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August 2011
Looks like another case of the old Message in a Bottle hoax.

Two years ago 4-year-old Libbi Wallace threw a bottled message into the Kennebec River, inspired by her dad's tales of doing so as a kid. According to Maine's The Times Record, she recently received a reply from someone who claimed to have found her bottle while kayaking on Lake Erie. Her correspondent chose to remain anonymous, identifying themselves only as "Surprised in Cleveland."

But as Brian Bienkowski of the Great Lakes Echo points out, it would be physically impossible for a bottle to float from Maine's Kennebec River to Lake Erie.

For a start, the Kennebec flows into the Atlantic Ocean. To get to Lake Erie, the bottle would have to float up to the St. Lawrence River, head upstream for hundreds of miles, and somehow get over Niagara Falls.

Perhaps someone carried it to Lake Erie. Or, as Bienkowski asks: "Is 'Surprised in Cleveland' really 'Loving Father in Bath, Maine?'"
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 31, 2011
Comments (5)
An article by Nick Redfern on discusses the theory that the Loch Ness Monster (and Bigfoot) may be "phantimals". That is, "the spirits or ghosts of creatures that became extinct thousands of years ago." This theory is promoted by paranormal expert Joshua P. Warren, author of Pet Ghosts, who argues that "the world’s most famous lake-monster, Nessie, might actually represent some form of 'ghostly plesiosaur,' rather than a literal, living animal or colony of animals."

Nice theory. But what I found more interesting was the next part of the article, in which Redfern discusses the research of Jim Marrs, author of PSI Spies, who learned that during some of the U.S. government's experiments with remote viewing (the Stargate Project perhaps?) remote viewers were asked to focus on Nessie and detail what they saw:

Several sessions targeting the famous Loch Ness monster revealed physical traces of the beast – a wake in the water, movement of a large body underwater. Their drawings even resembled a prehistoric plesiosaur, often identified as matching descriptions of Nessie. But when the viewers tried to discover where the object came from or returned to, they hit a dead end. The creature seemed to simply appear and disappear. Considering that reports of human ghosts date back throughout man’s history, the Psi Spies seriously considered the possibility that the Loch Ness monster is nothing less than a dinosaur’s ghost.

And here I went all the way to Loch Ness to see Nessie. I could have just stayed in San Diego and remote viewed her.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Nessie, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 31, 2011
Comments (8)
I just received an email from someone who works at (an American Express Publishing site):
Currently we're putting together a photo gallery feature about America's Roadside Attractions and we're including the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego. I'm working on collecting photos of the museum— overall interior and exterior shots are best. Please send a selection photos as soon as possible by the end of today/tomorrow morning at the latest.

Hmm. What should I send them?

Update: "Fred in na gadda da vida" suggested I send them this picture, which he kindly created. But I'd already sent them the three images on the 'About the Museum' page.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 30, 2011
Comments (10)
Status: Real Photos, False Captions

Obama Perry

The political dirty tricks season is upon us again, and so we get the image above, which has recently been circulating around conservative blogs. (Thanks to Gayl for forwarding it to me.) Its intent is obvious: to show that Rick Perry was serious and heroic as a young man, whereas Barack Obama was a bit of a punk.

The pictures themselves are real. The picture of Obama was taken in 1980 by Lisa Jack when both were freshmen at Occidental College in L.A. The picture of Rick Perry is undated, but must have been taken sometime between 1972 and 1977, when Perry served in the Air Force.

Therefore, the captions of the images are incorrect. Obama would have been 19 at the time the photo was taken, whereas Perry would have been between the ages of 22 and 27. So the comparison isn't quite fair. By the time he was in his early 20s, Obama was working as a community organizer in Chicago.

Furthermore, Perry himself was reportedly a bit of a punk while in college. According to a recent article in The Texas Tribune:

On one occasion, Perry put live chickens in the closet of an upperclassman and left them there during Christmas break. “You can just imagine the smell,” Sharp said. “Needless to say, he didn’t mess with Perry again.”

Another more elaborate prank took Perry months to execute. It involved M-80 firecrackers and an acquired knowledge of the plumbing in A&M buildings.

