The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
HOME   |   ABOUT   |   FORUM   |   CONTACT   |   FACEBOOK   |   RSS
The Top 100
April Fool Hoaxes
Of All Time
April Fool Archive
April fools throughout history
Hoax Photo
Archive

Weblog Category
Literature/Language
Laura Albert created the character of JT Leroy, and wrote the books that appeared in his name. However, Albert's sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, played the part of JT whenever he was required to make an appearance in real life. Now Knoop has authored an account of what it was like to play JT. It'll be published in October by Seven Stories Press. From the publisher's website:

In January 2006, The New York Times unmasked Savannah Knoop as the face of the mysterious author JT LeRoy. A media frenzy ensued as JT’s fans, mentors, and readers came to terms with the fact that the gay-male- ex-truck-stop-prostitute-turned-literary-wunderkind was really a girl from San Francisco, whose middle-aged sister-in-law, Laura Albert, wrote the books. Girl Boy Girl is the story of how Savannah led this bizarre double life for six years, trading a precarious existence as a college dropout for a life in which she was embraced by celebrities and artists... and traveled the world.

Laura Albert isn't happy about the forthcoming book. She's quoted by the New York Post as saying, "I am not in any way connected with this book and it disgusts me. Just because you play a writer doesn't mean you are a writer. I think Savannah is being motivated by money and attention. Now that she's had to go back to being a civilian, this is her way of getting back to it. It's sad and it's sleazy. She's really stepping on my feelings."

Gawker comments: "just because you slap the label 'non-fiction' on your otherwise mediocre 'art' to build buzz doesn't mean you have to refrain from calling anyone else a sell-out."

I'm wondering when the movie about the JT Leroy saga will appear. IMBD.com lists it as being in development, but has no info about its release date. (Thanks, Joe)

Previous posts about JT Leroy:
Oct 2005: Is JT LeRoy a Hoax?
Jan 2006: JT LeRoy: An Update
Feb 2006: Knoop Confesses JT Leroy Was a Hoax
Mar 2006: JT Leroy: The Movie
Sep 2006: Writer Behind J.T. LeRoy Comes Clean
Jun 2007: JT LeRoy, phantom author (Updated!)
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 02, 2008
Comments (6)
There are many theories about the true identity of Shakespeare. A new one (at least, new to me) is that Shakespeare was actually a Jewish woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier. This argument is made by John Hudson, author of a forthcoming biography of Bassano (who was the first woman to publish a book of poetry in England). Haaretz reports:

The theory rests largely on the circumstances of Bassano's life, which Hudson contends match, much better than William Shakespeare's did, the content of "Shakespeare's" work. But Hudson has also identified technical similarities between the language used in Bassano's known poetry and that used in "Shakespeare's" verse. And he has located clues in the text - recently noted Jewish allegories and the statistically significant appearance of Amelia Bassano Lanier's various names in the plays - that he says point to her as the only convincing candidate for the author of Shakespeare's work.

Hudson offers a summary of his theory in an article he posted on Jewcy.com, "Shakespeare's Plays Were Written By A Jewish Woman." Hudson also maintains a site, darkladyplayers.com, where he goes into more details about his theory.

If it turned out that Shakespeare really was a woman, that would top Pope Joan for Most Outrageous Case of Gender Concealment Ever. However, I'm sure that mainstream Shakespeare historians are going to resist accepting Hudson's theory.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed May 28, 2008
Comments (11)
Heraldnet.com (the newspaper of Snohomish County) recently ran this story:

Mom appalled at racy books in store for teens at Alderwood mall
By Scott Pesznecker
Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD -- Marci Milfs went to Urban Outfitters to find clothes for her teenage son. She was surprised to find sexually charged books that she believes have no place in a clothing store for teens and young adults. On one end of the spectrum was "Porn for Women," a photo book showing men doing housework. On the other was "Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults," a guide for making anatomically correct artwork. "When I saw it, I was shocked," Milfs said... Milfs was so appalled that she is preparing to file a complaint with the city of Lynnwood, and has already aired her frustrations to State Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, and organizations including Morality in Media, Concerned Women of America and the American Family Association.

When I saw this story I assumed either it had to be a joke, or the reporter had fallen for a prank. Kind of like when reporters are tricked into quoting "Haywood Jablome" as a source.

A "MILF" (for anyone unfamiliar with the term) is popular internet slang for any attractive older woman. By internet standards, that means any woman over the age of 25. It stands for "Mom I'd like to f***".

