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In the past few days, several hoaxes have been circulating on the internet about Paris Hilton. The first claims that she was stabbed in jail. The second suggests that she committed suicide. The appearance of these hoaxes was rather predictable, given the media circus surrounding her time in jail. The method of operation of both hoaxes was to disguise themselves as credible news sites. The "Paris Hilton was stabbed" story disguised itself as a CNN webpage. The "Paris Hilton committed suicide" one disguised itself as Australia's ABC. I'll have to add these to my page about celebrity death hoaxes.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 13, 2007
Comments (10)
image Donald Stephens, Mayor of Rosemont in Illinois for fifty-one years, died on April 18. But now he's come back. On a tree. The Chicago Tribune reports that:
Eerily, a likeness of the late mayor's face has appeared on a tree outside the village-owned health club, according to some people who have seen it. In a town still grieving for the larger-than-life mayor, who died April 18, the mysterious image is sure to add to the Stephens mystique.
I find it amazing that people think it's the late mayor and not Jesus. Though, according to the article, some observers did initially think it resembled Jesus. Apparently, to really see the resemblance, you need to stand inside the health club and look out at the tree through the glass doors. And probably having a couple shots of whisky doesn't hurt either. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Death, Paranormal, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 07, 2007
Comments (13)
imageJon-Erik Beckjord has taken photographs that show images of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, as well as OJ Simpson, he claims. The photos were taken at the scene of the murders, and Beckjord believes that the images are an accusation from beyond the grave. He says that the photographs show OJ's face alongside those he was acquitted of murdering, and his theory is that the spirits of Goldman and Simpson are making a statement.

Beckjord is a keen observer of the strange. "He acts as perhaps a psychic “lightening rod” for anomalies, since he has filmed Nessie, filmed UFOs at Area 51, photographed strange beings in crop circles and also has recently photographed a ten foot tall Bigfoot in the Sierras."

UPDATE: Chuck has noted that Beckjord is selling these images on ebay for a minimum bid of $100, 000. I can't see anyone paying that much for fuzzy images that can be barely be interpreted as faces at all, let alone any specific faces.
Categories: Celebrities, Death, Paranormal, Pareidolia, Photos/Videos
Posted by Flora on Sun Nov 26, 2006
Comments (26)
Fake Steve Irwin Death Videos
Unsurprisingly, several videos have popped up on YouTube portraying Steve Irwin's death. They're pretty unconvincing.
(Thanks, Nai Art.)

IT Skills in Return For Gropes
The mirror of a now deleted post from Craigslist, the title really says it all. I particularly liked: "I have a lot of tech knowledge in my life and regrettably no boobs."
(Via BoingBoing, thanks Cranky Media Guy.)

Building Using Recycled Paper
"Papercrete [is] a mixture of Portland cement, sand, and recycled newspapers/magazines, which can be used as a building material."
Looks reasonable to me.
(Thanks, Sharruma.)

Australopithecus Afarensis Discovered in Ethiopia
The bones of the 3.3 million-year-old girl have finally been recovered from a block of sandstone originally discovered in 2000. She has now eclipsed 'Lucy', found in 1974, as the girl lived more than 100,000 years earlier.
(Thanks, Tah)
Categories: Animals, Death, History, Miscellaneous, Sex/Romance
Posted by Flora on Thu Sep 21, 2006
Comments (8)

Yet Another Traveling Gnome
Back in the Spring Allen Snyder's gnome disappeared from his garden. Now he's learned that it's been attending Pittsburgh Steelers' games. Next stop an airplane to somewhere far away. Submitted by Big Gary who notes: "Predicatable, but I thought you'd want to keep your gnome section up-to-date."

Pretends to be mentally ill to get a grope
This is pathetic. William Mucklow has been accused of pretending to be mentally ill so that he can hire nurses to take care of him. He then grabs their breasts as they try to do their job. A pretty elaborate strategy to get a grope.

