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This will be the last video I post of one of my trips (for now). I took this one last year, sometime in July, at Marvin's Marvelous Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan (right outside of Detroit). I was visiting Marvin's Museum because it contains a fake copy of the Cardiff Giant, but the real attraction there is all the bizarre mechanical marvels and coin-operated machines on display. (Though the museum seems to make most of its money from video games.) This video shows Marvin demonstrating one of the machines to me and my wife. If you're ever in the Detroit area, I would highly recommend making the trip to see Marvin's Museum. But bring along a lot of quarters so that you can play with the machines.

Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (2)
I'm getting a little carried away with the newfound ability to upload videos to YouTube, but bear with me. I've only got a few of them to share. Here's a video I took last year (July 2005) at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York, current home of the Cardiff Giant. The guy in historical dress was an actor/storyteller giving a dramatic account of the Cardiff Giant hoax to the school children you can see gathered around. At one point during the video I pan left and you can see a brief glimpse, from the side, of my wife, Beverley (she's the one holding a handbag). If you recall, I used a photograph of the Cardiff Giant for a caption contest I held a few months ago.

Categories: Exploration/Travel, History, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (0)
Here's a short video I shot at Loch Ness, showing the Museum of Hoaxes group aboard the Nessie Hunter on Loch Ness. It's not a thrilling video, but unfortunately it's the only one I took the entire trip. Most of the time it never occurred to me to use the movie option on my digital camera, because in the past videos I've taken have ended up sitting in my hard drive never viewed. But I just realized how easy it is to upload videos to YouTube and share them. If I had realized this while in Scotland, I would have taken more of them. Oh well, next time. In the video pay attention to the voice of the tour guide whom you can hear giving a running commentary over the ship's PA system. He sounded just like Sean Connery. (That's actually why I decided to switch to movie mode, so I could record his voice.) Also, the two guys on the far left in the initial scene were not part of our group, but everyone else was.

Categories: Cryptozoology, Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (4)
Tomorrow (Monday) I'll be flying to Edinburgh to participate in an exciting experiment: the first face-to-face meeting of Museum-of-Hoaxers. We'll be coming from all corners of the earth: Australia, America, and Europe. Will we be able to tolerate each other in real life (as opposed to virtual life)? Will we all end up in jail? Stay tuned. I hope to post some reports from Edinburgh.

I should note that this adventure wasn't my idea. The credit goes to a group of regulars who hang out in the forum (often seen congregating in the off-topic chit chat thread) and who decided that they wanted to meet each other in real life. I was invited along since my site facilitated the whole thing. And how could I say no?

Activities will include going on a ghost tour of Edinburgh, viewing Gordon Rutter's collection of curiosities, whiskey drinking, and hopefully taking a day trip up to Loch Ness to see Nessie. It should be fun.

Now I'm just hoping I don't arrive in Edinburgh to discover that I'm the only one there, the whole thing being an elaborate hoax designed to lure me halfway around the world on a wild goose chase.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun May 14, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: True
Earlier today I read (via blogdex) the tale of a woman named Judith and her camera that was lost, then found, but still (paradoxically) remains lost. I thought it was interesting, but didn't consider it might be a hoax. However, several people have emailed me about it, so I thought I'd take a closer look at it. Here's the jist of the tale.

Judith lost her camera while on vacation in Hawaii. Back home she decided to create a photo blog of her vacation using pictures found on Flickr of the places she visited. About two weeks into this blog, she posts this message, explaining that she had received a call from a Hawaiian park ranger telling her that her camera had been found by a Canadian couple. Judith called the Canadian couple, only to learn that they didn't want to return the camera because their son (who happens to have diabetes) found it and now considers it to be his lucky camera. So Judith remains camera-less. The behavior of the Canadian couple has outraged netizens.

In terms of evaluating whether any of this is true, there's not, at first glance, much to go on. We kind of have to take Judith's word that what she's saying is true. But what I found most curious was how quickly Judith's blog went from being extremely obscure, to being all over the internet. Usually if you can figure out who's spreading a story, that will shed some light on whether or not a story is true. In this case, it wasn't hard to figure out how the story spread so far, so fast.

