The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
HOME   |   ABOUT   |   FORUM   |   CONTACT   |   FACEBOOK   |   RSS
The Top 100
April Fool Hoaxes
Of All Time
April Fool Archive
April fools throughout history
Hoax Photo
Archive

Weblog Archive
June 2012
For over a year, a picture of the Oct 2010 cover of Tails magazine has been circulating online. The image suggests that Rachael Rays practices cannibalism and eats dogs.


Of course, the cover is fake. The original cover included appropriately placed commas —"Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog."


I'm not entirely sure where the fake version of the cover first appeared. According to wlwt.com, Funny or Die was the original source. Though I can't find it there. But it was posted on Food Network Humor back in March 2011, and I suspect that may be the source from which it first went viral.

Tails magazine, fearing that many people were being led to believe that their editors were incompetent at grammar, recently posted an official statement to set the record straight:

Hi TAILS Fans–
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and we do love a TAILS cover gone viral!
However, the circulating cover from October 2010, featuring our friend and all-time animal lover, Rachael Ray, was indeed Photoshopped.
We want to assure anyone who has stumbled upon the cover, that the image being circulated is in fact an unauthorized ALTERED cover.
The image posted here is the actual cover that was printed, WITH commas!
We do get the joke, but just want to make sure we set the record straight, for our sake and Rachael Ray’s (and her family and her dog, of course).
Thanks!
The TAILS Team
Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 29, 2012
Comments (3)
In the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and Doc Brown use the time-traveling Delorean to travel from 1985 to October 21, 2015. In the movie, this date is briefly seen displayed on the car's onboard time monitor. So Oct 21, 2015 is officially "Future Day," when Marty McFly will arrive in what will then be the present.


But people don't want to wait that long, so hoaxers keep setting "Future Day" to a date closer at hand. The first time this happened was in 2010, when Total Film magazine mistakenly declared July 5, 2010 to be Future Day — and then created a fake image to back up their claim. They meant it as a joke, but a lot of people took it seriously. (telegraph.co.uk)


More recently, Simply Tap (makers of a mobile checkout app) declared on Facebook that June 27, 2012 was Future Day (they were promoting a box set of Back to the Future DVDs), and they also created an image to back up this claim, which once again began to circulate online. (slate.com)


So the real Future Day is still three years, but that seems like plenty of time to fit in a few more fake Future Days before it finally arrives.



(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Future/Time, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 28, 2012
Comments (2)
In February 1954, Gerald Wayne Barnes, a 26-year-old dishwasher, was arrested and charged with forging his employer's name on checks. Barnes offered an unusual defense. He didn't deny the crime, but he insisted that the Santa Monica superior court had no jurisdiction over him because he was the Crown Prince Regent of Thulia — a vast kingdom stretching from Kansas to the Oregon Coast (but not including land south of San Francisco).

Barnes claimed that this kingdom had been given to his great, great grandfather by King Ferdinand of Spain. His father, currently living in Canada, was the reigning emperor, but chose not to claim the title.




Barnes points out his family's 'lost empire' on a globe (source: USC Archive)

As royalty, Barnes believed that he could not be tried by the court. He demanded that subpoenas be issued instead to President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight.

Unfortunately his arguments didn't sway the court, which held him in jail during the trial because, despite his large land holdings, he couldn't make bail.

Three psychiatrists were brought in to evaluate Barnes. They concluded that he actually believed himself to be the Crown Prince Regent of Thulia. But they nevertheless declared him to be legally sane and fit to stand trial.


The Inter Lake, Mar 3, 1954

Presumably Barnes was found guilty. However, I haven't been able to find any record of what became of him later in life.

Newspaper accounts of his 1954 trial mention that he had earlier served a term in Washington State prison on a bank robbery conviction, and a search of news archives reveals that this previous crime was also somewhat unusual and made headlines. As a 16-year-old boy in Tacoma, Washington, he had held up a bank with a toy pistol. Barnes had grabbed a five-year-old child outside the bank, marched in holding the toy pistol to the boy's head, and handed the teller a note that read, "hand over the money or I'll shoot both you and the kid — he doesn't belong to me." The teller had given him $5,050. Barnes then released the boy and fled, but he was later picked up at his parents' house by police.

Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 28, 2012
Comments (1)
Last Monday, the Coast Guard received a distress call reporting that a yacht had exploded. Twenty-one people were said to be floating in rafts 17 miles off the New Jersey shore, and at least three were believed to be dead. A massive rescue operation was launched. But the Coast Guard soon realized that the call was a hoax.

It turns out that New Jersey has quite a long history of hoax calls to emergency service providers. The New Jersey Star-Ledger has compiled a list of the most memorable examples. It traces all the way back to what is probably the most famous hoax emergency call of all time, the 1938 War of the Worlds 'Panic' Broadcast.

Some might argue that the Panic Broadcast shouldn't be on the list because it wasn't a call to emergency services, and was even identified as fiction. But thousands of people nevertheless thought it was a report of an emergency, so I see their point in including it.

If one were willing to include New York City hoaxes, the 1874 Central Park Zoo Escape could also be included in the list.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 18, 2012
Comments (0)
Recently a graphic began circulating on facebook, pinterest, etc. suggesting that the lines on Solo Cups were intended to indicate proper sizes for popular alcoholic drinks (liquor, wine, and beer):


The Solo Cup company responded by posting a message on its facebook page, explaining that it never intended the lines to mean any such thing. Although it conceded that the lines could be used for this purpose. Evidently it was worried about being seen as promoting binge drinking, so it offered some non-alcoholic drinks that the lines could also be used to measure, such as water, juice, and chocolate milk. (click to expand image)

Categories: Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 17, 2012
Comments (3)
Quite a few have suspected "Forest Boy" might be a hoax, ever since he showed up at a youth emergency center in Berlin last year (Sep 5, 2011). He said he had been living in the woods with his father for the past five years.

That story, authorities have now determined, is false. He's actually a 20-year-old man from the Netherlands who went missing a few days before showing up in Berlin. His real name is Robin van Helsum. He was IDed by former classmates after his picture was recently published in the Telegraaf. Links: LaMa's thread in the forum, msnbc, dutchnews.nl

Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 15, 2012
Comments (1)
On Saturday (June 9) thousands of Iranians stood outside on rooftops looking up at the moon. They were there because of a rumor spread by email, websites, and social networks promising that Pepsi was going to project its logo onto the surface of the moon. The rumor was false. Link: observers.france24.com

Some Iranians got their revenge by drinking Coke. Others created Pepsi-moon parody videos and images.




There's a bit of history to the idea of ads projected onto the moon. Back in 1999, Coca-Cola actually considered the idea of using lasers to project a Coke logo onto the moon. The idea was dreamed up by one of their marketing executives, Steve Koonin. They hired scientists to put the plan into effect, and spent quite a bit of money before abandoning the idea. The problem: It would have required incredibly powerful lasers to do it, and the FAA wouldn't allow the use of such powerful lasers because of the possibility they might interfere with aircraft.

Then, in 2008, Rolling Rock beer ran a hoax campaign claiming that they were going to project the Rolling Rock logo onto the moon during a full moon, on March 21, 2008. They promoted the idea on billboards, in TV ads, and through the website moonvertising.com (which they've since abandoned).






The NY Times ran a brief article about the hoax campaign in which they touched on whether moonvertising would be technically possible:

According to Jim Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, moonvertising is possible, if impractical for a number of reasons. While scientists have bounced lasers off the moon, they illuminated an area only about the size of a tennis court. “In order for an advertisement to be seen by people on earth,” Garvin says, “the laser light would need to cover an area about half the land size of Africa,” a challenge because the moon’s surface is dark and fairly nonreflective.