So a story about "Marci Milfs" being appalled by racy books has to be a joke. Right? Apparently not. It's just another example of an unfortunate last name. Marci Milfs seems to be a real person.
Categories: Literature/Language, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue May 06, 2008
Comments (10)
Many British papers have reported the humorous story of a young woman who called the operator trying to order a cab, but instead had a cabinet delivered to her home. Her problem was too much Cockney, and too little Queen's English. From Ananova:

the Londoner, 19, wanted a taxi to take her to Bristol airport, and first used the Cockney rhyming slang "Joe Baxi". When the operator told her she couldn't find anyone by that name, the teen replied: "It ain't a person, it's a cab, innit." The operator then found the nearest cabinet shop, Displaysense, and put the girl through. She then spoke to a bemused saleswoman and eventually demanded: "Look love, how hard is it? All I want is your cheapest cab, innit. I need it for 10am. How much is it?" The sales adviser said it would be £180 and the girl gave her address and paid with a credit card. The next morning, an office cabinet was delivered to her South London home.

Two things make me suspicious of the story. 1) It sounds a lot like the classic "lost in translation" urban legend. 2) It originated from a Displaysense press release, which means that it's probably the invention of a press agent.
Categories: Literature/Language, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 15, 2008
Comments (14)
The novel Charm has already sold more than 100,000 copies. It debuted at No. 13 on the New York Times best-seller list. However, its author, Kendall Hart, isn't real. Hart is a character on the ABC soap opera "All My Children." As this NY Times article puts it: "It has Kendall’s name on the cover but the name of the actual writer is being kept secret."

This is why writers get depressed. They work hard to produce good books, which end up in remainder bins. Meanwhile, people flock in droves to buy a book just because it has the name of a soap opera character slapped on the front cover.

These kind of books spun-off from TV shows seem to be increasingly common. I think Lost has produced a few of them, which have also sold well.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 07, 2008
Comments (8)
Margaret Soltan makes an interesting observation on her blog about all the recent memoir hoaxers. She writes:

Consider these author photos of a few (there are many more) recent memoir hoaxers. 
What do they have in common?  They all say:  Look directly at my big sad eyes.  I have deeply suffered.
Perhaps we can ask legitimate writers to assume a different pose.  That way we can identify the hoaxers.



The authors shown are, from left to right, Margaret Seltzer, Norma Khouri, Helen Demidenko, and James Frey.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 05, 2008
Comments (4)
One week after Misha Defonseca confessed that she didn't really grow up with wolves, as she claimed in her memoir of her childhood in war-torn Europe, another literary hoax has surfaced.

Love and Consequences, by Margaret B. Jones, purports to be a non-fiction memoir of the author's life "as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods."

In reality, as the NY Times reports: "Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed."

Seltzer offers the usual excuse: It's true in a vague, metaphorical sense. The things she describes really do happen. They just didn't happen to her.

Seltzer was outed by her older sister who saw an article about her in last week's NY Times. I predict there's going to be some awkward Thanksgiving dinners for that family in the future.

Seltzer's publisher has cancelled her book tour and is recalling all copies of the book.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 04, 2008
Comments (9)
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 actually adopted by wolves. Nor did she wander Europe. She was raised by her grandparents. Nor is she Jewish.

Defonseca offered the well-worn excuse of literary hoaxers: she considers the tale to be true in a metaphorical sense. She says, "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving." This excuse is used so often that bookstores might soon have to start separating books into a third category: fiction, non-fiction, and non-fiction in a metaphorical sense.

Defonseca's hoax was exposed by Sharon Sergeant, a genealogical researcher, who became suspicious and did some research into Defonseca's past.

This is not the first hoax holocaust memoir. In fact, the holocaust is quite a popular subject for literary hoaxers. Jerzy Kosinski claimed his 1965 work The Painted Bird was a non-fiction memoir of his childhood experiences during the Holocaust. It's now considered to be fiction.

And in 1993 Helen Demidenko won the Vogel Literary Award for her book The Hand That Signed the Paper, which described, so she said, her family's experiences in the Ukraine during the Holocaust. Later she admitted that her family never lived in the Ukraine. They were from Britain. And her real name was Darville, not Demidenko.
Categories: History, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 03, 2008
Comments (19)
Tom Bell, in the Agoraphilia blog, asks an interesting question. Why does children's fiction promote credulity as a virtue?

Children's fiction employs this trope so often that it fits a formula. A wise character tries to convince the protagonist that something wonderful will happen if only he or she will earnestly believe an improbability. Consider, for instance, how Yoda tells Luke to cast aside all doubt if he wants to levitate his x-wing from the swamps of Dagobah. "Do, or do not. There is no try," Yoda explains. Following the usual script, Luke resists, courting disaster, before he finally embraces faith and wins its rewards.

