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This isn't a photo. It's a painting. Or so claims UK artist Kyle Lambert who says he made it using a fingerpainting iPad app called Procreate. He's posted a video showing the creation of the painting from start to finish.

Lambert based the painting on an existing photo (below) of Morgan Freeman. This has led skeptics (of which there are many) to suggest that Lambert simply traced over the photo, which doesn't take a lot of skill. But Lambert denies this. He sent an email to Gizmodo stating:

at no stage was the original photograph on my iPad or inside the Procreate app. Procreate documents the entire painting process, so even if I wanted to import a photo layer it would have shown in the video export from the app.

Headshot photo of Morgan Freeman (source:

But this hasn't satisfied the skeptics, who point out that the photo and the "painting" appear to be pixel-by-pixel identical. How can anyone achieve that kind of accuracy without having traced over the photo?

Another theory is that Lambert didn't create a painting at all, but rather used Procreate to reverse engineer or 'deconstruct' the photo, and then ran the video of himself doing this in reverse, to make it look as if he was painting it rather than slowly erasing it.

I don't know exactly what Lambert did, but I have to agree with the skeptics that it's hard to believe he could have created this without, at the very least, tracing over the photo.

To prove he did it, I suppose he could post a time-lapse video of himself actually working on the iPad. Rather than just a video export from Procreate.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 04, 2013
Comments (2)

There's not a lot of info on where this photo comes from. It's listed on the website of the French National Library as having been created in 1911 by the "Agence Rol." photo agency. For 1911, it's a pretty good example of photo fakery.

Also included in the same series is "Cat peers through binoculars" and "cat looks through a telescope."

Found these over at
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 03, 2013
Comments (0)

This image shows Soviet pilot Valentin Privalov flying a MiG-17 under the central span of the Communal Bridge over the River Ob in Novosibirsk on June 4, 1965.

The story goes (as much as I can piece it together) that Privalov did this on his own initiative, as a stunt. The shore of the river was filled with vacationers, among whom were officers from the district headquarters, when suddenly the MiG came roaring out of the sky. Afterwards the crowd spontaneously started to applaud, but Privalov's superiors weren't happy, and they suspended him. He was threatened with disciplinary action, but Secretary of Defense Marshal Malinovsky (perhaps swayed by positive public reaction to the stunt) allowed him to return to service.

The photo found its way onto the internet fairly recently. It first appeared on various Russian-language forums, and then on sites such as Reddit. Unfortunately, I can't find any site that provides an original source for the image. I'm guessing that it must have run in a Russian newspaper or magazine, sometime circa 1965.

The photo is obviously fake. The plane wouldn't have created such a huge plume of water. And how likely is it that someone would have managed to capture a picture of the scene at exactly the right moment? And if you look closely, you can see several people in the lower-right corner who have their backs turned to the bridge. In real life, the noise of the jet would have caused everyone to look in that direction.

But I'm guessing this image was never presented to the public as a real photo. It was a photographer's recreation of the event, and nothing more.

The better question is, did this stunt really happen? As far as I can tell, it did. The story is referenced on the Russian-language wikipedia page about the Communal Bridge in Novosibirsk. (It says that the event happened on June 3, not June 4, so there seems to be some disagreement about the dates.)

Also, I found a reference to the stunt in an American news-wire article dated Aug 29, 1965, which discusses a recent spate of hooliganism in Novosibirsk, including "a drunk who stole a streetcar," "an aircraft mechanic who went on a joyride up and down runways in an Ilyushin 4 transport," and "a stunt flier who flew under bridges."

Albuquerque Journal - Aug 29, 1965

I haven't been able to find any definitive info about Privalov's subsequent career. But I did come across a reference to a Valentin Privalov in the Feb 21, 1993 issue of Stars and Stripes. He was described as being "deputy head of Russia's civil aviation air traffic control center in Moscow." So it could well have been the same guy.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 03, 2013
Comments (1)
Celebrity death hoaxes have become such a pervasive part of the internet that when a celebrity really dies, particularly a young celebrity, people legitimately wonder if the news is real or fake. And that's exactly what happened after actor Paul Walker died in a car crash on Nov. 30.

Adding to the uncertainty was the manner of his death. A lot of death hoaxes feature death-by-car-crash (that's the way Paul McCartney supposedly died back in 1966), so when the news came in that Walker (star of the Fast and Furious car-racing film franchise) had met his end in a crash, it did sound a bit hoax-like. But that's the way it actually happened.

And then the satirical news site MediaMass posted a spoof story claiming that the report of Walker's death was a hoax. A screenshot of this story soon began to circulate on Twitter, Facebook, etc. MediaMass eventually took down the story and replaced it with a note saying his death was confirmed, but too late.

So this is a "reverse death hoax" because the claim that the news was a hoax was itself a hoax.

Also, David Emery notes that an image has been circulating that's supposedly a gruesome postmortem shot of Walker. This is a hoax. The person in the photo is actually a Christian missionary who was "injured in a construction mishap two years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 02, 2013
Comments (0)
Assuming this story is true, it sounds like this woman has fallen for that urban legend about the gene for blonde hair being driven out of existence due to the greater percentage of dark-haired people in the world. According to the legend, the World Health Organization has predicted that in 200 years there will be no blondes left.


