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December 2013

"Junior"
The Reid family lost Junior, their Jack Russell terrier, in 2005. He went out to "go potty" and never returned. (Evidently the Reid family didn't have an enclosed backyard). Eight years later, Junior showed up at the bottom of their driveway. They knew it was him because he was still wearing the same collar and tags. They're calling his return a miracle. [myfox8.com]

Something's not right with this story. As Doubtful News says, "Is this the whole story? Is it really the same dog? Confusing."

I can think of some possible explanations, though who knows what the truth really is:

1) Eight years ago, someone took Junior. Never changed his collar and tags. And then, Junior either escaped, or his kidnappers decided to get rid of him and dumped him back where they found him.

2) Someone in the Reid family decided to whip up a Christmas surprise for the kids by engineering the miraculous return of Junior. So they got a new Jack Russell, put a "Junior" tag on him, and discovered him at the bottom of the driveway.

The "rediscovered pet" is an old theme. Similar stories we've seen include The Cat That Crossed 3000 Miles To Come Home from 1951 (a classic of the genre), and more recently the Tortoise That Survived in a Closet for 30 Years.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 21, 2013
Comments (0)
This image of a cow lying on the hood of a BMW began circulating online around January 2013.


At first, the image didn't attract much attention. It circulated with captions such as ""Got Milk!", "Fail Safe Auto Alarm," and "The Ground Is Lava. LOL".


But on Nov 18, 2013, the Surrey Roads Police department posted the image on its twitter account accompanied by the message: "Remember as days get colder animals are attracted to the warmth of cars so check wheel arches or other hiding places."


This launched the image into the viral stratosphere, as it was soon retweeted thousands of times and then spread onto facebook and other sites.

The Surrey Roads Police Department has occasionally been credited with creating the image. But no, they didn't create it. (It's not known who created it). I don't think the Surrey Roads Police even were the first to associate the image with the warning about animals being attracted to the warmth of cars, but they were definitely instrumental in popularizing the image.

Is the image real? Of course not. As others have pointed out, if a cow were lying on a car like that, the front of the car would be sagging under the weight.

But we don't need to resort to image analysis to know it's fake, since the original photo of the cow, which can be found on the Russian photo site desktop.kazansoft.ru, is easy enough to find via a Google image search. In the original, the cow is lying down, as one would expect, in a field.

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 21, 2013
Comments (0)
For the Bigfoot collector who already has everything... but this. Or for someone who has a Bigfoot-themed bathroom. Available on etsy. It comes as a print of an "original oil and digital painting." Though it would be better if it were a velvet painting.

Categories: Art, Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 20, 2013
Comments (0)
Four days ago an ad appeared on Craigslist (Pittsburgh) seeking someone to take their place at Harvard in return for $40,000/year. The ad has since been removed, but screenshots of it are still floating around the web:


You must have either a 4.0 GPA in high school, or a 3.5 or higher GPA from a university to get hired for this.

Your age does not matter, but you must be a male since I have a male name.

I am looking for someone to attend Harvard University pretending to be me for four years, starting August 2014. I will pay for your tuition, books, housing, transportation, and living expenses and pay $40,000 a year with a $10,000 bonus after graduation. All you have to do is attend all classes, pass all tests, and finish all assigned work, while pretending you are me.

You do not need to worry about being accepted, I have already taken care of that.

If interested please email me a little info about yourself, and we can meet in person to discuss further.

When we meet you will be asked to sign a non disclosure agreement, so you can not reveal who I am or any further information, whether you're selected or not.

I'm assuming the ad was a joke, but it's an interesting concept. Like a more elaborate version of paying someone to take the SAT for you.

The problem I see is what happens four years later? How do you make the switch back? And what if the imposter doesn't want to switch back? They'll have four years of documentation suggesting that they're the real person (yearbook photos, etc.). The craigslist poster could end up having paid someone to steal his identity forever.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 20, 2013
Comments (0)
Great name. Lousy product. Acme Worm Bouncer was widely advertised in the 1920s and 30s, with guarantees that it would quickly free farm animals of "blood-sucking, profit-stealing parasites." But the stuff was actually mostly charcoal. Governmental authorities eventually filed suit against Acme Feeds, Inc., the company that made the stuff, charging them with "misleading representations regarding its efficacy." [via The Quack Doctor]


Misbranding of Acme Worm Bouncer. U.S. v. 5 Bags of Acme Worm Bouncer. Default decree of condemnation and destruction.
The labeling of this product bore false and misleading representations regarding its efficacy in the conditions indicated below.

On February 2, 1940, the United States attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin filed a libel against five bags of Acme Worm Bouncer at Monroe, Wis., alleging that the article had been shipped in interstate commerce on or about November 28, 1939, and January 9, 1940, by Acme Feeds, Inc. from Forest Park, Ill.; and charging that it was misbranded.

Analysis showed that the article consisted essentially of charcoal, sulfur, iron oxide, iron sulfate, salt, sodium sulfate, and a small proportion of Epsom salt.

