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In Japan, it's a Valentine's Day tradition for women to give handmade chocolates (Honmei choco) to men they have romantic feelings for.

This year there's a rumor circulating on Twitter, claiming that many young women are mixing their own blood into the chocolates, in the belief that this acts as a kind of love spell that will ensure their feelings are reciprocated.


The rumor gets even more stomach-turning, because there are also claims of mixing menstrual blood, saliva, fingernail clippings, and pubic hair into the chocolates. Japancrush.com has posted many examples of these Tweets.

Is there any truth to these rumors? That's hard to know. It's certainly possible people would do something like this. But one hopes that all the Tweeters claiming to have done this are just bluffing.

However, it's worth noting that the central premise of the rumor is correct. Blood has been used for centuries as an ingredient in love spells. It's part of Blood Magic. In addition, blood (as well as every body part imaginable) was used extensively as an ingredient in western medicine up until the Victorian period. The historian Richard Sugg recently published an interesting book about this widespread practice of medicinal cannibalism.

So it's plausible that some young women would act upon these ancient folk beliefs and add a little something extra to the chocolate.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 07, 2014
Comments (0)
This brief article ran in the Feb 1938 issue of Popular Science magazine.


Plumbers Use Alligators To Open Clogged Pipes
Alligators kept as specimens at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries aquarium in Washington, D.C., are being tried out as plumber's assistants to open up clogged pipes. Placed in a length of pipe that is stopped up with silt and sediment, the reptile digs his way through, opening up a small hole which water will widen by its pressure as it sweeps through.

A clipping of the article was posted on the Modern Mechanix blog in April 2007, with the comment, "I guess we know now where that urban legend about alligators in the sewer started." The clipping has subsequently circulated on various blogs.

By chance, I know the back story to this news report. The guy on the left was Fred Orsinger, Director of the (now defunct) National Aquarium in DC during the 1930s and 40s. He had a reputation for being the P.T. Barnum of the fish world and was always pulling bizarre, tongue-in-cheek stunts to get the National Aquarium in the news.

For instance, in 1940 he founded something he called the Association for the Prevention of April Fool Jokes (it was through this that I first came across references to him). The association didn't have anything to do with fish, but it got his name (and the aquarium) in the news.


Fred Orsinger

Some of his other schemes involved promoting the A.F.E.O.I.A.M.Y.W.T. (Association for Eating Oysters in Any Month You Want To), which tried to convince people that it was okay to eat oysters in months without the letter 'R'.

He campaigned to dispel the notion that all Fish Tales (i.e. stories that fishermen tell) are tall tales. He claimed to have found that, on average, only 2 out of 9 fish tales are untrue.

He promoted the Association for the Abolition of Round Fish Bowls, arguing that "round bowls distort a small, harmless fish into a ferocious denizen of the deep, producing a bad effect on children."

In 1937 he claimed he was going to stage a "fish walkathon" featuring the Anabas Testudineus (the "walking or climbing perch").

In 1945 he claimed to have spotted a 20-foot sea monster in the Potomac River. He called it Percival.

One time he made a panther-skin coat for a Maine trout and claimed it was an actual fur-bearing trout. Supposedly this fooled some Russian ichthyologists before "someone dragged them aside and whispered, 'it's a joke, comrade.'"

As for the pipe-cleaning alligators, an Associated Press article from October 1937 (can't find a link to an online copy) explains the genesis of the idea:
Orsinger said he conceived the idea when a drain pipe became clogged at a friend's home and it appeared it would be necessary to rip up the kitchen floor.
An alligator was placed in one end of the drain. It worked its way through the pipe and emerged at the other end.
"Alligators, you know, don't do backwards," Orsinger explained.
Elated, he has developed a sort of alligator-pipe size arrangement.
A 14-inch alligator, for instance, should do the job in a 6-inch pipe.

Apparently it's a myth that alligators can't walk backwards. Although it's surprisingly hard to find authoritative information on this subject. A search of science journal articles turned up nothing. But pawnation.com offers this info:
The most common form of movement for alligators on land is called the “belly crawl,” and while an alligator cannot walk backwards on its belly, there is another form of movement that allows backwards motion: the “high walk.” When an alligator is high walking, its entire body and the majority of its tail is off the ground. This form of locomotion is used primarily when an alligator is getting out of water or moving over an obstruction, but it also allows alligators to move backwards.

So if this is true, Orsinger's scheme to use alligators to clean pipes might actually work, because the gators wouldn't be able to do the 'high walk' in a clogged pipe, and thus would have to move forward.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 07, 2014
Comments (1)
When Japanese composer Mamoru Samuragochi went completely deaf at the age of 35, he continued to compose music, explaining that he was able to do so because of his "absolute pitch." Some of his most popular works were composed when he was deaf, such as his Hiroshima Symphony No 1. On account of this, people began calling him the "Japanese Beethoven."

But now he's admitted that when he started losing his hearing he relied on a "ghost composer" to help him create his works. Samuragochi would outline the basic concept of the work, and the other guy would produce the finished composition.