Bell notes an obvious explanation -- that religious and political leaders would like to see young people raised to believe without question. But Bell then suggests an alternative explanation. Maybe it's because children's literature depends upon the suspension of disbelief, and therefore children's authors need to promote gullibility as a virtue.

Looking at the question historically (which, after seven years of grad school is how I tend to approach questions like this), I would say it might have something to do with the sentimentalization of childhood which, in western culture, began to occur during the 18th and 19th centuries. Of course, this just raises the question of why our culture began to sentimentalize childhood. I honestly don't know, but it sure has helped Disney make a lot of money.
Categories: Literature/Language, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2008
Comments (27)
Dave, the forecasting pig
"'Darke County Dave,' a local hog, will opine -- or oswine -- on America's economic outlook on Friday, the Ohio treasurer's office said. In his inaugural outing, Dave will choose between a trough of sugar or one of sawdust to gauge the the economy's future course at the event in Greenville, Ohio, northwest of Dayton." (Thanks, Gary)

How to say "Mr. Rose Apple Nose" in Thai sign language
"Sign language interpreters in Thailand have run afoul of some ruling party supporters by holding their noses to refer to the new prime minister." Big Gary comments: "Here's another of those 'awkward translation' stories, this one apparently true. I didn't know what a 'rose apple' is, so I looked up a description. Frankly, I don't see a resemblance between the pictures of the fruit I could find and the Thai PM. I remember that when Helmut Kohl was Chancellor of Germany, the opposition called him 'The Light Bulb' because his head resembled one. It seemed to me that his real name, which could be translated 'Helmet Cabbage,' was silly enough."

Woman marries five men
"Officials arrested Shauna Keith last week. They said the 27-year-old woman married five men, all members of the military. She is also accused of having five social security numbers."
Categories: Future/Time, Literature/Language, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 01, 2008
Comments (8)
In the article about the Loch Ness Monster in the hoaxipedia, I've posted some Nessie haiku contributed by readers. I'm quite proud of my own contribution:

Lurking in the deep,
centuries old. Addicted
to tourist sushi.

But far more accomplished poets have also been inspired by Nessie. Glasgow's poet laureate, Edwin Morgan, included a poem, "The Loch Ness Monster's Song," in his 1970 collection Twelve Songs. Here it is:

Sssnnnwhufffffl?
Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblobblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbl.
Drublhaflabhalflubhafgabhhafl fl fl -
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok-doplodovok-plovodokot-doplodokosh?
Splgraw fok fok splgrafthatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl-
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,
blp.

According to a Rice University webpage, in 1991 the poem was reprinted in 100 Poems on the Underground, and had this explanation appended to it:

"The author explained in conversation that the lonely monster rises from
the loch and looks round for the companions of his youth -- prehistoric
reptiles -- and, finding nobody he knows, he descends again to the depths
after a brief swearing session. This was confirmed by a nine-year-old boy
in a workshop, who said the monster was 'looking for a diplodocus'. When
asked how he knew that, he said, 'It says so.' It does."

Sure enough, if you read the poem closely, you can tell that the monster is looking for a diplodocus, and does then start swearing.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 26, 2008
Comments (8)
Nuclear Reactor in Garage
A 22-year-old man was boasting on an amateur science blog that he had built a mini-nuclear reactor in his garage. His boasts earned him a visit from federal authorities who determined that he didn't actually have a nuclear reactor. But he did have some kind of strange experiment going on that, had it continued, "would have been a cleanup issue." (Thanks, Joe)

Dead Man Cashing Check Scam
"Two men were arrested on Tuesday after pushing a corpse, seated in an office chair, along the sidewalk to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man’s Social Security check." (Thanks, Gary)

Facebook President Hoax
A Facebook application allowed people to pretend to run for "Facebook Worldwide president." A Frency guy got all his friends to vote for him, and when he won told the French media that he was the new president of Facebook. Many members of the French media apparently believed him.

Romance writer accused of plagiarism
Nora Roberts is claiming that fellow romance novelist Cassie Edwards is guilty of plagiarism. It seems that Edwards was lifting passages from old reference works in order to flesh out her historical romances. This actually seems to me like a fairly minor misdemeanor compared to some of the stuff that goes on nowadays. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Death, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 15, 2008
Comments (2)
Page 4 of 12 pages ‹ First  < 2 3 4 5 6 >  Last ›