The article was alleged to be misbranded in that the labeling bore representations that it was a "worm bouncer," that no drenching, dosing, handling, or starving were required, that it should be kept before pigs at all times to prevent reinfestation; that it was the only worm expeller on the market successfully fed in self-feeders; that chicks should be wormed when they are 8 weeks old, that 1 pound of the article should be used with every 100 pounds of Acme Growing Mash; that the birds should be kept confined in a separate house during treatment so that they could not pollute the yard with worm eggs and thus infest the other flocks; that if the birds are wormed too late the worms have a chance to develop and mature their eggs which would pass out and reinfest the birds before they recover from the first worming; that it should be used as a general worm treatment for laying flocks and if the flock is extremely wormy; that it would be efficacious for sheep and lambs that are in bad or unthrifty condition; that they should have free access to the article and that it would help to prevent scours and bloat; that a handful three times a day should be given to horses and colts until the worms were expelled and thereafter a handful should be given each day to keep the horses in good condition; and that it would be efficacious to remove the cause and would expel and prevent free intestinal worms and 90 percent of disease, which representations were false and misleading.

On March 12, 1940, no claimant having appeared, judgment of condemnation was entered and it was ordered that the product be destroyed.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 20, 2013
Comments (0)
The classic example of the "gag name" prank is to tell a reporter your name is "Haywood Jablome" — and hope the reporter doesn't think too long about what phrase that name sounds like.


Haywood Jablome digging out a snowdrift. Fargo Forum - Dec 27, 2009

An older example: back in 1930, students at Cornell made headlines by getting politicians to praise the legacy of one "Hugo N. Frye" (you go and fry), supposed founder of the Republican party in New York state.

A more recent version of the prank occurred earlier this year when San Francisco station KTVU reported that the pilots of the crashed Asiana Airlines Flight 214 were "Captain Sum Ting Wong," "Wi Tu Lo," "Ho Lee Fuk," and "Bang Ding Ow." The station had apparently been told those names by an NTSB intern who was subsequently let go.

And the gag name prank has now again been in the news — but this time with an Arabic twist.

Following an armed robbery at the University of Houston, a TV correspondent for KTRK news interviewed a student who claimed to have been a witness. He told the reporter his name was "Abu Sharmouta."


Footage of this interview has become an "internet sensation" in the Middle East, because "Abu Sharmouta" was not the interviewee's real name. The phrase means "father of a whore" in Arabic. (I'm guessing it's the Arabic equivalent of "S.O.B.")

Not only did the interviewee give a false name, he also lied about having witnessed the crime. He was a U of H student who later explained he pulled the prank on the spur of the moment as a way to blow off steam during finals. [albawaba.com]

I'm giving this prank the thumbs down. It seems to me that the gag name prank becomes meaningless if you use foreign phrases that a reporter can't reasonably be expected to know. Though evidently it was humorous to Arabic speakers to hear this bogus name repeated on the news.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 19, 2013
Comments (2)
People magazine recently posted an article that it titled "N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked."

But that title is misleading, because it turns out the article only lists 3 urban legends, and then the writer must have been unable to find anything else when doing a google search for "New York urban legends," because the other 5 things on the list are random bits of NYC trivia and paranormal speculation.

I guess I shouldn't have expected anything more from People magazine.

To save everyone the trouble of having to read the article, the 3 urban legends the writer managed to come up with were:
  1. Pennies thrown from the top of the Empire State Building can kill
  2. Alligators live in the city sewers
  3. The Yankees Wear Pinstripes Because Babe Ruth Wanted to Look Slimmer
And here's the rest of the items that made their way onto the list:
  • "There's a Secret Train Platform Beneath the Waldorf-Astoria" — not an urban legend, because it's true.
  • "The Restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea is Haunted" — People lists this as true!
  • "The City's Gargoyles Come to Life at Night" — This is on the list because gargoyles come to life in Ghostbusters, which was set in New York. People has concluded this movie was fiction.
  • "The Poem 'A Visit From St. Nicholas' was Inspired by N.Y.C." — Again, this is true.
  • "There Are Ghosts in Central Park" — People has decided this is "probably false."
Categories: Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 19, 2013
Comments (0)
Back in July, security camera footage of supposed paranormal activity in a Whitstable shop (boxes floating off shelves and hovering in the air) did the rounds on paranormal websites.


Turns out the paranormal activity was manufactured by a pair of magicians for a new UK TV show, The Happenings. The premise was to try to convince a town "via trickery and fakery" that it's haunted.

Doubtful News points out that the show didn't do very well in the ratings. Therefore, "more saw the You Tube video of the hoax without ever knowing the truth behind it!"
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 19, 2013
Comments (0)
Here's a case of pareidolia from 1927. That was the year Mrs. Baca of Belen, NM glanced up at the window that had recently been installed in the attic of her family's house and noticed "an image of Christ ascending into heaven" on the windowpane. [miracles of intervention blog]


Soon thousands of people were flocking to see the "miracle window". The Christ figure could only be seen during daylight, and only from the ground. If you stood in the attic, the window looked perfectly transparent.