Say hello to Maria de Jesus-Lucungo... Maria has made it her life goal to campaign for the protection of the UK's blonde population. She believes that England's flaxen-haired brothers and sisters are under threat of extinction and that, if they disappear, "the world will not be so attractive in beauty any more".

Maria de Jesus-Lucungo has a petition you can sign if you want to help her campaign to raise awareness of the disappearance of blondes.

Categories: Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 01, 2013
Comments (2)
I'm not sure whether or not this was an April Fool's Day joke. I found it in the Mar 31, 1934 issue of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which contained quite a few April Fool spoof articles, such as the "Loch Ness Monster Captured" article that I posted about recently.

But this feature about a new starting gate for sprinters... I just don't know.

I've never heard of such a thing before. But on the other hand, it sounds kinda plausible. In fact, some googling revealed that the Ancient Greeks used a starting gate for sprinters, which they called a husplex.

However, I can't find any references to this 1934 invention other than this story in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. So I'm posting it here in the hope that others might weigh in with an opinion.

Here's a transcription of the German text:
Startmaschine jetzt auch für Menschen.

Bein den Kurzstrecken entscheiden Bruchteile von Sekunden. Um eine Kontrolle über gleichmäßigen Start zu haben, hat man jetzt in Stamford Bridge in England eine Bänderstartmaschine konstruiert. Im Augenblick des Startschusses schnellen die Bänder hoch... die Bahn ist frei. Geht ein Läufer zu früh vom Start, dann fängt er sich in den Bändern.

And my rough translation (with some help from Google translate):
Starting machine now also for people.

Short sprinting races can be decided by fractions of seconds. In order to ensure an even start, there has now been created a tape-start machine in Stamford Bridge, England. At the moment of the starting shot, the tape rises high ... the path is clear. If a runner starts too early, then he catches himself in the tape.
Categories: April Fools Day, Sports
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 01, 2013
Comments (3)
Everyone assumed that the Duluth Northland News Center team was outside during the coverage of the "Christmas City of the North" Parade on Nov 22. After all, they were wearing heavy jackets. But it turns out they were inside, in front of a green screen. But the News Director insists there was no deception because, if you want to get technical about it, they never actually said they were outside. [jimromenesko,]

Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 28, 2013
Comments (0)
There's a long history of sea-serpent sightings off the coast of New England.

A flurry of sightings occurred in August 1817, when fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts witnessed a giant sea creature with a horned head ("much like the head of a turtle... and larger than the head on any dog") swimming in the ocean. A local scientific society launched an investigation and concluded that the creature might be a previously unknown species, Scoliophis atlanticus (Atlantic humped snake). However, skeptics denounced the sightings as a hoax.

Broadsheet sold by Henry Bowen of Boston - Aug 22, 1817

As the years passed, reports of a sea serpent continued to trickle in. But it was in 1937 that the New England Sea Monster returned to the nation's headlines in spectacular fashion.

The excitement started in early August of that year when fisherman Bill Manville rushed in to the office of the Nantucket Inquirer & Mirror claiming he had seen a "green sea monster — which reared its head several times off his starboard bow before turning seaward." He elaborated that the creature was about one hundred feet long with a head like a barrel and red-rimmed glaring eyes the size of dinner plates.

The report of Manville's sighting got picked up by the news wires and ran in papers throughout the country.

Charleston Daily Mail - Aug 8, 1937

Some in Nantucket suggested that Manville might have been "seeing things," but his sighting was seconded a day later by amateur fisherman (and teetotaler — as the local paper was quick to point out) Gilbert Manter, who saw the creature while he was fishing for bluefish off Smith's point.

Manter said that the creature "looked like a combination snake and whale, with a head much bigger than the neck." He added that it was grayish green with "sort of a horned head" and was "something like 120 feet long and stood up at least a dozen feet out of the water."

Manter walked down to Madaket Beach the following morning with a friend, Ed Crocker, in the hope of seeing the creature again. They didn't see the monster, but they did find "giant web-footed tracks" in the sand. The prints measured 66-inches long and 45-inches wide.

Photos of the tracks appeared in papers, and copies were sent to scientists in New York City for analysis. However, the scientists proved to be skeptical. Dr. W. Reid Blair, director of the New York Zoological Society, said:

"No marine mammal could have left the tracks as they do not move so much on their flippers as they do on their second joint and on their bellies. Evidence of their passage would be seen on the beach only in a slight indentation. As for a land mammal, there is nothing on Nantucket Island that could leave such large tracks."

But Blair's skepticism proved to be unfounded when, a few days later, the sea serpent itself, in its entirety, washed ashore. It was indeed about 120 feet long, with large teeth. However, it had no horn on its head.

It was also a giant, inflatable balloon.

The Nantucket Sea Serpent was revealed to have been an elaborate publicity stunt designed to get Nantucket in the news. The "monster" had been designed by Tony Sarg, the puppeteer in charge of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

After stirring up interest with the initial "sightings" (done with the collusion of the local paper), Sarg and his crew put the monster balloon in the water at Coatue beach, hoping to land it at the Jetties. But the balloon veered off course, landing instead at South Beach on Washington Street.

