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February 2012
Mitt Romney recently displayed an example of what I termed "false memory syndrome" in Hippo Eats Dwarf. It's the tendency of politicians to have memories of events that never happened to them.

In Romney's case, he recently told an audience how he remembered being at Detroit's Automotive Golden Jubilee, in which his dad served as grandmaster. The problem is, the Golden Jubilee took place on June 1, 1946, nine months before Mitt was born. (link: thestar.com)

Other examples of the phenomenon include French president Nicolas Sarkozy claiming he was present in Berlin in November 1989 and helped knock down the Berlin Wall; Ronald Reagan claiming he witnessed the liberation of the Nazi death camps during World War II -- even though he was never sent to Europe during the war. And Arnold Schwarzenegger saying he was inspired to enter politics after watching the Nixon-Humphrey presidential debate on TV in 1968, even though the debate wasn't televised.
(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 28, 2012
Comments (4)
Earlier this month, Icelandic resident Hjörtur E. Kjerúlf was having coffee in his house near Lake Lagarfljót, when he spotted something moving in the water. He immediately picked up his camera and started recording (link: Iceland Review). Below is the video he took.

Is it evidence of the existence of the Lagarfljót Worm -- the giant worm monster said to live in Lake Lagarfljót? Or is it just a piece of fishing net floating in the water?



The worm monster, or Lagarfljótsormur, is Iceland's equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. The legend of it is centuries old. Wikipedia offers this account of the creature's origin:

According to the folk tradition recorded by Jón Árnason, the great serpent in Lagarfljót grew out of a small "lingworm" or heath-dragon; a girl was given a gold ring by her mother, and asked how she might best derive profit from the gold, was told to place it under a lingworm.[1] She did so, and put it in the top of her linen chest for a few days, but then found that the little dragon had grown so large, it had broken open the chest. Frightened, she threw both it and the gold into the lake,[2] where the serpent continued to grow and terrorized the countryside, spitting poison and killing people and animals.
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 25, 2012
Comments (5)
The author of "Ghetto Hikes," which is a twitter feed and accompanying website, offers this description of it:

I'm 28. I have a full time job leading urban kids (of all races) on nature hikes. I simply write down shit they say.

It's kind of obvious that it's a parody in the style of "Shit My Dad Says," but the Village Voice confirms it isn't real:

Looks like Ghetto Hikes is a parody account -- and an unfunny one at that. According to a just-released tweet, Men's Humor and Ghetto Hikes were registered by the same person.

The most surprising thing about Ghetto Hikes is that it has over 430,000 followers!

Categories: Exploration/Travel, Social Networking Sites, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 24, 2012
Comments (0)
This Is Cornwall has a brief article about the "Owlman of Mawnan." They write:

The first sighting occurred in April of that year. Don Melling, who was holidaying in the area, said that on April 17 his young daughters, June and Vicky, were walking through woods near Mawnan church when they saw a "half-man half-owl" hovering above the church.

The incident is suspected to be a hoax because Tony "Doc" Shiels became involved. He was the first person Melling told about the sighting, and then became the source for various illustrations of the Owlman. Shiels already has a place in the Hoax Museum because he was the source of the "Loch Ness Muppet" image. So his credibility is pretty low.

Categories: Cryptozoology, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 24, 2012
Comments (1)
Brooke Kroeger and Cary Abrams have an article in the Local East Village analyzing the Great Banana-Smoking Hoax of 1967 -- in which a rumor spread alleging that you could get high by smoking bananas. Or rather, get high by smoking "bananadine," created by scraping the inside of a banana peel, boiling the residue, then drying out the residue and rolling it into a joint.

They try to get to the bottom of who started the rumor. One contender is the staff of the East Village Other magazine. Another theory has the singer Donovan as the instigator, through his song Mellow Yellow. Or perhaps it was the singer Country Joe.



Kroeger and Abrams think Country Joe is the most likely original source of the rumor, though they concede that "the Great Banana Smoking Hoax has many mothers."

Whoever started the rumor, it eventually had the great effect of inspiring the federal government to study bananas to determine any psychedelic properties they might have. Just in case bananas might have to be added to the list of controlled substances.
Categories: Food, Health/Medicine, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 23, 2012
Comments (4)
Someone has gone to a bunch of trouble to make it seem as if Dell produced an ad featuring "Visual Innovator" Clayton Sotos. The ad has high production values, and there's an accompanying website showcasing some of Sotos's work. The joke is that Sotos photographs people farting.

Dell insists they're not responsible for the ad. They posted this statement on their twitter page: "This video is in no way affiliated with Dell, but it's great to see creative professionals get inspiration from using our products. Our dell.com/takeyourownpath program is all about celebrating people who take their own professional path. Regarding this parody, we consider imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery."

Gizmodo claims that music and media producer Christian Heuer is behind the mock ad. (links: gizmodo.com, money.msn.co.nz)



Categories: Gross, Photos/Videos, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 23, 2012
Comments (0)
In the past two weeks, various blogs have been reporting that "strange metal boxes" have been washing up on beaches in Oregon, Washington, and northern California. In some versions of the reports, these boxes make humming and screeching noises, are seamless, and can't be moved, even by trucks. The boxes are said to have appeared after UFO sightings.


Theories about what these boxes may be (besides the theory that they're the lost luggage of UFOs) include the speculation that they're the floats that were once used to support docks, or that they're left by drug runners.

