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September 2013
Rugby player Manu Tuilagi recently apologized for making bunny ears behind David Cameron's head during a photo shoot outside of 10 Downing Street. Cameron replied, "No need to apologise, I know it was just a bit of fun." [espn scrum]

This got me thinking again about the history of the Bunny Ears prank, a topic I last posted about back in 2006. How old is the Bunny Ears prank? Does it predate photography? Nobody knows.

After a bit of searching online, the oldest example of making bunny ears that I could find is this 1944 World War II photo in which a French woman (apparently a prostitute) is jokingly making bunny ears behind the head of an American soldier. Her hand isn't fully in the frame of the photo, but it's clear what she's doing.

However, I'd be surprised if there aren't earlier "bunny ear" photos. They're just hard to find. Like looking for a needle in a haystack. But I'm sure they must be out there somewhere, hidden away in family photo collections.

As for the history of the gesture, I would guess that it's very old and that it does predate photography, because the idea of giving someone ears seems to me to be a reference to the ass-eared hats traditionally worn by fools (the "fool's cap").

"Fool's Cap Map of the World," ca. 1580.

So even though we call the gesture "bunny ears," my theory is that the prankster is actually symbolically giving their victim the ears of an ass, and thereby making them look like a fool.

Fools and jesters have been wearing ass-eared hats for a long time. Here are some pictures of fools in the middle ages wearing the ass-eared hat.

The association between ass ears and fools goes back to antiquity. An image found on an ancient terracotta vase shows a Roman jester wearing an ass-eared hat. And in mythology, there's the story of King Midas whose ears were transformed into those of an ass by Apollo, after Midas said he preferred the music of Pan to that of Apollo.

Roman jester wearing a hat with ears

So potentially the behind-the-head ear gesture could date back to antiquity. Though I've never seen references to it from before the 20th century. But then again, I haven't spent much time looking.

The corollary to my theory is that I don't think the bunny ears gesture has anything to do with the cuckold's horn gesture, even though the two are similar. And even though some people assume that bunny ears must be a form of cuckold's horns. For instance, this 2009 BBC News article makes that assumption:

the link between horns and infidelity remains deep-rooted... In Britain, the word "cuckold" is old-fashioned. But youngsters still love to stick their fingers up behind their friends' heads in photographs, to make them look silly.

But ears are not horns. They're different symbols. The bunny ears gesture doesn't have the sexual connotations that the horn gesture has. Which is why making bunny ears is dismissed as playful joking around, whereas making the horn symbol behind someone's head (as Silvio Berlusconi did behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister in 2002) is viewed as extremely insulting.

Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 20, 2013
Comments (1)
Sixty-two-year-old Andrew Abolafia claims to have built a "Static Field Converter" that extracts hidden energy from magnets — thereby staying true to the general rule that free-energy inventions almost always involve magnets in some way.

Abolafia feels sure his invention will provide the solution to the world's need for energy, replacing our reliance on fossil fuels. But for some reason, the scientific community hasn't shown much interest. So Abolafia has been reduced to demonstrating his gizmo to local news reporters, hoping this will get the device the attention he believes it deserves. []

Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 19, 2013
Comments (3)
The first motorized double-decker buses were introduced in 1923, and it was only three years later, in 1926, that the first triple-decker bus went into operation, providing transportation to Berlin's Stettiner railway station.

The next significant date in multi-level buses came in 1954, with the introduction of the double-decker Routemaster bus, which, painted red, became an iconic sight in London. And, inevitably, triple-decker versions soon followed.

Nowadays triple-decker buses are becoming an increasingly common sight on highways and city streets, because they offer an efficient way to transport large numbers of people. And sightseers love them! For instance, in 2012, Intercity Coachlines introduced the first fleet of triple deckers in New Zealand. Many will also remember the modern-looking triple-deckers that eased traffic problems during the 2012 Olympics in London.

And let's not forget the gargantua of the bus world, the quadruple-decker. Rare, but occasionally seen!

The Reality
Okay, the truth is that all the pictures above (and the one video) are fake. The idea of triple-decker buses has long been a popular theme in photo fakery, but in real life such monsters would face serious instability problems, and be at risk of hitting trees and bridges. But that's not to say that there have never been real-life triple deckers. There have been. Just not many.

The first real triple-decker bus went into service in 1932, shuttling up to 88 passengers at a time between Rome and Tivoli. But as the picture of it below shows (from Popular Mechanics, 1932), the third level was only a small section at the rear of the bus.

In the 1950s, the General American Aerocoach Corporation sold a three-level bus []. Again, the third level was only a small section at the back.