Samuragochi didn't say who the ghost composer was, but the Japanese media is pointing the finger at Takashi Niigaki.

This recalls the celebrated scandal from the 1930's involving the violinist Fritz Kreisler. The difference being that Kreisler said he was performing the works of other famous composers (although they were actually his own compositions), whereas Samuragochi said the works were his own, but they were really partially someone else's.

'Japanese Beethoven' admits he is a fraud
BBC News

A deaf composer who has been dubbed "Japan's Beethoven" has admitted hiring someone else to write his music for nearly two decades.
Mamoru Samuragochi shot to fame in the mid-1990s and is most famous for his Hiroshima Symphony No 1, dedicated to those killed in the 1945 atomic blast.
The 50-year-old has now confessed he has not composed his own music since 1996.

[Thanks to Bob Pagani for the link!]
Categories: Music
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 06, 2014
Comments (0)

Found circulating online, as captioned in the title. Somewhat obviously photoshopped, particularly with the person jumping off the diving board at the front. But it's a cool idea.

I believe the image originates from the site of Bolig Partner, a Norwegian home construction firm, which is urging people to "Realize your dream home in the New Year!"

The ship itself is a VARD Offshore Subsea Construction Vessel.


The house which was digitally placed on the ship's helipad comes from an image on the site of Ultimalt, a Norwegian paint company.

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 06, 2014
Comments (0)
Back in 2010, Bosch refrigerators ran an unusual ad campaign to promote its VitaFresh technology which, it promised, could keep food fresh longer. They created fake plastic-wrapped cuts of dinosaur legs, mammoth steaks, and saber-tooth filets, and placed these meats in supermarkets throughout Germany. The idea was that this meat is really old, but it's still fresh.

Check out the video below to see people's reactions.





Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 05, 2014
Comments (2)
Before the Superbowl, a rumor began to circulate alleging that boxer Floyd Mayweather, who's known to be a big gambler, had bet $10 million on the Broncos winning. If true, he would obviously have been a very unhappy man during and after the game, as the Broncos got a shellacking.


The rumor was reported by the Denver Post on Jan. 29, citing "multiple reports coming out of Las Vegas." The Post noted that the bet had not been confirmed by Mayweather himself, but seemed to feel the rumor might be true because, "it is well known that he likes to makes high-stakes wagers."

But after the game, Mayweather posted a denial on Instagram, insisting he hadn't bet on the game at all, but that he would have bet on Seattle if he had bet. I guess we'll have to take his word for it.
[link: mashable.com]

Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 04, 2014
Comments (1)
BBC News has delved into the mystery of "penis captivus," aka "cohesione in coitu," aka couples getting stuck together during sex. It tries to determine whether this can really happen, or whether such reports are just an urban myth.


According to legend, the gods Mars and Venus once got stuck together, as depicted in this 16th century woodcut by the artist Raphael Regius

Dr Aristomenis Exadaktylos of Switzerland, in a recent radio interview, declared it to be an urban myth. But other doctors aren't so sure. Dr John Dean, a "senior UK-based sexual physician," says that it's a rare phenomenon, but insists it can happen. Although he hastens to add that it's a problem that usually resolves itself within a few seconds as muscles relax.

However, most reports of the phenomenon are highly anecdotal and seem to be more myth than reality. For instance, the BBC offers a description of a 1372 case in which the problem supposedly lasted an entire day... a claim that stretches credibility:
In 1372, Geoffrey de La Tour-Landry related how a voluptuary named Pers Lenard "delt fleshely with a woman" on top of an altar of a church, and God "tyed hem faste togedre dat night". The following day the whole town saw the couple still entwined "fast like a dogge and biche togedre". Finally prayers were spoken and the couple's prolonged intercourse came to an end (although they were obliged to return to the church on three Sundays, strip naked and beat themselves in front of the congregation).

Accounts of the phenomenon also often mix in a moral message by suggesting that the problem only afflicts adulterers, because the fear of detection strengthens the force of the woman's muscular spasm. So "Recent media reports of penis captivus - in Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Philippines - all concern adulterous couples." The notion that the problem is somehow a punishment for adultery is, of course, nonsense.

Finally, what would be the medical treatment for this problem? The 17th Century Dutch physician Isbrand van Diemerbroeck offered cold water as a cure:
"When I was a student at Leyden there was a young Bridegroom in that Town that being overwanton with his Bride had so hamper'd himself in her Privities, that he could not draw his Yard forth, till Delmehorst the Physician unty'd the knot by casting cold Water on the Part."

If cold water doesn't work, chloroform historically seems to be the next most popular solution. But I assume any muscle relaxant would remedy the situation.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (0)
The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has shone a light on the strange business model of the site Mediamass.net.

After the actor died, reporters googled his name and came across an article on Mediamass reporting that the actor had recently been the victim of a death hoax. So a number of sites (such as The Telegraph and Daily Mail) subsequently reported on what a strange coincidence it was that the actor's real-life death had been anticipated by a death hoax.


But the reporters had been fooled. What seemed to have been a prescient hoax was actually just Mediamass's anticipatory method of rumor debunking.