The image survived attempts to clean the window, even when it was cleaned with gasoline.

But puzzlingly, the image resisted being photographed. Many tried, but only one person, Fernando Gabaldon, succeeded in getting a shot of it. He then printed the image on postcards that he sold for 25 cents each.

The window is back in the news because it's recently been acquired by the Harvey House Museum in Belen and will be on display on Dec. 21 and 22.
Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 18, 2013
Comments (0)
The news of Norman Feller's emergence from his underground bunker has gone viral. The story is that Feller went into the bunker shortly before January 1, 2000, convinced that the Y2K virus was going to bring about the collapse of civilization. He finally came out because he was curious if the world really had ended.

However, the source of the story is the CBC's satirical This is That radio show. The show has a history of these spoof pieces that get mistaken for real news. The last one that went viral was their piece three months ago about the Youth Athletic Association that had decided to eliminate the ball from its soccer program in order to address "some of the negative side of competition."

Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 18, 2013
Comments (1)
Dr. Daniel Bucher, a shark expert at Southern Cross University, says that the notion they do is just a myth. So if you have a pet shark, go ahead and feed them fresh filet-o-human.

Oh no ... sharks DO like the taste of human flesh
The Logan Reporter

According to Southern Cross University shark expert Dr Daniel Bucher it is not true sharks don't like the taste of human flesh. He said there was no evidence to support this claim, which he believed gained acceptance to allay people's fears of shark attack.
"Normally they eat fish, but they don't mind red meat if they can get it," he said.
"Seals have very red meat (like humans) from oxygen binding proteins in the blood. Great white sharks feed on seals."

To be honest, I had never heard this claim of sharks disliking the taste of humans, but with some googling I quickly found people expressing this opinion. So the idea is definitely out there. But it made me curious, so I looked into it a bit more.

The idea of sharks disliking human flesh is rooted in the observation that most shark attacks involve a single bite before the shark swims away. As if the shark was doing a taste test and decided, "No! Don't like that!"

Going back a few decades, one can find scientists stating that sharks don't like the taste of us. For instance, in September 1968, Dr. Shelton Applegate, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, told this to the Associated Press.


The Evening Independent - Sep 2, 1968

But scientific thinking on this topic has become more nuanced.

In a 2004 interview with National Geographic, shark expert R. Aidan Martin explained that sharks tend to bite humans once and then swim away because their intention is not to eat us, but rather to investigate what we are:

"Great whites are curious and investigative animals. That's what most people don't realize. When great whites bite something unfamiliar to them, whether a person or a crab pot, they're looking for tactile evidence about what it is. A great white uses its teeth the way humans use their hands. In a living shark, every tooth has ten to fifteen degrees of flex. When the animal opens its mouth, the tooth bed is pulled back, causing their teeth to splay out like a cat's whiskers. Combine that with the flexibility of each tooth, and you realize a great white can use its jaws like a pair of forceps. They're very adept at grabbing things that snag their curiosity."

However, Martin also noted that sharks don't like the boniness of humans. So, given a choice, they'd rather eat a fat, plump seal than a scrawny, bony human — even if the taste of our flesh is palatable to them.

So, to sum up, sharks like our flesh, but they don't like our bones.

And here's a random video I came across while researching the topic:

Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 18, 2013
Comments (0)
According to urban legend, the holiday season sees a spike in suicides. But Scientific American notes that November and December actually have the lowest rates of suicide.

The reason is perhaps because "The increased emotional and social support during holiday time temporarily dims the feelings of despair and anguish for many depressed children and adults."

But unfortunately the holiday lull is followed by a peak of suicides in the Spring: "As winter thaws into spring, there is the hope for renewal that if not delivered can set into motion agitation and despair."
Categories: Death, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 17, 2013
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Police in Edmonton recently launched a pinterest page on which they display "unique" lost and stolen items they've acquired. If anyone recognizes an item as their former possession, and can provide "specific details" that identify it, they'll be reunited with it.

One of the items is the mounted head of a jackalope.


I wonder what kind of specific details they need to identify this? I could say that it enjoys whiskey and is sometimes called the "warrior rabbit." But I don't think that's what they're looking for.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 17, 2013
Comments (2)
The War on Christmas! Looks like some people are taking seriously this spoof National Report article about a 9-year-old kid being suspended for wishing his atheist teacher a Merry Christmas.


National Report is one of the many satirical news sites that are now online. Although you have to search its site for a while before finding its disclaimer ("National Report is a news and political satire web publication"), because they don't post it on the bottom of every page, which can easily lead people to believe its stories are real.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 16, 2013
Comments (1)
Thanks to "anonymous" who posted a comment to my recent post about "Christmas Tinner" (the entire Christmas day meal in a tin), alerting me to this video in which "steviejacko" has a can of the stuff, opens it up, and eats it.

This suggests that, at the very least, someone created a prototype of this product.

In the youtube comments, steviejacko says: "The one shop where it is available in basingstoke is sold out, it was done as a trial to see how much interest there was, it wont be available now for 2 weeks and even then it will be pretty scarce."

Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 16, 2013
Comments (1)
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