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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: History
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.
Categories: History Comments (0)
The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 07, 2014
There's been a lot of news coverage recently about a fragment of ancient papyrus that contains language suggesting Jesus was married. Specifically, it contains the phrase, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" So it's been called the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife." A study published in the April issue of the Harvard Theological Review concluded that the papyrus fragment was an authentic ancient artifact. But now the tide is turning, and evidence is mounting that it's actually a fake. From the Washington Post: Last week, an American researcher named Christian Askeland published findings that scholars say represent the most convincing evidence yet that the 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' is…
Categories: History, Religion Comments (0)
Is the Voynich manuscript a modern forgery?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 10, 2014
Simon Worrall, author of "The Poet and the Murderer" (about the Mark Hoffman forgeries) recently wrote an article for BBC News Magazine about the Voynich manuscript. Worrall notes that new theories about the manuscript "breed like mayflies." However, he confesses to believing that it's a modern forgery created by its discoverer, Wilfrid Voynich. He writes: "One of the most common tropes in the history of forgery is that of a rare book dealer 'discovering' previously unknown manuscripts." But even if you don't accept his theory, the article is worth a look because it has some nice photos of the manuscript itself. [BBC News]
Categories: History Comments (2)
History of Formosa on display
Posted by The Curator on Sat Mar 15, 2014
St. John's College in Cambridge is inviting the public to view a famous artifact from the history of hoaxes — a first-edition of The History of Formosa written by George Psalmanazar. [link: Belfast Telegraph] Back in the early 18th century, Psalmanazar posed as a native of Taiwan and had many of Britain's educated elites believing the ruse, even as he invented bizarre stories about the customs of Taiwan. If there was a real Museum of Hoaxes, this would be a great artifact to have on display. But it also shows the difficulty of ever having such a museum, because it turns out these artifacts are incredibly expensive, making…
Tunnel beneath the Strait of Messina (an Italian hoax)
Posted by The Curator on Fri Feb 21, 2014
Italian social media was buzzing recently with word of the discovery of a narrow tunnel, over 2000 years old, running beneath the Strait of Messina (the body of water between the mainland of Italy and Sicily). The tunnel was believed to have been built by the Romans during the Punic wars (264-241 BC) as a passageway for troops. It was discovered by workers doing construction on a highway. But the story turns out to have come from an Italian fake news site called Dangerous News. One of the tunnel photos came from an Aug 2011 Daily Mail article about the discovery of mysterious stone-age tunnels in Bavaria. [link:…
100-year-old Time Capsule Letter Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Matt Novak, writing for Gizmodo Australia, notes that 100 years ago a news story circulated reporting that Frank Rockwell, the mayor of Akron, Ohio, had written a letter to Akron's future mayor in 2014: Fort Wayne Sentinel - Jan 24, 1914 Mayor Rockwell wrote a letter yesterday to the person who will be mayor of Akron 100 years hence. The epistle tells the future mayor of the present debt, the names of all the city officials, the problems confronting the municipality and the political situation in Akron in 1914. The letter will be sealed, addressed to "His Honor, Mayor of Akron, 2014," marked with instructions not to be molested or…
Categories: Future/Time, History Comments (1)
The Diepholz Mummy
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 26, 2013
Last month a 10-year-old German boy found what appeared to be an ancient Egyptian mummy in the attic of his grandmother, who lives in Diepholz. His parents excitedly speculated that it must have belonged to his grandfather, who had traveled throughout North Africa during the 1950s. There were some artifacts along with the mummy that were quickly dismissed as fakes, and the mummy cloth appeared to be 20th-century fabric. But when the mummy was x-rayed, the head was found to be an actual human skull, which raised hopes that it was perhaps a real mummy. However, closer examination (unwrapping the mummy) has revealed that the rest of the skeleton is made of…
Categories: History Comments (0)
Daniel Engber doesn't think Jimmy Kimmel's "Twerking Girl on Fire" hoax was very funny. He wrote in Slate: I think it illustrates everything that's wrong with viral marketing. Kimmel's prank is not a biting satire, nor is it a mirror to our stupid culture. It's a hostile, self-promoting act—a covert ad for Jimmy Kimmel Live—rendered as ironic acid that corrodes our sense of wonder. At times Engber's critique became so over-the-top that I wasn't sure if he was being entirely serious, or if he was deliberately trolling. Nevertheless, what he wrote did make me think of an ongoing controversy within the world of hoaxing. The issue is that there are two traditions within…
