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Status: Prank
image Columnist Tom Greenwood of the Detroit News reports that a sign has been spotted "attached to an authentic Michigan Department of Transportation post on southbound Interstate 75 at the Oakland/Wayne county line." It reads: Welcome to Detroit. We hope you survive.

There's no word on how long this has been up, or for how long. Of course, fake road signs have been a popular prank for quite some time. There's the fake road sign project in Lyons, France, in which "105 street signs, realised by 47 worldwide artists, and just similar enough to real traffic signs to give one pause, have been attached to streetside poles around the french city of Lyon."

There's also the photoshopped picture of a Connecticut road sign that reads "Birthplace of George W. Bush. We apologize." Plus, the "Leaving Brooklyn. Oy Vey!" sign that was actually posted by the City of Brooklyn itself.
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 08, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Prank
image Power company workers in Ballymena (Northern Ireland) were amazed to discover five pairs of shoes hanging from a power line along the road between Larne and Ballymena. Ballymena Today reports:

Electricity engineers could only look skyward in bemusement at the bizarre sight of the shoes and boots hanging from the line, baffled as to who, why and how this was done. The inspiration for the prank may have come from the fantasy film Big Fish. In the film, the most memorable scene occurs when the young Edward Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor, visits the town of Spector, where it is claimed that all is perfect.

Surprisingly, this sighting has not yet been posted on Shoefiti, the weblog devoted to shoes hanging from power lines. I'd also note that it seems like wishful thinking to believe that the shoes are an allusion to the movie Big Fish, given the more popular (and sinister) theory that shoes on power lines are secret codes meaning that drugs and sex are available nearby.
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: Undetermined
image Some residents of Mobile, Alabama are claiming that a leprechaun is loose in their neighborhood. It shows up in the branches of a tree at night. Apparently it can't be photographed, but the thumbnail shows an "amateur sketch" of what people say it looks like. The NBC 15 news broadcast that covered this interesting phenomenon reports that: "eyewitnesses say the leprechaun only comes out at night. If you shine a light in its direction, it suddenly disappears." Make sure that you catch the guy who appears towards the end of the report who has "a special leprechaun flute which has been passed down from thousands of years ago from my great, great grandfather who is Irish."
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 23, 2006
Comments (51)
Status: Ersatz Irishness
Perfectly timed for St. Patrick's Day, Austin Kelley has an interesting article in Slate.com about the faux Irish pub revolution... i.e. how Irish pubs slapped together with off-the-shelf charm and quaintness have been popping up in cities all over the world. The term I've heard to describe this phenomenon (which Kelley doesn't mention) is To Irishise, meaning to transform a bar, with the help of interior design specialists, into a fake Irish pub. Kelley traces the roots of this phenomenon back to 1991, when Dublin-based IPCo started to aggressively export the "Irish Pub Concept" around the world. Nowadays would-be Irish pub owners can choose from a variety of pre-packaged styles: the "Country Cottage," the "Gaelic," the "Traditional Pub Shop," or the "Brewery":

IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilà! Ireland arrives in Dubai. (IPCo has built several pubs and a mock village there.)

The irony here, as Kelley points out, is that Ireland is exporting a kind of quaintness that never quite existed in Ireland itself... but these very same pre-packaged Irish pubs are now being built in Ireland itself, alongside (and often crowding out) the real, authentic Irish pubs. The fake replaces the real.

But I have to admit that I'm guilty of frequenting some fake Irish pubs here in San Diego. After all, the decor may be fake, but the Guinness and boxty and corned beef still taste pretty good.

Related Posts:
Dec. 7, 2003: Plastic Turkeys and Ploughman Lunches
Categories: Food, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 17, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: urban legends
An article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer records some Philippine urban legends: the "White Lady" of Balete Drive, Robina Gokongwei's "snake twin" lurking in department store dressing rooms, the elusive "kapre" that lives in an ancient mango tree near the Emilio Aguinaldo house in Kawit town, and Andres Bonifacio's love child from a place aptly named Libog (now Santo Domingo) in Albay province. None of those mean much to me. But most of the article is devoted to discussing two other Philippine legends that are of more general interest. The first one is that Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, "was the father of Adolf Hitler, the result of an indiscretion with a prostitute in Vienna." The second one is that Jose Rizal was also Jack the Ripper:

Rizal was in London from May 1888 to January 1889, in the British Library copying "Sucesos de las islas Filipinas" by hand because there were no photocopying machines at the time. Jack the Ripper was active around this time, and since we do not know what Rizal did at night or on the days he was not
in the library, some people would like to believe Rizal is suspect. They argue that when Rizal left London, the Ripper murders stopped. They say that Jack the Ripper must have had some medical training, based on the way his victims were mutilated. Rizal, of course, was a doctor. Jack the Ripper liked women, and so did our own Rizal. And -- this is so obvious that many overlooked it -- Jose Rizal's initials match those of Jack the Ripper!


If Jack the Ripper did turn out to be Filipino, that would throw a wrench in his status as the Most Evil Brit of all time.