Iran itself also has a history of moon-image hoaxes. Back in November 1978, a rumor swept through Iran alleging that the face of the Ayattullah Khomeini was visible on the moon. This rumor has been analyzed in a paper by Shahla Talebi:

In late November of 1978, as millions of Iranians awaited for the return of Ayattullah Khomeini form exile, a rumor swept the country that his face could be seen in the moon. In great excitement, many gathered on the rooftops to show one another what they “saw.” Although the rumor was officially denied, it had had already acquired millions of legs, and thanks to technology, it soon reached almost every corner of the country. It had taken a life of its own. The emotional ambiance of that particular night of “seeing” was so immensely intense and the claim so unwaveringly firm that those who “could not see” said otherwise.


And let's not forget a similar rumor that spread in America a few years ago, which got thousands of people to stand outside, holding candles, and looking up at the sky. It was following 9/11. The rumor promised that a NASA satellite was going to take a photograph of the entire nation illuminated by candlelight.

Edit: I just remembered another moon rumor, one which I discuss in Electrified Sheep. Back in 1957, a rumor spread that the Soviets were going to explode a nuclear bomb on the surface of the moon on November 7, and that the flash would be visible on Earth. This date was supposedly chosen both because it was the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution and because a lunar eclipse was going to occur then, making the flash more visible. This would have been a form of 'moonvertising' on the part of the Soviets. A way for them to display their technological superiority on a canvas visible to the entire world.

There was near hysteria in America as the date approached. When the day arrived, many astronomers trained their telescopes on the moon, waiting for the flash. But it never came. The Soviets probably would have done it, if they could have, but at the time it was beyond their abilities.

There are some intriguing parallels between the 1957 Soviet Nuke rumor and the 2012 Iranian Pepsi-logo rumor. In both cases, people were projecting their fears onto the surface of the moon. In 1957 America, the challenge posed by Soviet power and the spread of communism was the great fear. For Iranians in 2012, American corporate power and global dominance is their great fear.


From the Freeport Journal-Standard, Nov 6, 1957
Categories: Advertising, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 13, 2012
Comments (3)
Brief Answer: No!

Longer Answer: If you do a search for the phrase, "The best things in life make you sweaty," you'll find quite a few sites (facebook and tumblr pages especially) attributing this quotation to Edgar Allan Poe. There's even a short article at the Richmond County Daily Journal which uses this supposed Poe quotation as its lead.

Of course, Poe never said this. Nor was it the kind of thing he would have said. I doubt Poe was a big fan of sweating. His greatest passions were writing and drinking. Neither of those activities make you sweat much.

I'm not sure where the quotation (and its attribution to Poe) originated. Nor am I sure whether the people posting it actually think Poe said it, or whether it's just a joke. If it's a joke, that suggests the people posting the quotation know enough about Poe's life to realize it's absurd. Is that a safe assumption to make? Probably not.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 12, 2012
Comments (5)
On June 7, an Occupy Seattle activist, Logan Price, posted a video online that appeared to show an embarrassing scene from a private party of Shell Oil executives. Price explained, on his twitter page, that he had managed to infiltrate the party, which was intended to celebrate the launch of Shell's Arctic drilling program, and which was hosted at the top of the Seattle Space Needle.


The centerpiece of the party was a sculpture shaped like an iceberg, topped by a miniature oil rig that dispensed drinks for the guests. In the video, an elderly lady could be seen approaching the model rig, cup in hand, ready to be served the first drink. However, the drink dispenser malfunctioned and began squirting a brown liquid all over her as she screamed in shock.

"Turn it off!" an executive demanded. "I can't turn it off," another replied.



Soon after Price posted it, the video went viral online, spread by bloggers and news sites including Tree hugger, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Gothamist, Gizmodo, and Gawker. The symbolism seemed too perfect — an oil rig drink dispenser springs a leak at the launch party for an oil drilling program!