However, reports are now coming in that people have gone searching for these boxes, to examine them for themselves, but haven't been able to find anything. And it looks like the entire "strange metal boxes" story traces back to two articles posted by a Dave Masko. Perhaps the boxes only existed in his imagination.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 22, 2012
Comments (1)
Social networking sites in Nigeria have been ablaze with the rumor that a woman turned into a snake at the Hotel Excel in Warri. The proprietor of the hotel, Chief Moses Odeh, has been doing everything he can to put out the rumor, but once these stories get started, they acquire a life of their own. (informationnigeria.org)

African rumors still have true strangeness to them. Here in America, the majority of twitter and facebook rumors are fake reports of celebrity deaths... which get boring after a while. It'd be kind of refreshing to see a rumor claim that Madonna or Lady Gaga didn't die, but instead turned into a snake.
Categories: Animals, Paranormal, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 21, 2012
Comments (7)
As far as niche dating sites go, you can't get much more niche than SeaCaptainDate.com. It describes itself as "the only place for Sea Captains to connect with men and women who share a love of the ocean."



Now I'm willing to believe that there are niche dating sites out there, but SeaCaptainDate.com seems a little too weird to be real. Is it really just an elaborate joke?

I'm not the first to ponder this question. The site first attracted attention back in Jan 2011, when articles about it appeared on nerve.com, time.com, and howaboutwe.com (among others). These sites expressed some doubts, but overall leaned toward the site being real.

Most recently, jezebel.com weighed in on the matter -- and they too decided the site seemed to be real, since they managed to contact a spokesperson for the site who, in turn, connected them with a woman who claimed she had actually been on a date with a sea captain through the site.

Jezebel.com conceded that both the site rep and the woman could have been in on the gag, but noted, "if that's true, someone out there is trying really, really hard to make us believe that you can sign up to date sea captains on the internet. And that's a labor of love in itself."

However, I still have my doubts. Here are the things that have my hoax-sense buzzing:

1) The site is registered anonymously. This, in itself, doesn't mean anything, except that anonymity is the preferred method-of-operation of hoaxers.

2) The site was registered in 2010, but it claims that its business has existed since 2007. It explains that it used to be called AtlantisDate.com. However, I can't find any evidence that AtlantisDate.com ever existed before 2011. According to the info in the WHOIS database, atlantisdate.com was only created in Jan 2011, which is a bit odd if the site supposedly existed since 2007.

3) The gallery of sea captains who are members of the site doesn't seem to have changed at all since Jan 2011. So if the site is real, its member base is pretty static. Doesn't appear to be getting much new business.

4) Finally, check out the Sea Captain Date Song -- and listen to the lyrics:



There's a place to go
To find the lady of your dreams
And sail into the sunset
Where no one hears her screams

I'm sorry, but no real dating business would be making jokes about its members murdering women on the high seas.

The site credits the Sea Captain Date Song to "acclaimed songwriter and musician" Cole Gladis. Coincidentally, Gladis lives in Philadelphia, where Sea Captain Date also says that it has its offices. I'm guessing the entire site is a joke dreamed up by Gladis.
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 21, 2012
Comments (3)
An old mermaid was recently found, stored in the archives of the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, and a research team from the University of Lincoln decided to examine it. So far they've discovered that its hair is human, its upper body is constructed of wood and wire, its teeth are carved bone, and its eyes are mollusc shell. Future tests will determine what fish its tail came from. (link: BBC News)


At first I thought it looked like the Bloomsbury Mermaid (pictured below). But no, they're definitely different mermaids. Though similar in design. (Thanks, Hudson!)

Categories: Animals, Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 16, 2012
Comments (6)
Rep. Katie Hobbs has introduced a bill into the Arizona state legislature that would require advertisers to put the following disclaimer on advertisements if the image in the ad was "photoshopped" (link: zacentral.com):

"Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved."

Similar legislation has been introduced in the UK and France, its purpose being to try to counteract the social pressure on people, particularly young girls, to feel the need to look perfect -- to remind them that the way models look in ads isn't reality.

The problem, of course, is that every ad nowadays uses digital enhancements of some kind to improve pictures. So every ad would have to carry the disclaimer, muting its effect.

Also, why focus on post-production techniques, when pre-production techniques (lighting, focus, makeup) can be just as deceptive?

But having said that, I do sympathize with the spirit of the legislation. If a company says that their product can remove wrinkles or blemishes, and they show a picture of a model with perfect skin, it does seem deceptive if that model's face was made perfectly smooth by photoshop, not by use of the product.

It's the old problem that was raised in the Sandpaper Test case back in the early 1960s. When does the use of photographic tricks by advertisers cross the line from enhancement of a product to outright deception?
Categories: Fashion, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 16, 2012
Comments (3)
The Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1873 includes an article about the mathematician/inventor Charles Babbage. In this article, there's a page-long footnote discussing some hoaxes, and at the end of this footnote, there's a brief reference to the existence of a curious group that called itself the "Society for Insulting Women and Frightening Children":


What is this Society? I haven't been able to find it mentioned anywhere except in this Smithsonian Report. But it sounds like a clandestine group of 19th-century pranksters.

The footnote is signed "J.H.", which I assume stands for Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian at the time. He's a pretty credible source, so I assume he wasn't simply making up this Society.

If anyone has any information about this Society, let me know.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 15, 2012
Comments (2)

Source: eBay

In 1941, Tommy Graham employed a clever, but slightly duplicitous, technique to get rides as he hitchhiked from Maryland to California. He used an oil can as a suitcase, so that drivers thought his car had broken down and stopped to help him out. I wonder if this technique would work today. Do people even pick up hitchhikers anymore?


from The Bradford Era, Nov. 4, 1941
Categories: eBay, Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 13, 2012
Comments (4)