Categories: History Comments (1)
Fake Crystal Skulls
Posted by The Curator on Fri Mar 08, 2013
The latest issue of Chemical & Engineering News has an article that reviews the history of how the crystal "Aztec" skulls that began showing up in the mid-19th century were eventually found to be fake. The take home is that the following pieces of evidence led researchers to conclude the skulls were modern forgeries: The skulls didn't come from documented archaeological sites. The skulls' teeth were suspiciously linear and perfect, whereas the teeth in other Aztec art reflected the lack of Aztec dentistry. Microscopic analysis revealed that the crystal skulls had regular etch marks, such as would be made by modern rotary wheels and hard abrasives, not ancient hand-held tools. Spectroscopic analysis showed that the rock crystal…
Categories: Art, History Comments (1)
Town waits 100 years to open package
Posted by The Curator on Mon Aug 27, 2012
For 100 years, a package marked "May Be Opened in 2012" has been sitting in a museum in Otta, Norway. It was given to the town of Otta by a local resident, Johan Nygaard, back in 1912. There's been enormous speculation about what the package might contain. Money? A diary? Stock certificates? Finally, last Friday, the 100-year-mark arrived, and the town gathered to open the package. There was a live video feed, so the entire world could share in the excitement. The mayor carefully opened the package, peeked inside... and it turned to contain: "not-too-valuable notebooks, newspaper clippings, community council papers, a letter, small drawing and other bits of paper." In…
Categories: History, Places Comments (8)
The Mystery of the Burnley River Skull
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 11, 2012
Back in May, a Lancashire couple, Mick and Elaine Bell, found a human skull in a shallow section of the Burnley River while out walking their dogs. They gave the skull to the police, who initially suspected that rain had washed it down from a nearby cemetery. But as forensic experts examined it, they grew puzzled. The features of the skull indicated the person had been a man who was either an Australian aboriginal or from a South Pacific Island. How had he ended up buried in Lancashire? Elaine Bell with the skull Carbon dating the skull produced no results. Initially the scientists thought this was because the…
Categories: History, Science Comments (5)
Prof. T. Mills Kelly teaches a class on hoaxes at George Mason University titled, "Lying About the Past." It's a study of hoaxes throughout history (the Museum of Hoaxes is on his syllabus!), but also uses hoaxes to teach critical thinking and historical analysis. As part of the class, the students have to create a historical hoax of their own and launch it on the web. I could have sworn that I'd posted previously about Kelly's class, but couldn't find where I did so. Back in 2008, his students crafted a successful hoax about Edward Owens, a supposed Chesapeake pirate. This year they tried to create a tale about a possible 19th-century New York serial…
Categories: Education, History Comments (0)
Notice to Thieves, Thugs, Fakirs and Bunko-Steerers
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 10, 2012
Warning notice posted in Las Vegas, New Mexico, March 24, 1882. Had to post it because I love the term "Bunko-Steerers". From New Mexico's Digital Collections (via Kate Nelson).
Categories: History, Law/Police/Crime Comments (0)
How Abraham Lincoln Invented Facebook (a hoax)
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 10, 2012
On Wednesday, Nate St. Pierre posted an interesting story on his blog. He detailed his discovery of an attempt by Abraham Lincoln in 1845 to create and patent a social-networking system that very much resembled Facebook. Only it was an all-paper version of Facebook, and Lincoln didn't call it Facebook. In his patent application he supposedly called it "The Gazette," and he described it as a system to "keep People aware of Others in the Town." He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as his Visual Appendix, an example of the system he was talking about. Lincoln was proposing…
Recreating the Cardiff Giant
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 29, 2011
Syracuse-based artist Ty Marshal has created a replica of the Cardiff Giant, according to its original size specifications (ten-feet tall). His replica is going to be buried in Syracuse's Lipe Art Park and then unearthed on October 16, the anniversary of the date on which the Giant was first "found" on William Newell's farm back in 1869. After being unearthed, Marshal's giant will remain on display in the park, under a tent, for one week. Visitors will be allowed to view it for 25 cents. Then, using a horse and cart, the Giant will be transported to the Atrium in Syracuse's City Hall Commons where it will be displayed…
Categories: Art, Celebrations, History Comments (2)
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