Jigsaw Prodigy
3-year-old "Mikey" Lorhan can put together "300- to 500-piece puzzles in less than 30 minutes or less -- and sometimes with the pieces flipped over, working blind." If this is real, he evidently has some kind of savant abilities.

image Man Shows Back of Head For Obituary
Jim Schinneller's death notice in the Sunday paper included a photo of the back of his head. Why? Because "He liked to buck the system. He enjoyed showing people how absurd life was." This would be an even better idea for a high-school yearbook photo, if you could get away with it.
Categories: Death, Gnomes, Psychology, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 21, 2006
Comments (5)

Beijing Fake Smile Campaign
Beijing residents are being urged to practice their best fake smiles, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics: "We hope Beijing residents will join in the smile campaign to turn the city into a city of smile," Liu Jian, one of the committee members, was quoted as saying on Monday. What happens to those who refuse to smile?

Clown Crushed To Death, Audience Applauds
No reason to doubt this story isn't true, but it does seem like a real-life version of the Hippo Eats Dwarf tale (minus the dwarf and hippo), particularly the way the audience thinks the accident is all part of the act: A hot-air balloon caught fire during a circus stunt, killing a clown acrobat as dozens of children watched, police said Tuesday... Witnesses said the man, dressed in a clown outfit, was hanging from a cage suspended by ropes and a hot-air balloon inside the canvas tent. When the balloon exploded in flames, the cage fell on top of the man... many people in the audience initially thought the falling cage was part of the act.

'The Hoax' Trailer
The movie version of Clifford Irving's Autobiography of Howard Hughes hoax will be in theaters in November, and a trailer is online now. Looks like it may be pretty good. Richard Gere actually looks kind of like Clifford Irving. I think I've said before that stories about hoaxes often make very good movies.

A Pregnant Man
image 36-year-old Sanju Bhagat of India certainly looked pregnant, but while he did have a fetus growing inside him, he wasn't pregnant in the conventional sense: Bhagat, they discovered, had one of the world's most bizarre medical conditions — fetus in fetu. It is an extremely rare abnormality that occurs when a fetus gets trapped inside its twin. The trapped fetus can survive as a parasite even past birth by forming an umbilical cordlike structure that leaches its twin's blood supply until it grows so large that it starts to harm the host, at which point doctors usually intervene. So the world still waits for a true male pregnancy. (Thanks, Kathy)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Death, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 30, 2006
Comments (17)

Taco Sauce Pranksters Strike
Fifteen masked men entered an Indiana Taco Bell and returned 25,000 packets of taco sauce that, so they said, had been accumulating in the trunk of their car for the past three years. It required 40 trash bags to carry all the packets of sauce into the store. Maybe they thought that if they saved up enough packets of sauce they could win a free Liberty Bell.

Unwise Grenade Opening Technique
Reuters reports that "A Brazilian man died Tuesday when he tried to open what police believe was a rocket-propelled grenade with a sledgehammer in a mechanical workshop on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro." Big Gary notes: "The Darwin Awards have a new emblem."

Lonely Heart Calls Operator 37,760 Times
A Japanese man has been arrested for repeatedly calling information hundreds of times a day just to listen to the voices of the telephone operators. He called so often, 37,760 times to be exact, that it began to creep the operators out. In his defense the man said, "When I made a complaint call once, the operator dealt with it very kindly, so I wanted to hear these women's voices." This guy really needed an Imaginary Girlfriend. (Submitted by Alex from Colombia)

Fake Hearse Scam
The latest scam in New Zealand is to reduce your car registration by up to two-thirds by claiming your car is a hearse. "The scam ... came to light last in July when a woman told a radio station she justified her action by saying she carried dead chickens home from the supermarket." I assume she drove her car home slowly in honor of the frozen chickens in the back.

