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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: History
The Sun and the Moon
Posted by The Curator on Thu Nov 06, 2008
My doctoral dissertation was partially on the subject of the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. I never finished writing the dissertation, but I did spend a LOT of time researching the moon hoax, and I always thought that it would make a great subject for a general-interest book -- using the moon hoax as a window on New York City and America in 1835. Turns out I waited too long. Someone beat me to it. Matthew Goodman has recently come out with The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York (published by Basic Books). From the…
Categories: History, Science Comments (3)
New Cardiff Giant Book
Posted by The Curator on Fri Oct 17, 2008
It's probably not going to be received by the book-buying public with as much enthusiasm as the latest John Grisham thriller, but this is the kind of book that gets me excited. It's a new (and what looks to be very well researched) history of the Cardiff Giant hoax titled A Colossal Hoax: The Giant From Cardiff That Fooled America by Scott Tribble. It's due out at the end of November. A bit pricey, but that's often the case with non-mass-market books. From its blurb: In October 1869, as…
Categories: History Comments (3)
The Museum of Fakes
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 01, 2008
The BBC reports that a 60-year-old Korean man has been arrested for running "a private museum stuffed with fakes." He bought cheap artifacts from flea markets and then displayed them as ancient treasures. He claimed one of his fakes was a "Koryo Dynasty celadon." All in all, he managed to earn $443,000 from this scam through ticket sales. Two things occur to me: 1) So people are assuming that most museums aren't full of fakes? The dirty little secret of the worlds of art and archaeology is that they're awash in fakes. And even when a museum owns the genuine artifact, it might not display the real thing for security reasons.
Categories: History, Scams Comments (16)
Benjamin West and the Venetian Secret
Posted by The Curator on Fri Sep 19, 2008
The Yale Center for British Art is hosting an exhibition about an obscure 18th-century art hoax (one that I had never heard of before). The exhibition is titled "Benjamin West and the Venetian Secret" -- which makes it sound a bit like a new Harry Potter novel. From Art Knowledge News: In 1796 Benjamin West, the American-born President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, fell victim to a remarkable fraud. A shadowy figure, Thomas Provis, and his artist daughter, Ann Jemima Provis, persuaded West that they possessed a copy…
Categories: Art, History Comments (1)
Chi-Rho Amulet is a Fake
Posted by The Curator on Fri Sep 19, 2008
Researchers have determined that the Chi-Rho Amulet, found in Shepton Mallet in 1990, is a fake. When it was first discovered in a Roman grave eighteen years ago, it was thought to be the earliest Christian artifact ever found in Britain. Local residents were so excited by the discovery that they named an entertainment center and a street after it. But tests indicate that the silver in the amulet is of nineteenth-century origin. Suspicion is focusing on protesters who were opposed to local development. Peter Leach of Birmingham University is quoted as saying: "A local group might have had an agenda to place an object there in the hope…
Categories: History Comments (1)
Is Bra-Burning a Myth?
Posted by The Curator on Fri Sep 12, 2008
Bra-burning came to symbolize the feminist movement, but according to this article at pressofAtlanticCity.com, the original 1968 bra-burning protest, that first associated bra-burning with feminism, never actually happened. Members of New York Radical Women, upset by the Miss America Pageant's focus on women's physique and seeing an opportunity to publicize their cause, traveled to Atlantic City by bus. They wanted to burn things, as was in vogue then (people mad about other topics - such as the war in Vietnam - burned draft cards and flags), but city officials worried about the safety of the wooden Boardwalk asked the…
Categories: Fashion, History Comments (12)
Space Pistols May Be Fake
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 02, 2008
Two hundred years ago General Ignacio Alvarez, commander of a South American region that would later become Argentina, sent James Madison a pair of duelling pistols forged from the iron of a meteorite. It was a pretty cool gift -- assuming the guns were real. But recent tests performed at the ISIS neutron source in the UK have revealed that the guns were cheap fakes. From BBC News: The machine was used to compare Monroe's pistols to a fragment of a meteorite from the Campo del Cielo crater in Argentina; the…
Categories: History, Military Comments (2)
Shig-Shag Day
Posted by The Curator on Sat Mar 22, 2008
Since April 1st is fast approaching, I've been doing a lot of research into the origins of April Fools Day in order to supplement the info I already have on the site. In the course of this research, I came across references to an old English holiday called Shig-Shag Day, celebrated on May 29, that has some similarities to April Fools Day. Shig-Shag Day is also called Shick-Shack Day or (more boringly) Oak Apple Day. Celebrants would place sprigs of apple oak in their hats or lapels to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy. The oak was said to symbolize the oak tree that Charles II hid in to escape his enemies. But cultural…
