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December 2013
In an article about the growing popularity of festivals in China (they're popular because they make lots of money for local governments), China Daily called attention to a false rumor about the existence of a "Breast-Touching Festival" in Yunnan province:

According to rumors circulating on micro blogs and Internet chat forums, the Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province was considering applying for world cultural heritage status for a "Breast-Touching Festival". During the three-day festival in the lunar month of July, young women would expose one breast for any man to touch. Those whose breasts were touched would take that as an auspicious sign. Later, however, the Chuxiong government rejected the posts as purely fabricated.

Turned out there was a wikipedia page about this festival. The page had been on wikipedia for over a year, but it was deleted soon after the festival was identified as a hoax. The page is now preserved on Wikipediocracy. More info at dailydot.com.

Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 31, 2013
Comments (0)
A crop circle has appeared in Salinas, California. It looks vaguely like a microchip. I assume this must be a publicity stunt of some kind. [links: nbcbayarea, mercurynews]



Categories: Crop Circles
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 31, 2013
Comments (1)
In June 2013, the image below started to circulate online. It was launched into viral status after being posted on Reddit, where it was captioned, "This is what happens when lightning strikes sand."


When lightning strikes sand, it can form fulgurites, which are also known as "lightning tubes" or "petrified lightning". Tonya Clayton offers a good, one-sentence explanation of what these are:

"If the in-ground moisture content is just right, the sand melts and fuses, forming beautiful glassy tubes whose branches record the lightning's path."
-How to read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach

Is that thing in the picture a fulgurite? No, it isn't. The picture has been falsely captioned.

Fulgurites form within the sand, and only appear above it if the sand erodes away around them. A fulgurite of that size would be extremely valuable, and most likely would already have been carted away to a museum. It wouldn't be sitting on a beach surrounded by holiday-goers, any one of whom could potentially break it.

What the image really shows is a piece of driftwood with sand piled on top of it.

The structure was created and photographed by a guy who goes by the name "Sandcastle Matt" on his Flickr photostream.

He described the structure as "the biggest sandcastle I've ever made." The viral photo showed less than half of it. Here's the full thing:



And here's Sandcastle Matt at work creating another sandcastle.



Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 30, 2013
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Nice to see kids learning about the history of hoaxes!

Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 29, 2013
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The Borneo Post offers a Malay urban legend about a confused English-language student who bumps into an English speaker (identifiable as a "white man") at the airport and says, "I'm sorry."

The English speaker replies, "I'm sorry too."

The learner replies, "I'm sorry three."

"What for?"

"I'm sorry five"

The English speaker: "I'm sick of this," and starts to leave.

The learner: "I'm sorry seven."

‘I’m sorry three, five, seven’ tickles delegates during debate on economy
Borneo Post

KUALA LUMPUR: An anecdote from a Malay student trying to master the English language while preparing to further his studies abroad had the delegates in stitches during the debate on the economy at the Umno General Assembly 2013 yesterday.
The delegate from the Federal Territory, Afendi Zahari, said the incident occurred at the airport when the student from the East Coast accidentally bumped into a foreigner and tried to apologise in English.

[via Legends & Rumors]
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 28, 2013
Comments (0)

A family in Scottsdale, Arizona recently made a cheesecake. As it was cooling off it, it cracked in the shape of a cross. The reporter for azcentral.com asks:

"Is this a simple crust cracking or is this actually Jesus Christ coming back and showing support for this family's religious beliefs?"

Um. I guess I'll choose option A. My wife (the cook in the family) says it cracked because they didn't make it right. If you overbeat the batter, you'll get too much air in it, which can cause the cracking.

The family decided not to eat the holy cheesecake. Instead, they hope to sell it and donate the proceeds to charity.

Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 27, 2013
Comments (3)
According to a decaces-old urban legend, the leaves of poinsettias (aka the Christmas Plant) are extremely toxic, and can be fatal if ingested.

But the reality is that poinsettias aren't toxic at all. They're not edible, but if you do eat them the worst that will happen is you'll get an upset stomach. You're not going to die.

One of the most thorough debunkings of the "poisonous poinsettia" legend can be found in a Nov. 1996 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine: "Poinsettia exposures have good outcomes... just as we thought."

The authors of the study reviewed 22,793 cases of poinsettia exposure reported to health care facilities during an 8-year period from 1985 to 1992. This data represented "the largest compilation of human exposures to the poinsettia, as reported to poison information centers."

Out of all these cases, the number of fatalities was zero. And 92.4% of the cases resulted in no effect at all.

The vast majority of the cases (over 90%) involved young children eating the leaves, and their terrified parents then rushing them to the nearest emergency center, fearing the worst.

But the authors did note the existence of a peculiar subset of cases:

"The poinsettia has no chemical abuse potential and, despite its notoriety as a poisonous plant, it is not used as a homicidal or suicidal agent with any frequency. However, the poinsettia was used by 16 individuals for abuse purposes and by 27 people as a suicidal agent."

So 27 people tried to commit suicide by eating poinsettias, evidently after hearing the legend about them.

It's like a reverse Darwin Awards. Instead of dying because of doing something stupid, their lives were saved because they believed an urban legend.
Categories: Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 26, 2013
Comments (2)

Source: "All My Friends are Dead" 2014 Wall Calendar,
by Avery Monsen and Jory John.
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 26, 2013
Comments (3)
April 1, 2013 — the site Daily Makeover (which describes itself as "Hairstyles, Makeup and Cosmetics Inspiration") posted a photo of Jennifer Aniston with a buzzcut. The site claimed that Aniston had cut off her hair for a role in a film and quoted her as saying, "My character gets to this really broken point, and [director] Daniel [Schechter] and I thought it would make her more realistic."