Of course, it was all just a little too perfect. Soon after being released, the video (as well as the entire event) was exposed as a hoax. Bloggers realized that the pr firm that had supposedly organized the event, Wainwright & Shore, wasn't a real pr firm. Its website had only recently been created. The hoax was traced to the activist group the Yes Men, working in collaboration with Occupy Seattle and Greenpeace. These groups took full credit for the hoax, and even posted another video showing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the stunt. The elderly spray victim in the video turned out to be Dorli Rainey, an 84-year-old woman who had recently gained fame as a pepper-spray victim during a protest rally.


Wainwright & Shore, a phony PR firm

In a follow-up to the hoax, news outlets and some blogs received a statement appearing to come from Shell Oil denouncing the hoax. This statement also turned out to be a hoax.

Following the video hoax, the Yes Men also unveiled a hoax website, ArcticReady.com. The site purported to be an official Shell site touting how the melting of the polar ice caps, while unfortunate for the planet's climate, also offered exciting opportunities for new oil drilling. Shell Oil is, in fact, taking advantage of polar melting to start new drilling.


Arctic Ready, a hoax website

Links: gawker.com, Salon.com.
Categories: Videos, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 12, 2012
Comments (0)
In August 1951, a wire-service story appeared in numerous newspapers about a six-year-old cat named Tom that found its way back to its owners by walking across the entire United States.

Mr. and Mrs Charles Smith lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, but in 1949 they had to move to San Gabriel, California. For some reason, they couldn't take their cat with them, so they made arrangements for the man buying their house to adopt him. Two weeks after the move, they got a call from the new owner, telling them Tom had run away.

Fast-forward two years. The Smiths hear a cat meowing in their driveway. They go outside and, lo and behold, it's old Tom! Skinny and tired, but happy to see his family.

As far as I can tell, the press accepted this story at face value. Though if you think about it, the idea of it is absurd. The cat would have had to travel around 4 miles every day, having no idea where it was going, crossing deserts and mountains. I'd say that's impossible.

The more logical explanation is that a cat resembling Tom started meowing in the Smith's driveway, and the Smiths decided it was Tom. After two years, they probably only had a vague recollection of what Tom even looked like. And the press, once they got wind of the story, didn't ask too many questions. After all, why let logic get in the way of a good story!




15-month-old Pat Smith with 'Tom'


Here Elizabeth Smith is introducing 'Tom' to the fish bowl as a test.
The old Tom turned his nose up at raw fish, and apparently so did the new Tom.
(via USC Archive)


Spokane Daily Chronicle, Aug 3, 1951
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 11, 2012
Comments (11)
I've previously noted a connection between Mormon folklore and Bigfoot — namely that some Mormons believe Bigfoot to be the Biblical figure Cain, condemned to walk the earth forever (and apparently grown big and hairy).

But I recently came across another Mormon/Bigfoot connection. Back around 1870, there was a Mormon settler named Ithamar Sprague who lived in the town of Washington, Utah. He terrified his fellow town's folk by creating giant wooden feet, three-feet long, that he used to place monster footprints all over town during the night. Rumors began to spread about a terrifying creature loose in the region. A posse was organized to hunt the beast down, but Sprague confessed before the situation got completely out-of-hand.

So Sprague anticipated Jerry Crew (the guy whose 1958 prank led to the popularization of the name 'Bigfoot') by almost 90 years.

The legend of Sprague and his "big shoes" has been kept alive over the years by Mormon storytellers. The most complete examination of the legend can be found in Andrew Karl Larson's essay, "Ithamar Sprague and His Big Shoes," in Lore of Faith and Folly (edited by Thomas Cheney).

