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A picture of a black lion has recently been circulating online. Black lions are not biologically impossible. In fact, there have been scattered reports of black lions over the centuries. However, the lion in this picture is actually a white lion colored black through photo manipulation.

The original image of a white lion was posted at It was then transformed into a black lion by "PAulie-SVK" and posted at earlier this year. From there it spread to Facebook, reddit, etc. offers some interesting info on the science and history of black lions:

There is a mid 19th century report of a very large "black" Persian lion seen by the archaeologist Sir Henry Layard; he described it as "very dark brown in colour, in parts almost black." Lions are no longer found in that region. This may have been related to the Barbary lion (now extinct in the wild) which is larger than African lions and famed for their extensive black manes stretching from chest to groin.

A partly black lion was born at Glasgow (Scotland) zoo, but was infertile. His colour was probably due to somatic mosaicism (abnormal skin cells). The lion had a pitch black patch extending the length of the inside front leg and across the chest. Somatic mosaicism causes some patches of skin to develop abnormal pigmentation. This anomaly also occurs in domestic cats and accounts for some of the few fertile tortoiseshell male cats.

Called "Ranger" (he was sponsored by Glasgow Rangers Football Club), he was born at Glasgow Zoo in about 1975, the offspring of some lions acquired from Manchester's Belle Vue Zoo. At birth, the lion exhibited a melanistic patch which stretched from his right paw, all the way up the inside of his leg and across his chest. It was believed to be the first time melanism, even partial melanism, had been recorded in the African lion (apart from anecdotal cases). Ranger , frequently mated but failed to impregnate a proven fertile female. Zoo staff believed he had a chromosome abnormality. Ranger was put to sleep in 1997 and sent for post mortem at Glasgow Vet School...

Black lions, chocolate brown lions and reddish brown lions have been reported. A very dark brown, almost black lion was reported in Persia (Iran) and a black lioness was reported in the African bush (Okovango). There have even been reports of whole prides of dark brown or black lions; prides comprise closely related lionesses therefore this could be a familial trait. Genetically, lions are spotted cats (residual spots can be seen on tawny lions on the limbs and sometimes on the body) and it's possible that excessively spotted cubs (abundism) might grow into adults with a sooty cast on the fur...

Many reports of black lions (and other black big cats) are due to observation in either poor light or with strong sunlight behind the cat.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 05, 2012
Comments (5)
Rick Padden of Loveland, Colorado has written a play about a famous hoax from his own town: The Great Loveland Potato Hoax. It'll be on stage at Loveland's Rialto Theater.

The Loveland Potato Hoax took place in 1895. It involved a potato farmer who created a fake photo of himself holding a giant potato. The photo started circulating around the country, passing from one person to another, until it eventually came to the attention of Scientific American, which published it, mistakenly presenting it to readers as a real photo. The farmer was subsequently flooded with inquiries from people who wanted pieces of the potato so they could grow their own giant spud.

The hoax is significant because the photo is quite possibly the first viral fake photo ever — predating by over 100 years such famous viral fake photos as Snowball the Monster Cat and Touristguy.

I can't think of any other photo that would possibly qualify as a viral fake photo before this one. There were definitely famous fake photos before 1895, such as the fake heroic photos of Abraham Lincoln. But they didn't circulate in a viral fashion. At least, not to my knowledge.

Anyway, I thought the hoax was worth adding to the hoax archive, so that's what I've done. The comment link is redirected there.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue May 15, 2012
Comments (0)

This image that recently appeared on the May 4 cover of the Living section in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is all over the blogosphere. Does the heading say "Suit Yourself" or "Shit Yourself"?

The real question is whether this was an innocent accident, or an artist's prank. Kind of like the penis on the Little Mermaid video cover. The artist swore he didn't put it there intentionally, but that was kind of hard to believe. After all, how could he miss it?

Categories: Photos/Videos, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed May 09, 2012
Comments (6)

This image (which appears on a lot of humor and weird picture sites around the web) is often captioned, "Why boys need parents." And try as I might, that's the only information I can find out about it. Where it came from and who created it, I have no idea.

I'm not even sure whether this is a photograph or a painting, though I suspect it's a painting. The low resolution makes it difficult to tell, and I can't find any higher-res copies. It's the boy's legs, in particular, that make me suspect it's a painting. They look slightly unrealistic.

So I'm posting this here in the hope that someone, at some point, might come along who knows something about the source of this image.

Update: Thanks to pazuzu for quickly identifying the source of this painting. (Yes, I was right. It's a painting!) It's an oil on canvas by Ron Francis titled "Skateboarding". Francis writes: "This image was inspired by a childhood memory. The suburb was somewhere around the north side of Sydney harbour and I was the boy on the skateboard."
Categories: Art, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon May 07, 2012
Comments (2)
Several pictures of a cat with a cat-shaped mark on its back have circulated online for a couple of years.

There's also a version of the image with arabic writing on it, that's currently doing the rounds on facebook.