But actually, the photo was the site's April Fool joke. It had doctored an image of Aniston (below) taken while she was attending the 2006 premiere of Friends with Money.


But demonstrating the adage that on the internet nothing ever really goes away, it just gets recycled endlessly, that same April Fool picture has recently begun making the social media rounds, accompanied by a caption claiming that Aniston shaved off her hair as a way of showing her support for a niece diagnosed with cancer.


Aniston's rep told JustJared.com: "It's nonsense and I am not aware of any niece with cancer."
Categories: Celebrities, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 26, 2013
Comments (0)
"According to prosecutors, Leventhal told potential investors that his company, Neovision USA, Inc., had written agreements with Health Canada to provide it with "Heltheo's McCoy Home Health Tablet," a device that could quickly deliver detailed patient data to doctors. The device, prosecutors said, was apparently named after the fictional character Dr. Leonard McCoy from Star Trek."

Man pleads guilty in multimillion-dollar Star Trek-inspired fraud
The Vancouver Sun

An Illinois man pleaded guilty Monday in New York to fraud in connection with a multimillion-dollar scheme that duped investors into thinking that he had a lucrative contract with the Canadian government to provide a medical device named after the doctor in the television and movie franchise Star Trek, prosecutors said.
Howard Leventhal, 56, also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for stealing the identity of Canada's former deputy minister of health, Glenda Yeates.
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 24, 2013
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The invention of the Turbo-encabulator has long been considered to be one of the great technological achievements of the 20th century. More info at wikipedia.

Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 24, 2013
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Mixed martial arts organization Shooto Brazil recently announced a man vs. woman fight: Emerson Falcao would fight Juliana Velasquez in a three-round bantamweight clash.

But then Shooto revealed that the fight wasn't going to happen. It was all a hoax, designed to focus attention on the issue of violence against women and show Shooto's support of Brazil's "Lei Maria da Penha" anti-domestic-violence law.

A member of the Brazilian athletic commission explained: "There’s no way a man should fight a woman. This is being done only to show the society the importance of ‘Lei Maria da Penha.’ You can’t have a man beating a woman in a sport, so it shouldn’t happen anywhere. That’s what they want to show."

But the hoax may not have had the desired effect because some people are asking why the idea of a man and woman fighting should necessarily be considered bad if both are trained professional fighters, evenly matched in size, doing it for sport. They're even suggesting that the real reason there aren't man vs. woman mma fights is because the men don't like the idea of being beaten by a woman. [mmajunkie.com]
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 23, 2013
Comments (0)
Chicago news outlets recently received a press release from one "Harry Slater," who claimed to be an AP English teacher and "dean of dramatic and movement arts" at Community High School District 94 in West Chicago. The release said that the school's Glee Club was going to be staging a charity minstrel show in order to "start a conversation about racial representation and stereotypes." Proceeds from the show would be donated to the school's Multicultural Sensitivity Club.

But when the school began receiving calls from people seeking more info about this show, it was exposed as a hoax.

The true author of the release was a local artist, Jason Pallas, who had been participating in an exhibit at City Museum in which artists created a new work based around a topic or artifact from West Chicago's past. Pallas had chosen a 1930 playbill for a minstrel show (directed by a Harry Slater) as his object of inspiration. His art for the exhibit was the hoax premise of a local school staging a commemorative performance of the 1930 minstrel show. So this was an example of "hoax as art".


Playbill of the 1930 minstrel show that inspired Pallas

City Museum has now removed Pallas from its exhibit, and the high school has posted a "Special Statement Regarding Minstrel Show Hoax" on its website. Also, the school doesn't have a "Multicultural Sensitivity Club." [mysuburbanlife.com]
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 23, 2013
Comments (0)
A house for sale in Dunmore, PA is getting lots of buzz (and multiple offers) because its owner has described it as "slightly haunted" in the real estate listing.

Built in 1901, this Victorian home in the Hollywood section of Dunmore features 1850 sf of living space with an additional 1350 sf of partially finished space. Original hardwood floors throughout entire home. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms. Off-street parking. Freshly painted. New moulding throughout entire first floor. Slightly haunted. Nothing serious, though. e.g. The sounds of phantom footsteps. A strange knocking sound followed by a very quiet (hardly noticeable, even) scream at 3:13am, maybe once a week. Twice a week, tops. And the occasional ghastly visage lurking behind you in the bathroom mirror. Even still, this occurs very rarely and only in the second floor bathroom.

According to Forbes, the owner of the house, Gregory Leeson, "readily admits that he doesn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings." He described the house as haunted "to be funny." Although he says he genuinely has heard "voices, footsteps or doors slamming from time to time."
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 23, 2013
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Currently trending online is this set of pictures showing a chocolate rabbit inside a St. Nicholas wrapper. The photos are accompanied by captions such as "Santa's identity revealed" or "an unexpected plot twist":


Is this a case of a chocolate manufacturer repackaging chocolate Easter bunnies for the Christmas market? No. The images actually come from a Dutch ad campaign designed to promote awareness of Alzheimer's disease.

The original ad includes a third image showing the chocolate rabbit more fully unwrapped, revealing a message that says "Alzheimer's patients are coping with this feeling daily." Or, in the original Dutch, "Met dit gevoel hebben Alzheimerpatienten dagelijks te kampen."

The ad was created by the ad agency N=5 for the client Alzheimer Nederland. [Links: versereclame.nl, gutewerbung.net]



Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 22, 2013
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