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April 2012
E.J. Gold describes himself as a "psychic cook". Or, at least, he briefly kept a blog on which he described himself in this way and offered various psychic recipes.

His recipe for a psychic omelette starts off in a pretty standard way, but once the eggs have begun to harden in the frying pan, the psychic part kicks in:

8. It's at this point that you begin chanting "OM MANI PADME HUM" until the omelette has cooked to your satisfaction on the topside. Then with a deft scoop of the spatula, send the omelette into the air slightly, just enough to flip it over, and get the pan under it to catch the turned-over omelette just right. This takes a bit of practice. The omelette will always have the same look to it at the exact right turning need to observe it with your full attention to determine when that will be. There's a bubbling effect just before the turn point. Think like an alchemist to get this right.

9. When the omelette is firm, but not overcooked, and definitely NOT browned, it's time to turn it over again for a moment or two, add your internal ingredients such as cheese, yogurt, green peppers or whatever, then fold the omelette in half, slip it onto a prepared plate with all your other items already on it, add pepper or topping to taste, and serve. Now you can stop chanting "OM MANI PADME HUM". You have fulfilled your Way of Service for the moment. And that's how a psychic makes a great omelette.

I'm not totally sure whether he was being serious when he posted this blog (Poe's Law), but given the info in his wikipedia bio, I'm leaning toward the conclusion that he was.

Maybe I'll give this psychic cooking a try one of these days and see if it makes any difference.
Categories: Food, Religion
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 07, 2012
Comments (0)
The BBC has an interesting article about myths associated with the Titanic. The five myths they list, summarized, are:
  1. The unsinkability of the Titanic: "the White Star Line never made any substantive claims that the Titanic was unsinkable - and nobody really talked about the ship's unsinkability until after the event"
  2. The band played Nearer, My God, To Thee: The band probably did play on deck as the ship sank, but there's no good evidence that their final song was 'Nearer, My God, To Thee.'
  3. The Heroic Captain Smith: Captain Smith really wasn't that heroic. In fact, his inaction meant that there wasn't a more orderly evacuation.
  4. The Villainous J Bruce Ismay: Ismay, present of the company that built the Titanic, is traditionally portrayed as a villainous businessman who bullied Captain Smith into going faster, and then jumped into the first available lifeboat to save himself. But he probably wasn't that villainous in real life. He actually helped a lot of people into boats.
  5. Forcibly barring third-class passengers from the lifeboats: There was no deliberate attempt to prevent third-class passengers from reaching lifeboats. However, "Gates did exist which barred the third class passengers from the other passengers. But this was not in anticipation of a shipwreck but in compliance with US immigration laws and the feared spread of infectious diseases." As a result, only one-third of steerage passengers survived.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 06, 2012
Comments (3)
Sloppy Photoshopping: The Russian Orthodox Church recently posted a picture on its website of Patriarch Kirill during a 2009 meeting with Vladimir Putin. The photo wouldn't have caused any controversy — except that bloggers noticed a difference between the Patriarch's arm and the reflection of the arm on the shiny surface of the table. The reflection showed an expensive watch on his wrist. Oops. The watch was a gold Breguet watch valued at $30,000.
Links: BBC, ABC News. (via Accipiter in the Hoax Forum)


Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 06, 2012
Comments (0)
I recently received the following email from Marjorie:
In the late 50's, on the morning of April 1, a group of Sydney City Council workers went with jackhammers and other machinery and started an approved excavation in the middle of George St. (the main drag). Hoaxers from Sydney University called the police and warned them that a group of Uni Students dressed as Council workers were tearing up George St. They simultaneously went to the site and warned the workers that a group of students, disguised as police, were on their way to disrupt the job. The result was, understandably, chaos in the main street. I was told about this when I was about 19, (1963) but never saw an official report.

I love emails like this. They bring out the hoax-history geek in me. So here goes.

What Marjorie describes is a prank that was first pulled off by the British "King of Pranksters," Horace de Vere Cole, in 1910. Cole is best known for the Dreadnought hoax of 1910, in which he and a group of friends dressed up as a group of Abyssinian dignitaries, and tricked the British Navy into receiving them with full ceremonial pomp on the H.M.S. Dreadnought.