I don't know the cat's name, but the cat has a Japanese owner who keeps a blog,, devoted to posting pictures of it. There are hundreds of pictures of the cat up there. And here's the strange thing. In the two pictures of the cat that are circulating, the marking clearly resembles a cat. But in the pictures of the cat on the blog, the marking looks slightly different. The pointy ears on the marking are gone, so the marking no longer looks as much like a cat. Though when viewed upside down, it resembles a question mark.


Perhaps the pointy-ear effect in the two photos was caused by the way the cat's skin folded. Or perhaps someone photoshopped the ears in. I'm not sure, though I'm leaning towards photoshop. I searched the site to see if I could find the pointy-ear-marking photos. (The site has an image browser feature which made searching pretty easy.) I wanted to see if the originals differed from the versions in circulation. But I couldn't find them on the site.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri May 04, 2012
Comments (4)

I'm not sure how old this image is, but it must be 15 or 20 years old at least. It's been circulating online for as long as I can remember.

It's one of those images that's become a staple on humor sites, but people don't often pause to ask about the details of it: is the picture real? Where was it taken? And if it is real, what were all those cops doing there? Were they really all on a donut break?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find out very much about the picture. Although I was able to locate where it was taken, because a few people recognized it. Both Jenni at ivman's blague and April at independently identified it as a Donutland that used to be in Cedar Falls, Iowa. But the Donutland closed sometime during the 90s and was replaced by an Italian restaurant that also seems to have closed.

Some googling revealed that there was once a Donutland at 5312 University Ave in Cedar Falls. And here's that address now on Google Maps. The shot is from a different angle, and the Donutland sign is gone, but I think it definitely is the same building.

Jenni thought the police cars in the picture looked like they were from the nearby town of Waterloo, not Cedar Falls. She joked, "obviously Waterloo was suffering from a lack of security that day!"

April (writing in 2001) also recalled some trivia about the Donutland:

that brown building behind is at the RV place next door.. cool yo! another sidenote about that donutland is at night, the DO in the neon sign's lights were out.. so it said 'Nutland'. There's even a picture of it in my senior yearbook and a caption from a kid that went there and wrote a check out to nutland...he was kicked out for good.

Because I can't see any obvious signs of photo manipulation in the picture, I'm going to assume the picture is real. Though why all the cops were there, I have no idea. Maybe it was staged as a joke. Or maybe all the cops really were on a donut break!
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu May 03, 2012
Comments (2)
Thanks to Smerk for posing this question in the forum. I thought it deserved to be on the front page.

Around about mid-2009, a slideshow began circulating via email featuring a series of stunning images, all of which had supposedly been taken by an autistic German photographer, Patrick Notley. The images were soon posted on slideshare, and then someone collected them together into a youtube video. A few examples of some of the photos attributed to him:

But Notley himself seemed to be a bit of a mystery. Despite being such an accomplished photographer, he didn't have a website. Nor did his name appear in any newspaper or magazine.

The mystery deepens if, as Accipiter has pointed out in the forum, you look closely in the corners of many of the photographs. There you'll see printed the names of other photographers: Detlef Winkelewski, Thomas Mörchen, Thomas Agit, etc.

Based on this, I think it's safe to conclude that Patrick Notley, photographer, doesn't exist. He seems to be nothing more than a compelling fiction invented by someone to make a series of nice photographs seem even more impressive.

But a little more research reveals that the earliest references to the Patrick-Notley slideshow don't actually describe Notley as the photographer. Instead, they had this message:

My name is Patrick Notley. I am Autistic and I produced this slide show for you. Please send it round the World. Let beauty shine through at last.

Notley isn't saying here that he took the photos. He's just saying he produced the slide show. That is, he chose the images. But as the slide show circulated around the internet, someone evidently decided it would be more interesting if he were the photographer. And that description stuck.

But if we accept that Patrick Notley isn't a photographer, is it safe to assume that he really exists (as an autistic person who likes to make slide shows)? I don't know. That's a lot harder to determine.

But it's worth noting that all the images seem to come from the same source, the German photography website (This connection was first made over at

So if some guy named Patrick Notley did produce the slide show, he didn't have to work very hard to do so. He just cut-and-pasted everything together from one website. Perhaps he's both autistic and a little bit lazy.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 02, 2012
Comments (18)

When I first saw this image, I immediately wondered whether giraffes can jump. I did some googling and eventually found Giraffes by Nicole Helget in which she addresses this question:

A giraffe can also jump, clearing heights of up to five feet (1.5 m). This capability is important, now that many cattle fences have been built in Africa. The neck helps propel the giraffe over obstacles. To jump, the giraffe first pulls its neck back, putting most of its weight over the hind legs. Then it thrusts the neck forward, lifts its front legs, and pushes off with its hind legs.

Knowing that giraffes can jump then made me wonder whether the image could possibly be real — though it looks like the giraffe is leaping higher than five feet. But it didn't take me long to track down the source of the picture. It was created by "c_kick" as part of a giraffe-themed photoshop challenge. (It's also posted on c_kick's personal website,

But this is where the photo investigation got a bit strange, because in the course of tracking down the source of the image I found an older picture from which c_kick presumably cut-and-pasted the leaping giraffe. And this older image is more puzzling than the leaping giraffe one. It shows a giraffe that looks like it's trying to mate with a donkey.