Following a chain of links soon led back to the well-known blogger Anil Dash, who seems to have been the first to post a link to Judith's lost-camera story. Boing Boing picked it up from him, and then it was all over the internet. Knowing this made it pretty easy to figure out that the Judith in question must be Judith Zissman, San Francisco artist and creator of (Anil mentions Judith Zissman elsewhere in his blog.) Judith is an artist, so maybe the lost camera blog is all an exercise in creative writing. (Wouldn't be the first time the internet has seen that.) But I doubt it. She seems fairly credible to me... and whether you believe the story is true all boils down to whether you believe Judith is telling the truth. I don't see any reason not to believe her. So for now I'm listing this as not a hoax.

(And in a separate story, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing is now being threatened by someone claiming to be the lawyer of the Canadian couple that took the camera. But it doesn't seem to be a real lawyer... just some random crackpot trying to get attention.)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 21, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: Undetermined
image The story of Harvey Bennett and his ocean-crossing bottle has been widely reported during the past week. The basic facts are as follows: Harvey Bennett, the owner of a tackle shop in Amagansett, New York, has for years been throwing messages-in-bottles into the Atlantic. He usually never sees the bottles again. But on January 24 he received a package in the mail containing one of his discarded bottles which, apparently, had floated all the way to Bournemouth, England. The finder of the bottle (who knew Bennett's address from the business card in the bottle) had written this note to Bennett:

I recently found your bottle while taking a scenic walk on a beach by Poole Harbour. While you may consider this some profound experiment on the path and speed of oceanic currents, I have another name for it - litter. You Americans don't seem to be happy unless you are mucking up somewhere. If you wish to foul your own nest, all well and good. But please refrain in the future from fouling mine.

The strangeness of this reply has puzzled everyone, and even prompted the Daily Telegraph to apologize for their countryman's lack of humor. But Newsday smells something fishy with this seafaring bottle story. They don't suspect Harvey Bennett is making up a hoax, but they think someone may be playing a prank on him. They point out that the name of the humorless British correspondent, "Mr. Bigglesworth," is also the name of Dr. Evil's cat in the Austin Powers movies. In addition:

A search of public records turned up no Henry Biggelsworth in Poole or neighboring Bournemouth... On a customs label affixed to the package, the sender used a slightly different spelling - Bigglesworth - when signing his name... The sender left out the "e" in Bournemouth on the return address. There is also no street in Bournemouth called "The Bowery." And the postal code should have begun with "BH" not "BJ."

Assuming that Bennett is trustworthy, I'm guessing that one of three things could have happened: a) The bottle really did make its way to England, and the reply was meant to be tongue-in-cheek; b) The bottle was found by someone in America and shipped to England, from where it was sent back to Bennett... making this a bottle version of the traveling-gnome prank; or c) the whole thing was engineered by some of Bennett's friends as a prank on him. They put one of his business cards in a bottle and arranged for it to be sent to him from England.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 06, 2006
Comments (9)
In honor of the anniversary of the moon landing, has an article listing (and debunking) the top 10 Apollo Hoax Theories. Below are the top 10 points raised by those who believe the moon landing was a hoax. You'll have to read the article to get the explanation of why these points DON'T prove that the moon landing was a hoax.