He staged the "Pulling Up Piccadilly" prank (as he called it) soon after. He and a group of accomplices dressed up as workmen, walked over to London's Piccadilly Street, and started digging a hole in the middle of it. They asked a policeman to direct traffic around them as they worked, and the policeman, thinking they were real workers, did as requested. After half an hour of work, they all dropped their tools and retired to the nearby Ritz Hotel to watch the mayhem they had created.

An undated cartoon account of Cole's prank -- that gets the details of the prank wrong.

Cole is an interesting character. There was a violent, self-destructive side to his pranks, as if he felt compelled to lash out at the world around him. Although he inherited a great deal of money, he lost it all and died penniless. If you want to read more about him, I highly recommend a recent biography of him by Martyn Downer titled The Sultan of Zanzibar: The Bizarre World and Spectacular Hoaxes of Horace de Vere Cole.

The same prank was later reported to have been perpetrated by Hugh Troy in New York. (Troy was like the American counterpart to Horace de Vere Cole, but without the violent, self-destructive side). Or, at least, H. Allen Smith in his 1953 book The Compleat Practical Joker claimed that Troy repeated the prank, though Smith isn't the most reliable of sources:

Early one morning Troy led four companions down Fifty-fourth Street to Fifth Avenue. They wore overalls, carried picks and shovels and had provided themselves with red lanterns and 'Men Working' signs. Opposite the old Rockefeller residence they set to work ripping up the pavement. By noontime they had dug quite a hole in the street. Troy posted flags and signs and they knocked off for lunch. He led his grimy laborers into the dining room of a fashionable hotel near by. The headwaiter was horrified, of course, but Troy was prepared.
"It's all right," he whispered. "It's a little gag the manager wants us to put over."
After a hearty meal, during which some of the other diners stamped out of the place with their noses in the air, Troy led his men back to the excavation. They worked through the afternoon, widening and deepening the hole, then hung up the lanterns and signs and went home. The municipal authorities did not discover the hoax until evening of the following day and they were so bewildered by it that they never did find out who was responsible.

Marjorie's email was the first I had heard of an Australian version of the prank. So I did some searching in the National Library of Australia's newspaper archive, and eventually I found a brief reference to such an event — in the Perth Sunday Times, April 18, 1954.

The Sunday Times article discusses the tradition of student pranks during graduation week, complaining that Perth students hadn't been holding their own in this tradition when compared with students on the east coast of Australia. Towards the end, the author gives some examples of recent east-coast pranks (from around 1952). There's a brief reference to an Australian version of Cole's 'Pulling Up Piccadilly' prank at the bottom of the list:

I'm guessing that the story Marjorie heard (with the details about the students simultaneously warning the police and the workers) was an embellished version of what actually happened. Which isn't surprising, since pranks have a way of "improving" as they're retold. More likely, the students simply restaged Cole's prank. And it wasn't an April Fool's Day prank, but rather a graduation week prank. But it appears to be true that Sydney University students did stage the street-digging prank around 1952.

I'm not aware of any later stagings of the prank, but I'd be surprised if someone hasn't repeated it in the last half-century.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 06, 2012
Comments (0)
This picture and caption has been circulating around the internet recently:

This a Moon Melon , scientifically knows as asidus. This fruit grows in some parts of Japan , and it's known for it's weird blue color. What you probably don't know about this fruit, is that it can switch flavors after you eat it. Everything sour will taste sweet, and everything salty will taste bitter, and it gives water a strong orange-like taste. This fruit is Very expensive. It costs about ¥16000 JPY (which is about 200 dollars).

Unfortunately, as intriguing as the moon melon sounds, it's just the product of digital color effects. lists a large variety of melons, including some odd ones such as Christmas Melon, Citron Melon, Collective Farm Woman Melon, Japanese Melon, Santa Claus Melon, Red Moon Melon, and Persian Melon. But no blue-colored Japanese Moon Melon.

From an article on, I found this list of fruits and vegetables that legitimately do come in shades of blue:
  • Black currants
  • Black salsify
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Dried plums
  • Eggplant
  • Elderberries
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Prunes
  • Purple Belgian endive
  • Purple Potatoes
  • Purple asparagus
  • Purple cabbage
  • Purple carrots
  • Purple figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Purple peppers
  • Raisins
Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 06, 2012
Comments (3)
These would actually be pretty cool if you made them with jello.

Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 05, 2012
Comments (1)
Unicorn Cookbook
The British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog announced the discovery of a long-lost medieval cookbook that included recipes for unicorns: "Taketh one unicorne," marinade it in cloves and garlic, and roast it on a griddle.

Bacon-Scented Cat Litter
Fresh Step announced the introduction of Organic Bacon-scented cat litter: "The power of activated carbon meets the scrumptious scent of freshly cooked bacon."

Mars Attacks: The Musical
Topps and IDW Publishing announced on Facebook that they were producing a broadway musical based on Mars Attacks, to be titled Mars Attacks: 21st Century Slaughter. It was going to be, "a science fiction version of West Side Story: a human and a Martian involved in a star-crossed romance, set against the backdrop of a violent interstellar war - with all of humanity caught in between." Actually they made the announcement two days before April 1, so they violated the rules of April Foolery. And given how many weird musicals there really are (such as Thalidomide: The Musical), this one sounded quite reasonable.

Spielburgers Restaurant
Both a website and a press release announced there was going to be a new chain of Steven Spielberg-themed restaurants called Spielburgers. It would be kind of like Planet Hollywood, but focused entirely on Spielberg's movies. Another hoax that wouldn't be a bad idea if it were real. I'm not sure who was behind this hoax, but I think it may have been the site

Japan's Public Broadcasting Adopts North-Korean Style
NHK (Japan's national public broadcasting organization) tweeted on its official PR account that it was going to merge with all the Japanese commercial broadcasting stations to form a state-run network, on which the news would be read by a kimono-clad announcer "in front of a blue background in a slightly alarmed voice." It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to North Korea's media. But the tweet caused enough complaints that NHK took it down and issued an apology.

Invasion of the Geese
132 plastic lawn geese, dressed in various outfits, appeared around Portage, Wisconsin on April 1st. The geese cost around $30 each. So whoever did this spent almost $4000 on the prank -- unless they got a volume discount on the geese.

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 05, 2012
Comments (1)
The Fake Girlfriend industry is amazingly robust. I posted about some fake-girlfriend companies just a few months ago, and here's another one: Girlfriend Hire. For only $5, a real girl (or someone claiming to be a real girl) will pretend to be your girlfriend, or help you break up with your actual girlfriend, or do pretty much anything that doesn't involve physically meeting. (via Gizmodo)

Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (1)
Judith Anne Holland obviously thought she had a pretty foolproof alibi when she got pulled over for speeding. She told the officer she was in labour and on her way to the hospital. But when she got pulled over a second time, within the same hour, she was accompanied to the hospital, where they discovered she wasn't pregnant.

Home detention for pregnancy hoax

A woman who pretended to be in labour twice on the same day after she was caught speeding and driving while disqualified was yesterday sentenced to home detention when she appeared in Invercargill District Court...
Categories: Birth/Babies, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (0)
PetaPixel has a nice roundup of images from April Fool's Day 2012, including this one of an ad by Hipstamatic (an iPhone app) for contact lenses that will give everything you look at the warm glow of a vintage photo. (Thanks, Bob!)

INTRODUCING: Hipstamatic Contact Lenses. See the world through the shadows of John S, the sexy glow of Lucifer, the dreamy haze of Loftus--and many, many more. Inspired by the beautiful effects of our HipstaPaks, these babies will rock your world. Pop them in to make every moment extraordinary.

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (0)
Jesus on a Column
A shadow cast by a chandelier onto a column, that's next to a statue of Jesus in the school chapel of the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans. Some say the shadow looks like Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. Strangely, the shadow has been casting this shadow for years, but no one noticed before that the shadow resembled anything in particular.

Jesus Dead Ray
A dead cownose ray found by Erica Scheldt on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. She saw an image on it that at first she thought resembled a homeless man. Then she decided it was Jesus. She left it at the beach.

Plaster Wall Jesus
While working on a house in Eldroth, North Yorkshire, painter Sam Dalby moved a stereo and noticed that the plaster on the wall behind it hadn't been finished, creating an image that resembled a bearded face. And obviously a bearded face = Jesus. Dalby took some pictures of the face, then covered it with two coats of off-white emulsion.

Floorboard Jesus
Elaine Ferguson was cleaning the floor of the Old Swan Inn in Paisley, Renfrewshire when she saw a mark in the floor boards. Yup, it was Jesus!

