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June 2009
Brian Regal, a historian of science at Kean University in New Jersey, has an interesting theory about the relationship between werewolves and Bigfoot. He notes that hundreds of years ago werewolves were very prominent in popular culture. But during the past 150 years the werewolf's place in popular culture has declined, while Bigfoot has grown enormously in popularity. He attributes this shift to the theory of evolution. From Science Daily:

From the late 19th century onwards, stories of werewolf encounters tailed away significantly, says Regal. "The spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view," he says. "The ape-human hybrid, however, is not only evolutionarily acceptable, it is the basis of human evolution."

Contrast this with Joshua Buhs' theory, detailed in his new book Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend, in which he attributes Bigfoot's popularity in the 20th century to working-class men who saw in Bigfoot "an icon of untamed masculinity, a populist rebel against scientific elites, the last champion of authentic reality against a plastic, image-driven, effeminate consumer society." (text from the Publishers Weekly review)
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 30, 2009
Comments (8)
Back in August 2006, the Irish company Steorn declared it had developed "revolutionary free energy technology." To back up its claim, they ran an ad in the Economist inviting a jury of independent experts to scrutinize its claims.

It's been almost three years, but the jury has finally delivered its verdict.

The unanimous verdict of the Jury is that Steorn's attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy. The jury is therefore ceasing work.

So the whole thing was a big waste of time. The mystery is why Steorn even bothered. What did they think they were gaining from this elaborate charade?
Categories: Free Energy, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 30, 2009
Comments (11)
The fake celebrity death toll following Michael Jackson's death continues to rise. The body count so far:

Rick Astley (found dead in a Berlin hotel room), Natalie Portman (fell off a cliff), George Clooney (fell off a cliff), P. Diddy, Jeff Goldblum (fell off a cliff), Harrison Ford, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Louie Anderson.

The media is describing this death rumor craze as an internet phenomenon. Of course, the internet is the medium through which the rumors are circulating. However, such death rumor crazes are not unique to the internet. There have been similar crazes in the past. The only difference now is that, thanks to the internet, the rumors can spread faster, but also can be debunked faster. Consider this April 14, 1945 report from the New York Times, excerpted below:

Flood of Rumors Gives City Jitters
Legitimate and Ludicrous Calls Swamp the Switchboards in Wake of Roosevelt Death


Widespread jitters bordering on mass hysteria seemed to sweep New York yesterday in the wake of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, as rumors of killings, accidents and deaths involving prominent persons flooded the city.

Newspapers, radio stations, government offices, banks and corner drugstores were deluged with thousands of telephone calls asking "is it true?" that such and such a person had been killed. The telephone calls in some cases followed patterns so closely that some harassed switchboard operators were convinced the wave was organized as a possible attempt to hamper communications. But the prevailing theory was that irresponsible and flighty persons had fallen prey to their own gullibility.

The names of Van Johnson, film actor, and Comdr. Jack Dempsey were linked by the majority of callers, including two that Commander Dempsey and the actor had been killed together in an automobile accident. Other names mentioned were those of Mayor La Guardia, Harry Hopkins, Robert Taylor, Herbert H. Lehman, Charles Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Errol Flynn, Babe Ruth, Jack Benny and Jimmy Walker.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 30, 2009
Comments (5)
It's been the week of the celebrity death hoax, triggered by the real-life deaths of a string of celebrities (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays).

The recent celebrity death hoaxes have included: Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford, Louie Anderson, Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus.

In the case of Jeff Goldblum and Louie Anderson, the fake deaths were simply old rumors that were recycled. But in the case of Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, and Miley Cyrus, pranksters hacked into their twitter accounts to post false death announcements.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 29, 2009
Comments (2)
I recently created a twitter page for the Museum of Hoaxes, so if you're on twitter, check it out.

I'm pretty inept at this social networking stuff. I created a personal twitter page months ago, but almost never posted to it. Hopefully I'll be more disciplined about tweeting on the MOH page.

There may be a bit of a learning curve, because I still haven't figured out all the twitter lingo. RT is the only abbreviation I understand.

But I'm excited that I already have nine "followers," and I hadn't even told anyone about the page yet.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 28, 2009
Comments (8)
At 9 a.m. George Terry Dinnie left his house to walk Buckley, his bouvier des Flandres. When he returned, an hour-and-a-half later, he discovered that his 2500 gallon pond had disappeared. He figures someone took it, though he doesn't know why or how someone removed that much water: "They pumped the water out faster than I can fill it up again. It's as weird as weird can be." Something fishy is going on. That's for sure. [morning call]
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 27, 2009
Comments (7)
The Sri Lankan government recently arrested the astrologer Chandrasiri Bandara. Unfortunately, it wasn't because he was peddling pseudoscience, but because his predictions had political implications they didn't like. He had foreseen that a planetary change on October 8 would be inauspicious for the government, and that it wouldn't be able to contain rising living costs. [BBC]
Categories: Future/Time, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 27, 2009
Comments (4)
A pair of French students attending Strasbourg university won first place in Paris Match's photoreporting competition, a prize that came with €5000. But upon receiving the prize, they revealed that all their photos had been staged. From the British Journal of Photography:

Guillaume Chauvin and Rémi Hubert won for a reportage chronicling the harsh difficulties some poor students encounter while studying at the Strasbourg university. Their images showed students living in basements or offering sex to pay their rents. Another image portrayed a young man falling asleep in a bus as he embarked on a two-hour commute to his university. The reportage can be seen on Paris Match's website here.

