there was Shoe Corner (the place in New Jersey where shoes kept mysteriously getting dumped); next there was Pantyhose Corner in Massachusetts. Now we have Dildo Boulevard. That's the name that's been given to the street in Darwin, Australia where 30 sex toys were inexplicably found lying in the road. Where did they come from? Nobody knows: One theory is that it is an elaborate - and expensive - practical joke. Another school of thought is that they fell off the back of a delivery truck. Some said the sex toys could have been inside somebody's…
Categories: Places, Sex/Romance Comments (4)
Radio station fined for cash hoax
Posted by The Curator on Fri Feb 06, 2009
The FCC has charged a Pittsburgh radio station a $6000 fine for a Thanksgiving day hoax in which the station told listeners they were giving away one-million dollars to the thirteenth caller. There wasn't actually any money, but they kept one guy on hold for 45 minutes, making him believe he had won. I can see the FCC's point. A million-dollar prize isn't something that's inherently unbelievable. So for the radio station to claim it had the money when it didn't isn't exactly an amusing hoax. It's more like a blatant lie.
Categories: Radio Comments (10)
Astrological Discrimination
Posted by The Curator on Fri Feb 06, 2009
Two days ago the Daily Mail published an article describing an unnamed "Salzburg insurance company" that seems to be practicing a form of astrological discrimination in its hiring. The company is said to have placed this ad in newspapers: We are looking for people over 20 for part-time jobs in sales and management with the following star signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Aquarius, Aries and Leo. When accused of discrimination, the company responded: "A statistical study indicated that almost all of our best employees across Austria have one of the five star signs." And a spokeswoman later followed up with…
Categories: Journalism, Pseudoscience Comments (8)
Krassner’s Anti-Communism Poster
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 05, 2009
In 1963 Paul Krassner included a poster that said "Fuck Communism" in his magazine The Realist. The poster was very popular with counter-culture types. Kurt Vonnegut described it as a "miracle of compressed intelligence nearly as admirable for potent simplicity, in my opinion, as Einstein's e=mc2" because it demonstrated "how preposterous it was for so many people to be responding to both words with such cockamamie Pavlovian fear and alarm." Krassner himself often told this story about the poster: At a midwestern college, one graduating student held up a FUCK COMMUNISM! poster…
Categories: Photos/Videos, Pranks Comments (6)
Computer Tan
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 05, 2009
Get a tan as you sit in front of your computer by logging onto ComputerTan.com: This technological breakthrough is enabled by converting the electrical impulse delivered to your pc into radiated factor-free UV rays. It's Tan-Tastic! The Times Online reveals that the site is actually a hoax created by the UK skin cancer charity Skcin "to raise awareness of skin cancer in the UK." However, within only 24 hours, 30,000 people had registered their interest in getting a "computer tan" before the site was…
Categories: Technology, Websites Comments (6)
Forensic Astrology
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 05, 2009
What would Grissom have to say about this: Forensic Astrology Forensic Astrology is the art of using Horary and Birth Charts in combination to determine the nature of events as they occurred in unsolved crimes and missing persons cases. In its defense, I'm sure the guy gets results that are just as good as those psychics who try to solve crimes.
New phishing scam merges physical and virtual worlds
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 05, 2009
Police in Grand Forks, Michigan North Dakota report that people are finding fake parking tickets on their cars that direct them to go to horribleparking.com to view information about standard parking regulations. When they visit the site, a virus is downloaded onto their computer. It's not clear what the virus does, but it seems like a pretty elaborate way to infect someone's computer. Also, an expensive way. Printing fake tickets and paying someone to distribute them has to cost a lot more than sending out emails. Link: Grand Forks Herald.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Scams Comments (6)
Goldfinger Urban Legends
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 03, 2009
The authors of The Science of James Bond note that the movie Goldfinger has spawned two enduring urban legends: 1) That if you shoot out the window of a plane flying at 35,000 feet, the resulting depressurization will create enough force to suck a person through the hole. Not true! The authors say the airflow wouldn't even be enough to lift a person. 2) It is possible to suffocate by completely covering yourself in gold paint. Therefore, professional dancers who paint themselves know to leave a small bare patch of skin for air. Again, total myth. The authors state that the only danger of being covered with gold paint is "pores being clogged…
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