Virgin Mary in the Sky
Kevin McAleese was walking along a beach in New Jersey when he took a picture of the sky with a cellphone. When he later looked at the photo, he could clearly see the shape of the Virgin Mary. (I'm not seeing it at all.)

Plastic Glass Virgin Mary
A family in Colombia noticed a funny brown stain on their plastic spiderman glass. It was the Virgin Mary, who had materialized directly between two pictures of Spiderman.
Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (0)
Did he not intend to plagiarise, or did he not intend to get caught?

Hungary's president steps down after plagiarism scandal

Last week Semmelweis University revoked Mr Schmitt's doctorate after a special committee concluded he had copied "word for word" large chunks of his 1992 thesis on Olympic history. In parliament the 69-year-old president reiterated claims he made on Friday that had not intended to plagiarise and that examiners should have raised any problems with his thesis at the time...

(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Literature/Language, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Comments (1)
I received an email from Peter Barss recounting a 1985 April Fool's Day hoax he was involved in. It's a great story, so I'll let him tell it in his own words:

In 1985 the Bridgewater Bulletin had an April Fool's front page. Turn over the bogus page and there was the true front page with the day's news. One reporter created an image of a twelve foot starfish climbing out of the sea and up the side of a fisherman's building. Another wrote a story about an international airport that would be constructed just outside Bridgewater (Nova Scotia). That story made it to the provincial legislature where the Minister of Transportation stood and demanded why he hadn't been told about the airport.

My story, a feature on the upcoming Annual Whale Migration, was the longest article and caused the most consternation in our readership. The Lahave River is a wide slow-moving tidal river that runs inland from the sea about twelve miles from LaHave to Bridgewater and then turns into a smaller, faster moving river whose source is about fifteen miles further inland from Bridgewater. The distance from LaHave on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy on the other side of the province is about 75 miles.

The central idea of my story was that whales, driven by instinct, migrate up the LaHave River and then overland to the Bay of Fundy every spring. The Department of Natural Resources was kept busy for weeks before the migration cutting a pathway through trees and brush to assist the whales in their overland journey. The department also applied grease on slopes facing the Bay of Fundy so that the whales could slide downhill.

As the day of the migration neared, plans were in the works for pancake festivals and other festivities along the banks of the LaHave River. Free balloons for the kids. The elderly Miss Whale Migration 1928 would be on the lead float in the grand parade that celebrated the whale migration.

Every article on the bogus front page and every cutline under every picture ended with "Happy April Fool's Day."

Nevertheless, the joke was taken very seriously by some people--more than one person bought a pair of binoculars to watch the whales. And when those who had been tricked figured out that they had been tricked there were many angry calls to the paper and not a few subscription cancellations.

Each year two young boys were chosen from the village of LaHave to watch for the whales and fire the cannon at the mouth the LaHave River when they sighted the first whales (see arrow). The attached picture (with arrow pointing to whales) was on the front page of the April Fool's Bulletin. The boys are my sons who agreed to pose for this picture before school.

Categories: Animals, April Fools Day, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Comments (3)
The Little Cardiff Giant recently wound up his travels through New Zealand. Some pictures are below.

As you may remember, his world tour started in Southern California, then he went to Perth, and then NZ. His next stop, if all goes according to plan, is Melbourne.

My administrative duties as the coordinator of his tour went a little awry at first. I should have created a master list of everyone who volunteered to host him, but instead I just let emails accumulate. So now I'm trying to piece together a list retroactively. This is what I have -- but if I missed someone, or you want to be added to the list, let me know.

  • Alex -- San Diego
  • Nettie -- Perth
  • Sean -- New Zealand
  • G Beattie -- Melbourne
  • C Barrett -- Melbourne
  • M Anto -- Brisbane
  • J Scharff -- Japan
  • C Morgan -- British Columbia
  • Oppiejoe -- Michigan
  • Tah -- Idaho
  • dbrunker -- Portland
  • Crafty Dragon -- Montana
  • G Pylant -- Texas
  • K O'Brien -- Philadelphia
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Comments (7)
Another famous hoax has made its way onto the stage. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is staging a production of the "Great Wall Story" from March 16 to April 22. The play tells the story of the Great Wall of China Hoax from 1899, in which a group of Denver reporters cooked up a story claiming that China had decided to tear down the Great Wall, and was inviting American firms to bid on the demolition project. The play gets a good review from the Denver Post. Check out a scene below.

Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Comments (0)
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