The trick? All of the images had been faked, the two winners announced as they received the coveted prize on 24 June. ‘We though it was a bit caricatural,’ says one of the students to Le Monde newspaper. ‘We thought it would never win.’

Paris Match has now changed the rules of the competition to explicitly forbid fake reporting. You can see the photos here.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 27, 2009
Comments (3)
Pranksters in Inverness have made it even more difficult to find Nessie by moving the road signs for Loch Ness so that they point in the wrong direction. The leading suspects are concert-goers attending the RockNess music festival.

But here's the part of the article I found interesting. One resident "likened the alterations to World War II, when the authorities removed signs to prevent German soldiers from navigating their way round the country if they invaded."

I didn't know that had been done during WWII. I can't imagine that a lack of road signs would have significantly slowed down a German invasion. [Press and Journal]
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 26, 2009
Comments (12)
In the wake of the news of the death of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, a rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died began to circulate. Reportedly he died when he fell off a cliff while filming a movie in New Zealand.

Then a rumor surfaced that Harrison Ford had died on board a yacht cruising off the coast of St. Tropez.

Both Ford and Goldblum are still alive. In fact, the Goldblum rumor was simply a rehash of a three-year-old rumor that originally involved Tom Hanks falling off a cliff, and later Tom Cruise.

Maegan has posted more details in the forum.

Some links:
Harrison Ford not dead either
Goldblum NZ death hoax latest in a trail 
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 26, 2009
Comments (0)
In honor of Farrah Fawcett, let's revisit one of the major urban legends of the late 1970s: that the curls of Fawcett's hair, in her famous red-bathing-suit poster, spell out the word "SEX."

This legend arose to explain the incredible popularity of the poster, which sold over 12 million copies (by some accounts). It was always a bit of a mystery why that image in particular became such a focus of popular fixation. After all, there were plenty of other posters of scantily clad attractive young women. The subliminal seduction theory offered a seemingly plausible explanation. The poster was so popular, according to this theory, because the brains of young men were subconsciously perceiving the word "SEX" in her hair, and this triggered desire for the poster.

The word "SEX" is supposed to begin with the curls on her right shoulder that form an S. I can see the S, but I can't see an E-X.

Anyway, I don't think one needs to invoke subliminal seduction to explain the popularity of the poster. The combination of the smile and the nipples makes it an eye-catching image. And once it started to become popular, then the dynamics of group psychology kicked in, turning it into a fad.

Update: Thanks to Joel B1, I think I've now identified where the "EX" is supposed to be. For the benefit of those still unable to see it, I've highlighted the entire word in the relevant section of the image.
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 26, 2009
Comments (18)
It appears that Michael Jackson has died, which is only worth mentioning here because in addition to being the "King of Pop," he was also the King of the fake death rumor. Even The Onion satirically predicted his death back in 2005. But this time, it seems to be for real.

Now the "he faked his death" rumors can start.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 25, 2009
Comments (10)
Traditional explanations for crop circles: 1) Drunken pranksters; 2) tourism councils; 3) UFOs; 4) whirlwinds; 5) magnetic vortices.

To this we can add a sixth: stoned wallabies.

Posted by Beasjt in the forum:

WALLABIES are hopping into Tasmania’s opium poppy fields and getting high.
The revelation has also solved what some growers say has spurred a campfire legend about mysterious crop circles which appear in the state’s poppy paddocks. In true X-Files style, Attorney-General Lara Giddings said yesterday the drugged-up wallabies had been found hopping around in circles squashing the poppies, creating the formations. [Link]
Categories: Crop Circles
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 25, 2009
Comments (4)
The commerce department of India is considering filing a formal diplomatic complaint against China because of Chinese garments being sold in Nigeria with fake "Made in India" tags. I'm sure it's a serious diplomatic matter, but if you could just somehow add a Russian gangster and a Spanish prisoner into the mix, you'd have a perfect storm of scam artists. [Economic Times]
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Scams
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 24, 2009
Comments (4)
This video exposing the "Photoshop Effect" (how photoshop is used to make models look more perfect than they really are) seems to be a thinly veiled excuse to put an attractive model in front of the camera and then photoshop her. That's good enough for me.

Categories: Body Manipulation, Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 24, 2009
Comments (10)
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