Tony Sarg poses with the monster

Large crowds turned out to see the unusual sight, which remained in place for several weeks. Numerous photographs of the sea serpent on the beach have been preserved by the Nantucket Historical Association.

The Nantucket promoters reportedly felt that the stunt was a resounding success and congratulated each other for the "cash value of the space" obtained in the press for Nantucket.

The monster made another appearance a few months later, floating above the streets of Manhattan, when it participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

  • "Tony Sarg's Sea Serpent in Nantucket 1937," Nantucket Historical Association, Flickr photo set.
  • Holidays on Display: Building the modern parade. National Museum of American History.
  • Grieder, JE & Charnes G. (2012). Nantucket. p.92.
  • MacDougall, C.D. (1940). Hoaxes. The Macmillan Company. p. 256.
  • "Seein' things at Nantucket, Mass., Again," (Aug 11, 1937). The Hammond Times.
  • "Nantucket Monster Sighted By Two Men," (Aug 11, 1937). Logansport Pharos-Tribune.
  • "The Nantucket Sea Serpent Exposes and Derided," (Oct 31, 1937). The Helena Daily Independent.
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 28, 2013
Comments (1)
If you're curious about what it would be like to live in a shanty town, but you don't actually want to set foot in a real shanty town, then perhaps the Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa's "Shanty Town" might be for you. It's a "unique accommodation experience" located near Bloemfontein, South Africa. The Emoya website says:

Experience an unique stay at our Shanty Town (Mkukhu Villlage / Shack Village) where you have to use the famous "long-drop" outside toilet and make your own fire for hot water in the traditional "donkey". This is the first ever shanty town in the world equipped with under-floor heating and wireless internet access.

This falls under the umbrella of Reality Tourism. Other examples that I've posted about include the "Khmer Rouge Experience Cafe" in Cambodia, where you get to sample the kind of watery gruel that people ate in the Killing Fields, and Croatian Club Med, where tourists are issued convict uniforms and get to pound large stones with a sledgehammer.

A similar example that I once posted about on Weird Universe is London's Rough Luxe Hotel, where for over £200 a night you get to stay in a room where the paint is peeling off the walls.

(Shanty Town story via Gizmodo).
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 27, 2013
Comments (0)
The premise of Invisible Girlfriend is that if you need to pretend that you have a girlfriend (for instance, if a guy is trying to hide the fact that he's gay) this company will provide you with convincing proof to back up your story.

Matt Homann, its founder, says, "This is the business of helping [clients] tell a lie — we’re thinking of it more as a shield — to have the excuse ready in hand and not have to be uncomfortable." [BuzzFeed]

Fake girlfriend services are not new. I've posted about quite a few of them here, including, Cloud Girlfriend, Girlfriend Hire, and

This market niche seems to have become quite crowded.

Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 27, 2013
Comments (2)
Someone calling himself Michael Mikrivaz (his YouTube username) made charcoal reproductions of works by the early-20th-century Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich (whose art now regularly sells for millions of dollars). He then took these sketches to several art academies, claiming they were his own works, and asked for an opinion on his chances of getting in.

Two academies told him that, based on these works, he wouldn't get accepted.

This is an example of what I call the "Spurious Submission" type of hoax. (I've been trying to think of a better term for it for a long time, but nothing has occurred to me.)

The idea is to discredit some gatekeeper of the art or literary world by demonstrating their poor judgement. So the hoaxer takes an acknowledged masterpiece, disguises it a bit, and then submits it to a critic for evaluation. Typically the critic will fall directly into the trap, dismissing the masterpiece as amateurish.

The earliest example of this type of hoax that I've found dates back to circa 1892, when a hoaxer sent disguised copies of a work by John Milton to publishers, most of whom rejected it.

The most famous example occurred in 1982 when Chuck Ross retyped the script of Casablanca, changed its title to "Everybody Comes to Rick's," and submitted it to movie agents as a script supposedly by an unknown writer, "Erik Demos." The majority of the agents promptly rejected it.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 27, 2013
Comments (0)
The International Business Times reports that a "fake image" purporting to show the "world's largest tortoise" being transported on a flatbed truck has recently been circulating online.

I think it's been circulating for at least half a year, but it's not correct to call it a fake image. It's a still from Gamera The Brave (a 2006 Japanese monster movie) that has been falsely captioned. Here's another picture of the "world's largest tortoise" in action:

The question that popped into my head is whether the creature in the image is a tortoise or a turtle. The distinction between the two has always been a bit hazy in my mind.

According to, tortoises live on land while turtles live in the water. But wikipedia notes that in North America it's common to use 'turtle' as a generic term for all reptiles of the chelonian order (i.e. turtles and tortoises get lumped together).

Gamera is commonly referred to as both a turtle and a tortoise. But since he walks on his back legs, flies, and breathes fire, it doesn't really seem important to get fussy about what kind of reptile he's classified as.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 26, 2013
Comments (1)
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