Categories: History Comments (6)
Hoax Holocaust Memoir
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 03, 2008
The big news in the world of hoaxes, revealed last week (and already posted in the forum), was the revelation that Misha Defonseca's best-selling, non-fiction memoir of growing up in war-torn Europe turns out to be fiction. (Thanks to everyone who forwarded me links to the news.) Defonseca's memoir, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years (also titled Surviving with Wolves), describes how when she was a young child her Jewish parents were seized by the Nazis, forcing her to wander Europe alone until she was adopted by a pack of wolves in the Warsaw ghetto. The reality is that she wasn't…
Two days ago I noted that I had posted an account of the "September Morn" controversy in the hoaxipedia, and I also said that I had my doubts about the role the publicist Harry Reichenbach played in the controversy. Well, I did some more research, and I've now been able to confirm my doubts. Reichenbach was just spinning a wild yarn. Some background: The story (according to Reichenbach) is that back in 1913 he was working at a New York City art dealer who was trying to sell 2000 copies of a little-known work of art that showed a young woman bathing in a lake. Reichenbach came up with the idea of staging a phony protest. He…
Categories: Advertising, Art, History Comments (7)
How much of the legend of the 17th-Century tulipmania is true?
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 14, 2007
The tulip craze that hit Holland in the seventeenth century is arguably the most famous financial bubble in all of history. According to the popular account of what happened, prices for tulips began to go through the roof in 1636 as word spread that wealthy people were willing to pay huge sums of money for tulips. Soon the general population joined in the speculative fervor, many people using their life savings in order to buy bulbs, believing they could resell them at windfall profits. At the height of the mania, a single bulb cost as much as a mansion. But eventually reality set in. In 1637…
Categories: Business/Finance, History Comments (13)
The Underground Railroad Quilt Code
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 12, 2007
Did escaping slaves fleeing from the South in the pre-Civil War era use secret codes woven into quilts to communicate with each other and guide them on their journey? That is the premise of the quilt-code theory, first popularized in a 1998 book written by Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard, Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. A National Geographic article from 2004 elaborates on the theory: A plantation seamstress would sew a sampler quilt containing different quilt patterns. Slaves would use the sampler…
Categories: History Comments (15)
Tall-Tale Postcard Gallery
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 21, 2006
The Wisconsin Historical Society has just posted a large collection of tall-tale postcards online, along with some accompanying history. Definitely worth checking out. Highlights include galleries devoted to two early masters of the tall-tale genre, William H. Martin and Alfred Stanley Johnson. It's also possible to buy reproductions of these prints through their website. The only thing I find regrettable is that their site is full of all kinds of warnings threatening people not to use any image from the site without first obtaining written permission from them. If an image is public domain (as many of these tall-tale postcards are, since they were published before 1923), then can the Historical Society actually set…
Cardiff Giant: The Musical
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 17, 2006
The Des Moines Register reports that a new musical about the Cardiff Giant hoax has debuted in Iowa:It's an unlikely recipe for a musical: an odd 19th-century hoax set to the music of Iowa composer Karl King. But a group of creative minds in Fort Dodge, led by Deann Haden-Luke, managed to pull it together with a financial boost from the Iowa Arts Council. "Cardiff," presented by Comedia Musica Players, premieres tonight in Fort Dodge and plays through Sunday. I usually think of the Cardiff Giant as a New York hoax, but it's true that the stone for the giant…
Categories: Entertainment, History Comments (6)
Mission Accomplished Vanishes
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 07, 2006
Remember George Bush's Mission Accomplished speech from May 2003 on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln? The one in which he announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq. I wrote about it in Hippo Eats Dwarf as an example of Political Theater, or a "Potemkin Photo Op": a stage-managed event, created solely for media consumption, that offers a misleading picture of reality. Now it has also become an example of historical revisionism. If you check out the video of the event on the White House's website, you'll notice something strange. The Mission Accomplished banner has vanished from it. Apparently the White House has now embraced the historical policy of the Soviet government,…
Categories: History, Military, Politics Comments (19)
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