You can also find Sprague's prank summarized on the Utah State History blog:

[Sprague] built a pair of huge "clodhoppers" and one night he put them on and left gigantic human footprints on the dusty village streets.
News of the mysterious prints spread quickly through town. Some residents laughed and dismissed them as the work of a prankster. Others believed a huge creature was actually stalking the village.
Sprague left tracks again on following nights. More and more townsfolk became convinced that a mysterious, ferocious being had begun to plague the town. Local Paiutes only added to the unrest when they told stories of a legendary giant who had once prowled that region, killing and plundering the countryside.
Sprague laughingly continued his prank. Residents began blaming mishaps on the mysterious beast: the hens were too frightened to lay, the milk soured too soon, and one lady had a miscarriage due to her fright. Search parties tried to capture the monster, but the tracks always either disappeared abruptly or led to rocks where they were no longer traceable.
One night, Ithamar snuck out of a dance, put on his huge shoes, stalked through the village, then returned to the dance. At intermission, Ithamar and friends went outside for a drink, and Ithamar spotted the fresh tracks.
A crowd gathered. People grabbed their weapons and set out to capture the giant--which they were sure was close by. But again the shoe prints disappeared in some rocks.
Several versions of how the town learned of Sprague's hoax evolved over the years. According to one version, the town met together and discussed deserting the village or sending a messenger to Brigham Young to ask for advice.
During the meeting a girl whom Sprague had been courting noticed his smug attitude and told him to confess. He asked her what she would do if he did admit to being the prankster. She replied that she would finally consent to marrying him. According to this story, Sprague excitedly jumped to his feet and confessed, and the couple got married shortly thereafter.
In another version, Sprague and another man were going to cut wood in the mountains. But the man’s wife refused to let him go, fearing the giant. In order not to have to cut the wood alone, Sprague confessed his prank.
However the truth came out, the townsfolk told the story so often that Ithamar Sprague became something of a legend—and the area’s most beloved prankster.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 06, 2012
Comments (1)

A picture of a black lion has recently been circulating online. Black lions are not biologically impossible. In fact, there have been scattered reports of black lions over the centuries. However, the lion in this picture is actually a white lion colored black through photo manipulation.

The original image of a white lion was posted at cutehomepets.com. It was then transformed into a black lion by "PAulie-SVK" and posted at deviantart.com earlier this year. From there it spread to Facebook, reddit, etc.


Messybeast.com offers some interesting info on the science and history of black lions:

There is a mid 19th century report of a very large "black" Persian lion seen by the archaeologist Sir Henry Layard; he described it as "very dark brown in colour, in parts almost black." Lions are no longer found in that region. This may have been related to the Barbary lion (now extinct in the wild) which is larger than African lions and famed for their extensive black manes stretching from chest to groin.

A partly black lion was born at Glasgow (Scotland) zoo, but was infertile. His colour was probably due to somatic mosaicism (abnormal skin cells). The lion had a pitch black patch extending the length of the inside front leg and across the chest. Somatic mosaicism causes some patches of skin to develop abnormal pigmentation. This anomaly also occurs in domestic cats and accounts for some of the few fertile tortoiseshell male cats.

Called "Ranger" (he was sponsored by Glasgow Rangers Football Club), he was born at Glasgow Zoo in about 1975, the offspring of some lions acquired from Manchester's Belle Vue Zoo. At birth, the lion exhibited a melanistic patch which stretched from his right paw, all the way up the inside of his leg and across his chest. It was believed to be the first time melanism, even partial melanism, had been recorded in the African lion (apart from anecdotal cases). Ranger , frequently mated but failed to impregnate a proven fertile female. Zoo staff believed he had a chromosome abnormality. Ranger was put to sleep in 1997 and sent for post mortem at Glasgow Vet School...

Black lions, chocolate brown lions and reddish brown lions have been reported. A very dark brown, almost black lion was reported in Persia (Iran) and a black lioness was reported in the African bush (Okovango). There have even been reports of whole prides of dark brown or black lions; prides comprise closely related lionesses therefore this could be a familial trait. Genetically, lions are spotted cats (residual spots can be seen on tawny lions on the limbs and sometimes on the body) and it's possible that excessively spotted cubs (abundism) might grow into adults with a sooty cast on the fur...

Many reports of black lions (and other black big cats) are due to observation in either poor light or with strong sunlight behind the cat.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 05, 2012
Comments (5)