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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
May 2014
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 31
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 31, 2014
May 31, 1725: The Lying Stones of Dr. Beringer
On this day, Dr. Johann Beringer, a University of Würzburg professor, was given three unusual fossils that showed images (the sun and several worms) in three-dimensional relief. Beringer thought he had made a remarkable discovery and grew even more convinced of this when many more, similar stones turned up. He eventually authored a book about the stones. At which point, he found out that two fellow professors had created the stones to hoax him. More…

May 31, 2003: The Cesky Sen Hypermarket
Lured by ads throughout Prague promoting a new hypermarket called Cesky Sen ("Czech Dream") that would sell products at unbelievably low prices, hundreds of people showed up at the Lethany Fairgrounds for the grand opening. But all they found was a giant Cesky Sen banner. There was no hypermarket, nor plans to build one. Several student filmmakers had set out to record what would happen when consumer's expectations collided with reality, and so had launched a marketing blitz to promote a non-existent, too-good-to-be-true store. More…

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 30
Posted by The Curator on Fri May 30, 2014
May 30, 2000: spud server revealed to be a hoax
It was purported to be a web server powered entirely by potatoes, and it served up web pages at an appropriately slow, potato-powered speed. After gaining international media exposure — both USA Today and the BBC reported about it — the makers of Spud Server admitted it was all a joke. There was no giant potato battery powering their site. More…

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 29
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 29, 2014
May 29, 1947: Sea Monster Attacks Tokyo
The armed forces radio station in Tokyo interrupted its evening broadcast to report that a 20-foot sea monster had emerged from Tokyo Bay and was making its way inland. A series of bulletins provided updates on the progress of the creature as it derailed trains and smashed buildings. The report caused widespread panic. Military police were put on alert, and Japanese police were told to stand by to fight the monster. But after an hour, the announcer admitted the news flashes had just been a joke in honor of the station's fifth anniversary. More…

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Futility Closet on the Dreadnought Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 28, 2014
The Futility Closet blog recently posted a podcast about the 1910 Dreadnought hoax, in which upper-class British pranksters, disguised as Abyssinian princes, managed to fool the British navy into giving them a tour of the HMS Dreadnought. Even if you're familiar with the story, it's worth a listen, because it's a good account of it.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 28
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 28, 2014
May 28, 1952: The Cornell War Broadcast Hoax
On the night of May 28, 1952, a group of Cornell students disguised by halloween masks raided the campus radio station, WVBR, and began broadcasting news flashes claiming that Russian planes had bombed Paris, Marseilles, and London. The reports initially caused hysteria in the dorms, although most people soon realized they were fake. The Dean of the University later described it as a "lunatic stunt." The students involved were suspended for a year. [Cornell Archives]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 27
Posted by The Curator on Tue May 27, 2014
May 27, 1959: SINA makes Today Show debut
Actor Buck Henry, in character as G. Clifford Prout, president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, appeared on NBC's Today Show. As Prout, he urged Americans to promote decency by putting clothes on naked animals. SINA continued its unusual campaign for four years until it was revealed to be a hoax masterminded by Alan Abel. More…
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Norwegian artist ate his own hip, maybe
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
Norwegian conceptual artist Alexander Wengshoel claims that following a hip replacement operation four years ago, he was allowed to keep his removed hip. So he went home, boiled the bone to remove the meat, and then ate the meat accompanied by some wine and potato gratin. He said it tasted like "wild sheep, if you take a sheep that goes in the mountains and eats mushrooms. It was goaty." Sensing that Wengshoel's story might be complete baloney, the reporter from The Local asked him if it was a hoax — apparently on the theory that, if asked, a hoaxer will readily admit he's lying. Wengshoel replied: "You can either believe it…
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Release the Crickets!
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
Several students at Chartiers Valley High School in Pennsylvania are facing disciplinary action following a senior prank that involved the release of "several thousand" crickets in the school. Apparently insect release pranks have been popular lately. KDKA News in Pittsburgh notes, "Last year, seven Kentucky students were involved in a similar prank." But these recent examples of the prank don't have quite the same wit that was exhibited in a 1911 instance of it reported at the time by the Washington Post: Locusts Invade a Church New York, May 28 — For the text of his sermon today the…
Categories: Pranks Comments (0)
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 26
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
May 26, 1930: Hugo N. Frye Sesquicentennial
U.S. politicians, including the Vice President, received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of "Hugo N. Frye," who was said to have been the founder of the Republican party in New York State. None could attend, but most replied with letters expressing their sincere admiration for Hugo N. Frye. Unfortunately for them, Frye did not exist. The invitation was a student prank, and Frye's name was just a gag ("You Go and Fry!"). More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 25
Posted by The Curator on Sun May 25, 2014
May 25, 1933: Norman Jefferies, author of the Jersey Devil hoax, dies
Norman Jefferies was a Philadelphia publicist and theatrical booking agent, who was best known for the stunt he engineered in January 1909 while working at the Ninth and Arch Street Museum. He announced that the legendary "Jersey Devil" (aka "Leeds Devil") had been captured and would be exhibited at the museum. Thousands came to see it. Although what they actually viewed was a kangaroo painted with green stripes and outfitted with fake wings.