You see, the site tries to capitalize on the popularity of celebrity rumors by anticipating rumors that might circulate and debunking them... whether or not such rumors actually are spreading. It achieves this by using generic, automatically generated templates.

So, for instance, it's possible that a death hoax might circulate about any celebrity. So it has pages already generated for all the major celebrities debunking rumors of their death, in anticipation of the day when these rumors might come into existence. The name of the celebrity just gets inserted into the generic template.




Similarly, it has pages debunking possible pregnancy rumors, false marriage reports, etc.


I have to admit, it certainly takes the work out of debunking. Why bother scanning twitter, Facebook, etc. for false rumors, when you can simply generate templates that deny all such rumors before they even start to spread.

And when a celebrity really does die... then Mediamass simply replaces the pre-generated template with a short notice to the effect that this time the report of the celebrity's death was true.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (2)
The Fake Snow Theory goes something like this: The government is trying to slow down global warming by spraying chemicals in the sky. It's a massive "geoengineering" project. When you see a "chemtrail" in the sky, that's the government spraying these chemicals. And these chemicals have triggered the recent large snowfalls throughout the United States, including in places that normally don't receive much, if any, snow, such as Georgia. Oh, and HAARP is somehow involved in this.

But all that snow on the ground... it's not really snow. It's a chemically produced "snow-like substance." But it's not snow.


This can be proven by trying to melt the "snow" with a lighter. It doesn't melt. It turns black and produces a smell like burning plastic. OMG! What has the government done!

Amateur researchers are taking to youtube to demonstrate the shocking truth:





Scientific types might try to explain that the snow turns black because carbon from the lighter's flame is being deposited on the surface of the snow. And that the snow is melting, but because snow is mostly air the water drops get wicked into the surrounding snow. That is, the snowball shrinks until it turns entirely to slush. And that you can prove the snow is melting simply by leaving a bunch of it on your carpet and coming back in an hour or two. You'll have a puddle there.

But who are you going to believe? Those scientific types or youtube researchers?

Incidentally, it's not clear how this rumor got started. But it's all over the Internet now!

[via Robin Bobcat in The Hoax Forum]

Links:
Categories: Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (0)
The Australian lyrebird has amazing powers of imitation. In his Life of Birds series, David Attenborough demonstrated that these birds can even imitate man-made sounds such as chainsaws, car alarms, and the click of a camera shutter.


The clip leads viewers to believe that lyrebirds in the wild have begun to imitate man-made sounds. But this turns out not to be true. Attenborough didn't explain that the lyrebirds he showed were not typical examples of the species. Hollis Taylor, writing for theconversation.com, explains:
Attenborough peers at the bird (and the camera) from behind a tree, whispering to us about the bird mimicking "sounds that he hears from the forest". We see compelling footage of a bird imitating a camera's motor drive, a car alarm, and a chainsaw.

This Attenborough moment is highly popular — but hold on! He fails to mention that two of his three lyrebirds were captives, one from Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and the other from Adelaide Zoo. This latter individual, Chook, was famed for his hammers, drills, and saws, sounds he reputedly acquired when the Zoo's panda enclosure was built. Hand-raised from a chick, he was also known to do a car alarm, as well as a human voice intoning "hello, Chook!" He died in 2011, aged 32.

She goes on to say:
Do wild lyrebirds mimic machinery and the like? While I can imagine that in rare circumstances their vocalisations could reflect the human impact on their environment (and there are such anecdotes), there is no known recording of a lyrebird in the wild mimicking man-made mechanical sounds. Nevertheless, belief in such a phenomenon is now so well established on the internet that it even crops up on official sites.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (2)
I think this prisoner may have been telling a bit of a tall tale.


"An Exact representation of a raft, and its apparatus, as invented by the French for their proposed invasion of England — from a drawing of a prisoner who has made his escape from France"

Source: Bibliotheque Nationale de France via Retronaut
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (1)
Promoters of the Manoppello Image are hoping that it's soon going to be as popular as the Shroud of Turin. Like the Shroud, it's supposedly the actual face of Jesus miraculously imprinted onto a piece of cloth.

But I see a problem with their plan. The Shroud of Turin, say what you will about it, genuinely looks mysterious and creepy. But the Manoppello Image just looks like a bad painting.
U.S. Pilgrims Flock to Manoppello’s Shrine After Benedict XVI Visit
National Catholic Register

Pilgrims have flocked to see an image debated to be the veil of Veronica, the resurrection cloth of Christ or a centuries-old hoax...

Some believe the image is the storied "veil of Veronica," the cloth Veronica in the Gospel used to dry Christ's face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the "Resurrection cloth," a sudarium that covered Christ's face in the tomb. Still others take it as a centuries-old hoax.
What is certain is that none of them can prove how the image — which is present on a fine mussel-silk cloth without the use of any pigments — was created.
Paul Badde, the German author of The Face of God, is convinced that the image is the one and only "Holy Sudarium," the "napkin" from Christ's sepulcher that St. John refers to in his Gospel. In revealing Christ's face at the moment of the Resurrection, he calls it "the first and authentic page of all the Gospels."
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (2)
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