North Korean Defector Sells Fake Aphrodisiacs
A North Korean defector now living in South Korea has been charged with selling unlicensed aphrodisiacs. He claimed that Kim Jong Il had been a user of them. This is where the story gets a little weird: "The stimulants were sold to blind people, most of them owner of massage centers." Huh? How many blind massage center owners can there be? But this is the part I like: The police said, "Some who took the stimulants suffered from swelling." So I assume the stimulants actually worked.
Categories: Death, Pranks, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 11, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Dumb criminal
German police report an encounter with a master criminal who, when caught in the act of stealing a computer, tried the old "pretend you're dead" act to elude capture:
The 51-year-old sneaked into a company in the town of Hildesheim late Monday and tried to make off with a computer when the owner discovered him and called the police. The man had fled into the boiler room, where they found him lying on the floor, police said in a statement. He had a pulse, but was not responding to their commands, so they called an ambulance. Only after a doctor tried to insert a tube into the burglar's trachea to reanimate him, did he suddenly open his eyes and begin speaking.
Maybe he thought that if it works for opossums, it might work for him.
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 02, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Public Service Video
A highly informative Beginner's Guide To Faking Your Death On The Internet can be viewed on YouTube. It was created by satirist and internet scholar Luke Lewis. Some of the points it covers:

→ Interest in your death (or the death of your alter-ego) can be measured by Heinstein's 2nd Law of the Internet, which states: I = H x W x C. Or rather, INTEREST in your character equals their HOTNESS times their camWHORE factor times the CRAZINESS of the community in which you're posting (measured in LJs or LiveJournals). "The higher the I value, the more ego strokage you'll get from faking your death."

→ Also, terminal illness is generally a better way to depart this world than a car crash. Car crashes are too abrupt and not unusual enough.

→ Finally, "a post without an OMG is a post incomplete."

Lewis notes that "He is currently working on the sequel: 'A Beginner's Guide To The British', due for release in late July." Personally, I think the sequel should be a beginner's guide to faking someone else's death on the internet.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 19, 2006
Comments (2)
Status: Undetermined (I refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt)
image Ken Lay was reported dead on Wednesday. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be severe coronary disease. But almost as soon as word of his death hit the internet, the conspiracy theories started. Scott Adams summed up what many were thinking in his Dilbert Blog:
Does it seem suspicious to you that ex-Enron CEO Ken Lay died right before they could put his guilty ass behind bars? I wonder how many doctors you need to bribe to fake your own death. Is one enough? Or is there some special double-checking that the police do if the guy is heading for prison? I’m sure there’s a body, but I wonder if it’s his. I have a bad feeling that some pizza delivery guy’s last words to his coworkers were “Hey, I have a delivery to that Enron guy’s house! Wish me luck!”
Reality Rule 16.1 from Hippo Eats Dwarf seems appropriate here: For some, death is merely a career move.

The timing of Lay's death is what makes it so suspicious. It's not just that he died before serving any time. He died before the appeals process was completed and before being sentenced. Therefore, his convictions could be erased, severely complicating efforts to seize his assets. As the New York Times reports:
Mr. Lay's death effectively voids the guilty verdict against him, temporarily thwarting the federal government's efforts to seize his remaining real estate and financial assets, legal experts say. "The death of Mr. Lay in all likelihood will render the government's hard-fought victory null," said Christopher Bebel, a former federal prosecutor based here who specializes in securities fraud...
Any life insurance policies bought by Mr. Lay may also be shielded from federal seizure efforts since state laws normally cover such payments. While jurors found Mr. Lay guilty, his death may also complicate any efforts to go after life insurance proceeds, even if the original policies were acquired with ill-gotten gains.
In other words, Lay picked the perfect time to die. Of course, this doesn't mean he faked his death. It just makes his death seem awfully convenient for him (if he's still alive) and his family. (There's also a theory that he was murdered... or perhaps he could have committed suicide by using drugs to induce heart failure. I believe there are drugs capable of doing this.)

Lay isn't the first multi-millionaire to be suspected of faking his death. In 1932 billionaire Swedish businessman (and mega-swindler) Ivar Kreuger apparently committed suicide by shooting himself. But a rumor soon spread that he had actually faked his death and fled to Indonesia. Supposedly Kreuger's tobacconist later received from Sumatra a large order for custom-made Havana cigars. The tobacconist said that Kreuger was the only person who would have known how to place that order.