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La Réalité
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 24, 2014
French artist Rémy Dautin has put together a book that he's titled La Réalité. In it, he's collected about 60 pictures of cryptids in which he's "erased the paranormal element (loch ness monster, alien, yeti, etc.) in order for them to become pictures of the reality." Unfortunately, I don't think the book is available for purchase. It's a project he did while pursuing a degree in graphic design, and he sent me an email to let me know about it. However, you can check out some of the pictures from La Réalité…
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Why do people cling to false beliefs?
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 24, 2014
According to Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan (as reported by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker), "persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self." So in order to change deeply held misperceptions, it's useless to present people with facts and information. Instead, you need to "target people’s beliefs about themselves." This recalls what's long been known by hoaxers, that it's easy to fool people if you just tell them what they want to believe. That is, people readily accept ideas that complement their pre-existing view of the world and of themselves. I also recall an old finding from social psychology, that people who rate low on self-confidence…
Categories: Psychology Comments (1)
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 24
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 24, 2014
May 24, 1976: Abducted by Bigfoot
After going missing while searching for Bigfoot in Humboldt County, 23-year-old Sherie Darvell showed up screaming outside a Bluff Creek resort on May 24, 1976, claiming she had been abducted by a Bigfoot. She said the creature had scooped her up and carried her off, but that it had abandoned her unharmed during the night, after which she had wandered through the woods for several days. Sheriff Gene Cox dismissed her claim as a hoax, noting that she didn't appear to have spent any time in the wilderness. Her clothes were clean and she smelled of perfume. [Wildman of the Woods, Eugene Register-Guard]

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 23
Posted by The Curator on Fri May 23, 2014
May 23, 1926: Mencken confesses to bathtub hoax
On May 23, 1926, eight years after publishing an article in which he had detailed the curious history of the bathtub in America, the journalist H.L. Mencken confessed that his history was entirely false. His history had claimed that Americans had been slow to accept bathtubs, believing them to be a health risk, until President Millard Fillmore popularized them by installing one in the White House in 1850. But in 1926, Mencken admitted this was all "a piece of spoofing to relieve the strain of war days." His confession had little effect. His faux history of the bathtub continued to circulate widely and to be accepted as fact. [More…]

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 22
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 22, 2014
May 22, 1981: Cockroach Pills
Dr. Josef Gregor held a press conference in New York to announce he had developed a pill that could cure colds, acne, anemia, and menstrual cramps. And it could even make people immune to nuclear radiation. The key ingredient in the pill, he said, was a hormone extracted from cockroaches. Over 175 newspapers published articles about the discovery. However, Dr. Josef Gregor was really long-time media hoaxer Joey Skaggs. Upon revealing the hoax, Skaggs commented, "I guess no one reads Kafka anymore." [joeyskaggs.com]

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.