The only real-life triple-decker bus that has looked anything like the photoshopped ones was the "Knight Bus" that appeared on screen in the 2004 movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was created by special effects supervisor John Richardson and his team, who cut up two Routemaster buses and put them back together to create one bus with three decks. Although made for a movie, it was a real, working bus. It even went on tour. However, it didn't possess magical powers like the one in the movie. [Watford Observer]

(Image sources other than the ones already linked to:, worth1000, flickr)
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 18, 2013
Comments (0)
The Museum of Hoaxes got a nice little write-up in this month's issue of Real Simple magazine. I think they mentioned the "paranormal stuff" on the site (which, honestly, there isn't a huge amount of) because it's the October issue, and they were trying to tie it in with Halloween.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 18, 2013
Comments (1)
The journalist-hoaxer Lou Stone always set his hoaxes in the small town of Winsted, Connecticut, where he lived. His most famous hoax was the time in 1895 when he sent out a report over the news wire claiming that a naked, hairy, wild man was loose in the town, causing reporters from New York City to descend upon Winsted, en masse.

There now appears to be a hoaxer (identity unknown) who draws similar inspiration from the town of DeQuincy, Louisiana (population 4000), because he or she keeps issuing fake press releases, detailing bizarre events in that town.

It began in April with a press release claiming that DeQuincy mayor "Maynard Wilkens" (who doesn't exist) had decided to remove all Koreans from the town. Then, in June, came a story about a zombie attack in the town, followed in August by the claim that DeQuincy school children were all being issued guns.

Now, most recently, comes a press release stating that DeQuincy has banned twerking:

Sep. 17, 2013 – NEW ORLEANS — The dance craze twerking has become such a problem in the small town of DeQuincy, Louisiana that city officials have made it illegal. Maynard Wilkens who is the Mayor of DeQuincy spoke to CNN about the ban on twerking that takes effect at midnight. "Twerking is a defiant act against Jesus and his teachings. The rest of the country can keep their heads in the sand about this sexual act before marriage, but not the great city of DeQuincy," Wilkens said. "We will still allow dancing in DeQuincy, just no jigglin', shakin' and 'dry humping' anywhere in our city limits." Bobby Joe Williams who is the sheriff in the town told reporters about the penalties for those caught twerking. "First time offenders will receive a mandatory 30 days in the county jail. After that it will be a much harsher punishment," Williams said. "We are taking this matter serious. They're ain't gonna be no twerkin' in my city, not no more." 24-year-old DeQuincy resident Brandon Adams told reporters he does not agree with the new law. "There is nothing to do in this town, seriously. Twerking is all us kids had left and now they're taking it away from us," Adams said. "I don't see what the big deal is. At least we weren't out causing trouble, sniffing glue and breaking stuff. I guess we'll now have to go back to doing that to keep ourselves entertained."

The real mayor of DeQuincy, Lawrence Henagan, wishes the hoaxer (or hoaxers) would quit, because each time one of these fake press releases starts circulating online, he gets phone calls from reporters requesting comments.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 18, 2013
Comments (0)
A 35-year-old Austrian woman advertised herself as a dominatrix, promising strict discipline to clients willing to pay. It took the men who responded to her ad a week to realize that instead of getting sexy punishment, they were being made to do work around her farm (chopping wood, mowing the lawn) while dressed in black fetish gear. They were paying for the privilege of doing farm labor. [spiegel]
Categories: Scams, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 18, 2013
Comments (2)

George Jean Nathan
Orson Welles was fond of telling the following story about drama critic George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) — a story which is repeated in the recently published My Lunches with Orson, Peter Biskind (ed.). [via the Legends & Rumors Blog]

Orson Welles: Let me tell you a story about George Jean Nathan, America's greatest drama critic. George Jean Nathan was the tightest man who ever lived, even tighter than Charles Chaplin. And he lived for forty years in the Hotel Royalton, which is across from the Algonquin. […] He never tipped anybody in the Royalton, not even when they brought the breakfast, and not at Christmastime. After about ten years of never getting tipped, the room-service waiter peed slightly in his tea. Everybody in New York knew it but him. The waiters hurried across the street and told the waiters at the Algonquin, who were waiting to see when it would finally dawn on him what he was drinking! And as the years went by, there got to be more and more urine and less and less tea. And it was a great pleasure for us in the theater to look at a leading critic and know that he was full of piss. And I, with my own ears, heard him at the 21 [Club] complaining to a waiter, saying, "Why can't I get tea here as good as it is at The Royalton?" That's when I fell on the floor, you know.

Of course, it's impossible to verify a story like this, and I wouldn't put it past Welles to have made it up. However, a 1962 article by Charles Angoff in The Atlantic did report that Nathan switched from tea to coffee toward the end of his life, supposedly for health reasons, but maybe because he had finally realized what was in the tea!

A few months before he died, I had tea with Nathan at the Algonquin; he was (as far as I knew him) more a tea drinker than a coffee drinker, though toward the end of his life he took to frequent coffee drinking on the ground that his doctor had told him that coffee was better for the circulation than was tea.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 17, 2013
Comments (0)
The flooding in Colorado has caused a lot of damage. However, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver is not one of the things underwater, despite what a picture that's been circulating online appears to show. []

This is just another example of how if a suitably dramatic picture of a natural disaster doesn't exist, people will invent one. Here's what Red Rocks looks like in its normal, unflooded condition:

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 17, 2013
Comments (0)
Came across this in a Guardian article about a new exhibit opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

V&A dissolves myths around pearls in major new show
The Guardian

[Marilyn] Monroe and [Elizabeth] Taylor are represented in a show devoted to pearls, opening at the V&A on Saturday.