There's also the case of Michael de Guzman, geologist for Bre-X, and perpetrator of one of the greatest mining frauds in history. In March 1997 de Guzman supposedly committed suicide by jumping from a helicopter into the Indonesian jungle. But his corpse could never be positively identified, and last year one of his widows claimed that he had recently sent her money. So he might very well still be alive. Perhaps he's hiding out somewhere in an Indonesian resort with Ken Lay.

Oh, and this photo of Ken Lay's tombstone that's doing the rounds is obviously fake (1964-2006??? That would have made him 42). Last year the same picture was used to represent Johnnie Cochran's tombstone.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Sun Jul 09, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Weird, but real
image Christophe Thill sent me a link to Huggable Urns (they're teddy bears that hold cremains) along with the message: "This has to be a hoax? Right? Right?" Sorry, Christophe. I don't think so. The Huggable Urns look real enough, and if you click on the 'Buy Now' button on the products page, it takes you to a PayPal payment page, which is usually a good sign that a product is real.

Actually, although the huggable urns seem a bit ghoulish and tacky, they're not that bad an idea. They're better than many alternatives. For instance, my mother-in-law's ashes have been sitting in a plastic urn above the washing machine in our garage for the past two years. We just can't figure out what to do with her. So there she sits. And the award for the worst thing to do with someone's ashes has to go to Sandi Canesco of Australia. I write about her in Hippo Eats Dwarf. She had her husband's ashes injected into her breast implants. She said that "that way I'd never really have to part with him at all." I guess you could say that Sandi has her own unique version of Huggable Urns.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 07, 2006
Comments (20)
Status: Urban Legend
image A recent ad for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes shows a blond-haired kid dancing around singing "They're going to taste great!" I think this is a British ad. At least, I've never seen it here in America. And all the references to it I've found occur in the British press. For instance, David Whitehouse writes in the Guardian:
Pity the poor Kellogg's marketing department... all they wanted to do was make an advert in which a chirpy young scamp would skip his way through the streets of a suburban town attracting other children like a Pied Piper with a silly ditty about his breakfast. So, they set out to hire an angelic young choirboy with a voice so beautiful it could shatter the beaks of songbirds. Then disaster struck. It appears that, on the way to the shoot, this choirboy's balls dropped with quite monstrous results. They wanted Aled Jones, but they got Mick Jones. And what we're left with is a jingle being sung by a boy at the exact moment his voice breaks, in a tone so monotonous it appears to be operating at a frequency which toys with people's bowels. It is, quite simply, the worst soundtrack to an advertisement ever. His voice is so oppressively dull that prolonged listening is like having every orifice systematically packed full of wet bread by a politician with no facial features.
Evidently this is the kind of ad that people love to hate. And this dislike has inspired a rumor that the kid in the ad is dead. (Google 'Frosties Kid' and you pull up page after page of rumors of his death.) There are two versions of the rumor:

1) That the kid committed suicide on account of the bullying he received since the ad aired.
2) That the kid was a cancer patient whose dying wish was to star in a Frosties ad.

I don't know who the Frosties Kid is in real life. So I can't prove that he's alive. But there's absolutely no evidence to support the claim that he's dead. Plus, the 'Frosties Kid Is Dead' rumor seems to be a new variation of the 'Death of Little Mikey' rumor (which alleged that Mikey, of the Life Cereal commercials, died after eating Pop Rocks). So I think it's safe to assume that the Frosties Kid is still alive. (Thanks to Dave Tolomy for telling me about the rumor.)

Update: As Dead-Eric noted in the comments, Scott Mills of BBC Radio 1 recently discussed the 'Frosties Kid Is Dead' rumor on his show. Mills received the following official statement from Kelloggs about the rumor:
"The current advertisement has been well received by the vast majority of our customers. We would also like to take this opportunity to confirm that the lead boy within the advertisement is well and continues to live in his native South Africa."
You can listen to an mp3 clip of this portion of the Scott Mills show here.
Categories: Advertising, Death, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 07, 2006
Comments (102)
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