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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
January 2013
Prof. Humbolt’s Electric-Light Fluid Scam, 1896
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jan 31, 2013
I came across the above complaint in Gleanings in Bee Culture (1896). It seems that a door-to-door salesman was going around selling something he called "Prof. Humbolt's Electric-Light Fluid," which had absolutely nothing to do with electricity or electric lighting. The term "electric" was thrown into just about every product name back then to make products sound more scientific and modern. As far as I can tell from the description, this "electric-light fluid" was a powder (not a fluid!) that people could add to the kerosene or coal oil in lamps. Supposedly it made the lamps burn brighter, smoke less, and reduced the risk of them exploding. Kind of like those fuel…
Categories: Products, Scams Comments (1)
A Case of Art Plagiarism
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 29, 2013
Art fraud typically involves the copying or imitation of famous artists. For instance, Han van Meegeren made millions by claiming that his paintings were actually newly discovered works by Vermeer. But the recent case of Rashidi Barrett shows that it's also possible to make money by copying the work of relatively obscure artists. Rashidi Barrett (image posted on his website) Barrett's work generated positive buzz when he began showing it in Norfolk, Virginia around 2011. He used his job DJ-ing to promote his work — he called himself DJ Cornbread — and soon he was having exhibits at local galleries where he managed to sell some pieces, earning himself a few thousand…
Categories: Art Comments (2)
Slave Girl for $7.14 Hoax, 1959
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 28, 2013
Here's an example of a rumor that swept through an African community back in 1959. The story appeared in The Bakersfield Californian (Nov. 10, 1959). Slave Girl For $7.14 All A Hoax MOMBASA, Kenya (UPI) — Crowds of Africans who wanted to buy wives for $7.14 each have been told by the government that those stories about slave auctions were only rumor. Local official W.P.M. Maigacho had to issue an official denial of the rumors after men from outlying tribes twice gathered in the town of Tononka, expecting to take part in a slave auction. According to the rumors, native girls from a local mission…
Tortoise Survives in Closet for 30 Years
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 27, 2013
The latest news from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is that a tortoise was found alive after being locked in a closet for 30 years. The story goes that the Almeida family lost their tortoise, Manuela, 30 years ago. They looked everywhere for her, but eventually concluded that she had run away. But when the father of the family, Leonel, died recently, the kids (now adults) were clearing out his room, and there, in the closet, was Manuela. Somehow she was still alive. [telegraph.co.uk] How could this be? A Brazilian vet is quoted as saying that red-footed tortoises (Manuela's species) can go up to 2 or 3 years without food. But not 30 years! To explain this,…
Categories: Animals, Death Comments (2)
Prisoners request kosher meals
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 27, 2013
Columbian.com reports that there appears to have been a dramatic increase in Jewish prisoners at Washington State prisons, based on food requests at these institutions. The evidence: in 2011 approximately 1 percent of the inmates requested special kosher meals. But now, 2 years later, almost 11 percent of inmates are requesting them. Federal law requires that the state honors religious dietary requests. The problem is that the kosher meals are more expensive than normal meals — $6.80 more expensive per day, for each request. However, "experts are dubious of some prisoners' sincerity." That is, they doubt all these prisoners really are Jewish. Gary Friedman, a former Jewish corrections chaplain and "a leading…
Categories: Food, Religion Comments (2)
The Disappearance of Rozel, 1897
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jan 26, 2013
Rozel is a small town in the middle of Kansas. Population: 156. It was founded in 1886 — its main reason for existence being that it served as a stop on the Santa Fe railroad line. Throughout its history, it hasn't been in the news much. The one time it did receive national attention was back in 1897 when it supposedly disappeared, swallowed up by a giant sinkhole. The report of its disappearance went out in November 1897 and appeared in papers nationwide, including the New York Times: KANSAS TOWN SWALLOWED UP. A Bottomless Pit Replaces Rozel on the Santa Fe Road LARNED, Kansas, Nov. 18—Last…
Categories: Journalism, Places Comments (2)
Hoax Archive Makeover
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jan 25, 2013
My New Years' resolution was to start posting regularly again here, since it makes me feel sad and guilty when I neglect the hoax museum. It's just too easy, when other things demand my attention, to fail to look after the site, given that there's no boss (except my conscience) to tell me to get back to work. Now I didn't post any updates for the first 24 days of the year, so it may seem like I already broke my resolution. But not quite. I took the time to give the Hoax Archive a big makeover, which was sorely needed, though it turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated. Since…
Categories: Miscellaneous Comments (5)
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