The giraffes in the two pictures are definitely one and the same. That's easy to see when the two photos are placed side-by-side.

And the mating-giraffe picture is definitely older than the leaping-giraffe one, which c_kick created in July 2010. There are discussions of the mating-giraffe pic that date back to early 2008. Most of these "discussions" are along the lines of, "OMG Epic FAIL!!!!" But I did find one intelligent discussion of the picture posted by Darren Naish on the Tetrapod Zoology blog in November 2008.

Darren notes that attempted interspecies matings are far more common than people think, especially in captivity. But in the comments left on his post, people note that the giraffe in the picture appears to be a female. Therefore, it wouldn't be mating with the donkey. Though it might be a case of "assertive dominance" or "fake humping". But others are doubtful that the giraffe and donkey are even making contact, since the donkey seems strangely unconcerned about what's happening. Forced perspective could be making the two animals appear closer than they really were.

And finally, the question is raised of whether this mating-giraffe picture is even real. Is it photoshopped? Felicia asks: "Where the hell are the giraffe's front legs? It's not on its knees and the legs are not splayed - they point straight into the ground."

That's a good question. Where are the giraffe's front legs?

So it could be that both images featuring the giraffe are photoshopped. Though I'm not yet completely convinced the mating one is. I suspect that the angle of the shot could be hiding the giraffe's legs — for instance, if the ground on which the giraffe is standing slopes downward. To fully settle the question, one would need some kind of fancy forensic photo-analysis software, which I don't have.

So that's where my research into the leaping and mating giraffe ends. But while I'm on the subject of giraffes, here are some other fake giraffe pictures I found while browsing through giraffe images on google:

Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue May 01, 2012
Comments (2)

It would be cool if there really was a tunnel entrance somewhere in the world that looked like this. But this is one of those brought-to-you-by-photoshop images. The original is an image showing a billboard created in March 2007 by the Austrian ad agency Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann for the restaurant chain Oldtimer. (link:

What's puzzling me is whether the original image is itself photoshopped? Did this Oldtimer billboard ever exist in real life, or is the photo just a concept piece?

I can't find any pictures showing the Oldtimer billboard from a different angle. I can't find any sources that list the specific road where it was placed. Nor can I find news sources from 2007 that discuss the billboard. I also think it's strange that this was an Austrian campaign, and yet the writing is in English.

All of which make me suspect that the original image is a photoshopped concept piece. Though I'm not sure. It could be that I can't find any more info about the ad because all the info is in German.
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 30, 2012
Comments (8)

The "Fast-Food Tattoo Guy" image has been floating around the internet since 2009, at least. It's not a very good fake. Which is to say, it doesn't appear that many people have been led to believe, on the basis of this photo, that some large, cheeseburger-loving man actually decided to tattoo himself with the logos of fast-food restaurants.

Nevertheless, I'm always curious about where these fake photos originally come from. In the case of this photo, I tracked down the original to a series of photos taken by photographer Philip Greenspun at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2005. He took several shots of this guy sitting on the beach, eating his food, and listening to the music. He titled them, "fat shirtless guy eating cheeseburger."

Greenspun seems to have an ongoing interest in taking pictures of overweight Americans eating. For instance, he has a series called Fat People Eating in Epcot. And here he describes why he's interested in photographing fat people eating:

Most of it is that I think that better diet pills will be developed some time within the next 100 years.... The photos will then become a curiosity for people in the year 2100.

I don't know who added the tattoos to Greenspun's Newport Jazz Fest picture.

Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 28, 2012
Comments (0)

This is one of those photos that looks so surreal you'd think it has to be photoshopped, but it's real. It was taken earlier today in Colorado. Although it looks like the bear might be bouncing on a trampoline, it's actually falling onto a thick mat:

Bear tranquilized in tree near Williams Village

The bear managed to climb up a tree near the dorms where it stayed for about two and a half hours. Wildlife officials were able to safely tranquilize the bear at 10:17 a.m. and the bear fell onto mats provided by the Recreation Center at approximately 10:28 a.m.
"[The bear] was tranquilized by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department and it fell onto some mats that the Rec Center provided," Huff said. "It is now in a cage and it will be relocated at a higher elevation."
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 26, 2012
Comments (3)

This image has been circulating online since February with the caption:
Romney's family misspell their last name in the greatest Freudian slip in history.

The Hill reports that it's fake. However, I don't yet know any further details — such as where the picture was taken. Nor have I seen the original yet.

But I've got to say, assuming this is a fake image, it's a really good one. Both because it's very believable (it's easy to imagine that two kids could momentarily stand in the wrong place), and because it makes its point very clearly: That Romney is incredibly rich, and that he seems to prioritize the interests of the rich.

Update: Some investigation reveals the original picture was taken by Reuters photographer Brian Snyder at a Romney campaign rally in Elko, Nevada on Friday, Feb 3, 2012. And that's not Romney's family wearing the t-shirts. It's the Fisher family. ( Below is another picture in the series:

Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 26, 2012
Comments (1)
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