Related Posts:
Nov 9, 2005: Japanese Urban Legends
Oct 14, 2004: Iraqi Urban Legends
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 22, 2006
Comments (190)
Status: Real
This looks like a painting, or a picture of toy houses, but apparently it's neither. These are real houses. The picture was taken by a Mexican helicopter pilot. (I can only find his last name, which is Ruiz Oscar Ruiz.) He writes of this picture: "REAL PICTURE! 300+ low income homes in Ixtapaluca, complex has more than 10,000!" The link goes to his gallery of aerial photographs of Mexico City. This photo is nine rows down on the right.

row houses
Categories: Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 13, 2006
Comments (32)
Status: Real
These photos show rooms painted in such a way that, if you stand in the correct place, a pattern will appear. Despite looking photoshopped, they are real. The painted rooms are the creations of artist Felice Varini. On his website you can find more examples of his art if you search around long enough (and struggle through the incredibly bad navigation). Varini writes:

The painted form achieves its coherence when the viewer stands at the vantage point. When he* moves out of it, the work meets with space generating infinite vantage points on the form. It is not therefore through this original vantage point that I see the work achieved; it takes place in the set of vantage points the viewer can have on it. If I establish a particular relation to architectural features that influence the installation shape, my work still preserves its independence whatever architectural spaces I encounter. I start from an actual situation to construct my painting. Reality is never altered, erased or modified, it interests and seduces me in all its complexity. I work "here and now".

I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, but the illusions are pretty cool. (Thanks to Eric Kimlinger for sending me a link to the photos.)

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Categories: Art, Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 02, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Undetermined
The Register has found what appears to be a flying car, captured by the satellite imagery of Google Earth. It's definitely either a flying car, a car parked alongside a dark-looking patch on the ground, a car-shaped object floating in the air... or maybe a UFO! The Register provides some screenshots of the object, but unfortunately no direct link. (Google Maps doesn't cover Australia, so you'll need the Google Earth program to see it). The mysterious object is located at Pt. Walter in Perth, Australia.

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Categories: Photos/Videos, Places, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 24, 2006
Comments (69)
Status: urban legends
The Auburn Plainsman (student paper of Auburn University) has a short article about campus urban legends. The ones they list are:

Endowment from old lady bans sorority houses: This UL seems to exist on every college campus that doesn't have sorority houses. It states that some rich old woman left a large sum of money to the college on the condition that they ban sorority houses, because she considered them to be brothels. The more likely reality, among those schools that have sororities but no sorority houses, is that women used to be required to live on campus. Once that rule was lifted, it was cheaper for sorority members to live on campus in dorms, so the houses were never built.

If you get hit by a campus bus the school will give you free tuition: Unlikely, but if you're lucky, maybe an insurance payout would cover the cost of tuition.

Students whose roommates commit suicide receive automatic straight A’s: A guy in my college class committed suicide. His roommate didn't get automatic straight A's. I don't think anyone ever has.

"Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear": Repeated at every campus party, though it has no basis in fact. The corollary to this UL is that if you sip beer through a straw, you'll get drunk quicker. This one I'm not sure about.

And a few that they left out:

The Sinking library: every campus has a library that's supposedly sinking, because the engineer who designed it forgot to include the weight of the books.

The ten-minute rule: If the professor hasn't shown up in the classroom within ten minutes of the start of the class, everyone gets to leave. I don't think this is official policy anywhere.
Categories: Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 19, 2006
Comments (33)
Status: Undetermined
image What is the meaning of a two-mile line of paint that stretches through central London? No one knows who put it there or why. The BBC reports:

It begins on the pavement at a bus stop in Euston and only stops for roads, starting again on the pavement on the other side... Camden Council, Transport for London and electricity suppliers say they did not put it there. Theories include it being a drunken prank or street art.

Maybe it's a message from aliens. But seriously, how could someone paint a two-mile line of paint through a major city without anyone noticing who did it?
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 16, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: A piece of hoax history for sale
image The Bristol Evening Post reports that the house adjacent to what is believed to be Princess Caraboo's grave in Bristol is up for sale. The asking price is a fairly reasonable £299,950 (about $530,000). (I reported back in 2003 that the gravesite was in danger of being paved over to make a parking lot, but I guess that threat was averted.) I can't find the Bristol Evening Post article online, but here's the property listing. (From the date of the listing, it looks like it's been on the market for a while.) If I had the money, I would seriously think about buying it. I figure it would be a great place for a real Museum of Hoaxes. Plus, it would be close to my wife's family in Gloucester. Unfortunately I don't happen to have a spare half-million in my bank account at the moment. So much for that idea.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 06, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Fiction
Olivia Bruce emailed me to ask: Where is this place...or does it just not exist? I'd be hard-pressed to say where exactly Maddocha is. (Its official website simply says that Maddocha was "a wide-open space that was discovered and then occupied by John Madly and his family.") So I'm going to go with option B. It just doesn't exist. A quick google search reveals that Maddocha seems to be the creation of Deartra D. Boone.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 06, 2006
Comments (12)
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