#10. Fluttering Flag: The American flag appears to wave in the lunar wind.
#9. Glow-in-the-Dark Astronauts: If the astronauts had left the safety of the Van Allen Belt the radiation would have killed them.
#8. The Shadow Knows: Multiple-angle shadows in the Moon photos prove there was more than one source of light, like a large studio lamp.
#7. Fried Film: In the Sun, the Moon's temperature is toasty 280 degrees F. The film (among other things) would have melted.
#6. Liquid Water on the Moon: To leave a footprint requires moisture in the soil, doesn't it?
#5. Death by Meteor: Space is filled with super-fast micro meteors that would punch through the ship and kill the astronauts.
#4. No Crater at Landing Site: When the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) landed, its powerful engine didn't burrow a deep crater in the "dusty surface."
#3. Phantom Cameraman: How come in that one video of the LEM leaving the surface, the camera follows it up into the sky? Who was running that camera?
#2. Big Rover: There's no way that big moon buggy they were driving could have fit into that little landing module!
#1. Its Full of Stars!: Space is littered with little points of lights (stars). Why then are they missing from the photographs?
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 20, 2005
Comments (134)
Apparently the Great Wall of China is visible from space. This confirms the old myth, but reverses reports from last year stating that the wall wasn't visible. A Chinese astronaut was able to snap a picture of it as he orbited overhead in the space station. Unfortunately it's not very visible. The astronaut wasn't even sure if he had actually photographed it or not. Plus, it turns out that many man-made things are visible from space.
Update: Here's a story in China Daily that contains the astronaut's photo of the Great Wall. You can't miss it because apparently the wall is bright yellow (or is it bright orange?)
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 25, 2005
Comments (33)
image Conspiracy theorists say that man never landed on the moon, but the truth is even more shocking. As this short documentary film about the Old Negro Space Program reveals, the Blackstronauts of Black 'NASSA' landed on the moon a full three years before White NASA managed to get there. However, this achievement has been covered up by an elaborate 'Black Blackout' in the media. The film manages to capture exactly the right 'Ken Burnsesque' tone. Watch for how they keep repeating 'It was a different time back then, 1957 or 58', and how a fiddle starts playing whenever the narration shifts to a more reflective mood. The guy who plays the part of the obligatory university academic is great also. (thanks to 'Ca n'Internet' for the link)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, History
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (9)
Moon Base Clavius is "an organization of amateurs and professionals devoted to the Apollo program and its manned exploration of the moon. Our special mission is to debunk the so-called conspiracy theories that state such a landing may never have occurred." Their site is "named after the Clavius Moon Base in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and visualized by Stanley Kubrick in the film of the same name." I've only just begun browsing around their site, but already it looks like it has a lot of good info on it.
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (26)
The latest issue of Outside Magazine has an article about the new thing in adventure vacations: a First Contact tour. On these tours, run by guide Kelly Woolford, you get to trek into the rainforest of Papua New Guinea and make contact with a 'Stone Age' tribe that has never met people from the outside world before. Apparently such tribes do still exist (though obviously they won't for long if these tours get more popular). Michael Behar, author of the article, decides to go on one of these tours and see what it's all about. So in September 2004 he joins the tour and they set off on a boat down a river in Papua New Guinea. After cruising along for a few days they finally get off the boat and start trekking into the jungle. Four hours from the river they make contact. Unfortunately it doesn't go well. The tribesmen they meet (who are wearing black headdresses made from cassowary feathers), end up attacking them, and the tour flees back to civilization. But once he's back home Behar starts to doubt whether he really experienced a 'first contact'. He suspects that the entire encounter was staged for his benefit. Maybe Woolford had arranged beforehand for the tribesmen to be there. Anthropologists whom Behar tells about the contact support this suspicion, noting that the tribesmen appeared to be suspiciously free of skin diseases for people living in the jungle. Plus, why were they wearing those ceremonial headdresses? But Woolford insists it was all real, arguing that the tribesmen were free of skin diseases because they lived near a source of fresh water in which they could bathe, and that they were wearing the headdresses simply because they enjoy dressing up. So Behar is left not knowing what to believe. It does sound an awful lot like a Stone Age Tasaday scenario to me. But even if it's not, the idea of a First Contact Tour is somehow very depressing.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 10, 2005
Comments (14)
image A curious bug in Microsoft's MapPoint site has been getting a lot of attention. If you ask for driving directions from Haugesund, Norway to Trondheim, Norway it will send you on a very strange route. Instead of going the direct route between the two cities, it will tell you to first cross the North Sea, drive down through England, cross the Channel, go east across Europe, and up through Sweden and Norway, until you finally arrive at your destination. Playing around with this a bit, I discovered that this weirdness doesn't apply only for directions from Haugesund to Trondheim. If you want to go almost anywhere from Haugesund (such as to Oslo or Copenhagen), MapPoint will send you via the North Sea route. However, it has no similar difficulty getting you TO Haugesund. Ask for directions from Trondheim to Haugesund and it'll send you right there. Also, if you ask for directions from Kopervik (which is right down the road from Haugesund) to Trondheim, it will send you on the correct (non-North Sea) route. Try this all out for yourself. Maybe there's some secret meaning here. Maybe Haugesund is one of those places that you can get to, but you're never supposed to leave (only by sea, and once you're there you'll discover that no ships are ever scheduled for departure). I mean, has anyone actually been to Haugesund and returned to tell about it? No one that I know of.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 27, 2005
Comments (12)
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