Neither probably knew the grimmer truth of what they were wearing. "The pearls are formed around the larvae from a tapeworm coming from the excrement of other animals," said the show's co-curator, Hubert Bari. "The people marketing them prefer to say 'it is so fantastic: your necklace was made from a grain of sand'. It is better to speak about a grain of sand than to speak about a piece of shit from a stingray."

The grain of sand myth is so entrenched that the V&A has included a video showing precisely how pearls are formed – how tiny tapeworm larvae that live in the digestive systems of animals such as sharks and stingrays are excreted and then, very rarely, manage to get into water-filtering shellfish. Some get trapped between the shell and the outer epithelial tissue, and it is from this that the pearl emerges and the larvae dissolves.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 17, 2013
Comments (2)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has issued a press release warning the public that an imposter Bucky Badger is at large. (Bucky Badger being the university's mascot.) This imposter has been showing up at political rallies, waving protest signs. UW-Madison says that the imposter can be spotted by its "puffy features, odd coloring and sloppy sweater."

But the "imposter" is fighting back, noting that Bucky costumes can be bought at the campus book store. So who has the right to say which is the real Bucky and which is the fake one?
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 16, 2013
Comments (0)
Two men in Dubai were offering to share a sure-fire way to get rich quick. All one had to do was buy a special juice from them and offer it to a jinn (a ghost). The juice wasn't cheap. It cost $30,000. But the jinn liked it so much, that upon receiving it he would return the favor by making $200 million rain down from the sky.

However, these men made the mistake of selling their jinn-juice to an undercover police officer, who promptly arrested them.

The Dubai authorities had harsh words for the victims of these con artists, as well as for the con artists themselves, saying that only greediness could have led the victims to believe that money actually would rain down from the sky. []
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 16, 2013
Comments (1)
The Miss World Competition (set to begin Sep 28 in Indonesia) seemed quite pleased to have its first-ever representative from Uzbekistan. But perhaps not anymore, because the young woman, 18-year-old Rakhima Ganieva, is attracting more attention than any of the other contestants, and not for the right reasons.

The problem is that no one can figure out how she earned the title Miss Uzbekistan. No one in Uzbekistan remembers a selection process. In fact, in her home country they're calling her an imposter. It looks like she simply showed up in Indonesia and declared herself to be Miss Uzbekistan.

Miss World officials are, so far, remaining silent about the rapidly growing controversy. Although I think it's strange that the Miss World Corporation wouldn't have realized immediately that they don't have a franchise in Uzbekistan. Unless they do have a franchise there, and it neglected to hold a competition, handing the title directly to Ganieva. [Radio Free Europe]

Rakhima Ganieva, aka Miss Uzbekistan

The whole thing reminds me of a hoax from the early 1950s, in which a PR agent invented titles such as 'Miss Perfect Profile' and 'Miss Water Conservation' in order to get publicity for the models he represented.

Update: There are reports from back in July of a "Rahima Ganieva" winning a Miss Uzbekistan competition organized by the Interalliance UZ in Tashkent. So perhaps this whole controversy about her being an imposter might be caused by miscommunication or confusion. At least, it doesn't seem to be the case that she just showed up in Indonesia calling herself Miss Uzbekistan for no reason at all.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 15, 2013
Comments (0)
One of the easiest ways to attract attention online is to claim to have done something shocking or disturbing. It's also known as trolling. A case in point is a young woman (using the twitter account @illumivato) who recently claimed that she killed her dog because the British pop group One Direction wouldn't follow her on Twitter.

She first sent them a tweet asking them to follow her "or I'll break my dog's neck." Then, when they inevitably ignored her, she followed this up with a tweet showing herself cradling her dead dog. []

But as David Emery points out, the picture of her and her dog dates back a couple of months. Plus, she's been making similar threats via tweet for quite a while.

In other words, we can safely dismiss her as just another disturbed, attention-seeking individual online. And she got the attention she wanted. She also admitted via tweet a few days ago, "Are people still going on about this f*cking dog thing, I was trolling!!!! STOP." And then twitter suspended her account.

Categories: Gross, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 14, 2013
Comments (0)
Parisian authorities are now warily considering the possibility that thousands of Chinese tourists might be getting into the Louvre for free, after Belgian customs officials discovered fake Louvre tickets that were "perfect clones" of genuine tickets in a package sent from China. Though I assume the tourists paid someone for the tickets. They just paid the wrong person. [BBC News]
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 13, 2013
Comments (0)
A trout-pig hybrid, discovered in the Tet river in southeastern France. As reported by L'Indépendant, April 1, 2013. I imagine that, when cooked, this would taste like trout wrapped in bacon.

Categories: Animals, April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 13, 2013
Comments (2)
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