Perry learned that he could drop something down the second floor toilet and get it to come out the first floor toilet. Then he learned M-80s had waterproof detonators — a perfect combination. His accomplice, Sharp, would give the high sign out the window when a potential target wandered into a stall. Perry, from the floor above, would flush the lit firework down.

A fairer comparison might have been to contrast Obama looking laidback in his straw hat and cigarette dangling out of his mouth with Perry exploding a toilet.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 30, 2011
Comments (3)
Reality Rule 4.2: Should a suitably dramatic picture of a major event not exist, one will be created.

This rule was in full effect during Hurricane Irene, as twitterers by the thousands shared fake hurricane photos with each other. The NY Times Technology Blog has collected some of the more popular ones:

Widely claimed to show Irene approaching North Carolina, this is really a photo of a storm approaching Pensacola, Florida around three weeks ago.

An image of the East River flooding was an old image taken during a previous storm (though I don't know which previous storm). Someone scanned and posted it.

A shot of the Times Square subway station flooding was, again, an old image recycled to become Hurricane Irene. It was actually taken in 1996 when a water main burst and flooded the station.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 29, 2011
Comments (4)
Unless you're reading this post by RSS, you should be looking at my new site design, which I spent the past week working on. My design skills aren't that great, but I'm hoping it's an improvement over the old design. One of my main objectives was to emphasize that the site isn't just a blog and forum, but also has a large archive of info about hoaxes throughout history. Which is why I put the new archive links front and center.

One feature you may not notice immediately: when you load the site you'll currently see either a pair of jackalopes or nessie to the right of the main banner. I've set it up so that random images will load in this place -- and clicking on the images will take you to the article about whatever hoax they represent. I just need to make some more images to add into the random rotation.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Aug 28, 2011
Comments (11)
I spent the last five days updating the software that runs this site. It was a pretty nightmarish process. First the update changed every URL on the site. Once I managed to fix that, I discovered that the server was repeatedly crashing.

My webhost looked into the issue and found that spammers were trying to submit large amounts of comment spam, which was locking up the servers. (Most of the spam wasn't making it onto the site because the spammers apparently weren't filling out the captcha form, but I guess it was still putting a strain on the server to have to keep denying the spam.) So to combat this, I had to make one large change to how the site runs. From now on, only registered members can submit comments. In fact, only registered members will even be able to see the comment submission form.

Of course, this won't stop spammers from registering and posting spam. But it will stop the lazier type of spammers who simply direct their autobots at the site's comment form and blast away until the server collapses.

This change will mean that there will be far fewer comments on the site. And I know that some people are basically allergic to having to register for sites. But the spammers didn't leave me much choice. And it should make the site more spam free and thus more pleasant for people who do leave comments.

So the spam problem was addressed, but the servers were still freezing up. After a lot more investigation, one of the guys from the software company traced the problem to a bug with how the software was dealing with comment pagination, and he fixed the bug. So, at last, the site appears to be working. Fingers crossed.

I'll keep an eye on the comment pagination problem, and if it looks like it's not fully resolved, I'll simply turn off pagination for all threads and set the comment count high enough so that all the comments for most threads can fit on one page. For those few threads with a lot of comments, I'll ask people to continue the discussion over at the forum, because the forum's software doesn't seem to have the same problem with pagination.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 17, 2011
Comments (7)
Been a little quiet here lately. Hello? Do I hear an echo?

I've returned from book writing (my new book, Electrified Sheep, is available for purchase in the UK... an American version is coming out in 2012), as well as home remodeling, and now I'm slowly slouching my way back toward blogging, one small step at a time. The first step was to address the problem of what to do with all my weird science material (such as my list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments which, somewhat confusingly, was housed here at the Museum of Hoaxes). I did this by creating the Mad Science Museum. My plan is that the MSM will serve as a sister site to the MOH.

The second step is to focus on the Hoax Museum again, and that means updating the site's software. That'll take me a couple of days because the software is now so out of date that updating it is going to cause a lot of things to go haywire.

The third step will be to freshen up the site's design and address the spam problem. Final step: start blogging again. So to those few people who may actually see this note, stay tuned for more!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 11, 2011
Comments (10)