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Status: Probably a hoaxThe latest mystery to capture the short attention span of the internet is ThatGirlEmily. It's a blog, supposedly written by "Emily" who during the past two weeks has discovered that her husband "Steven" is cheating on her. Coincidentally she started her blog just before all these interesting things in her life began occuring. Yesterday she decided to get even with Steven by placing a large billboard near where he works with this message on it: Emily's blog and billboard, as almost everyone who has posted about it agrees, just screams viral marketing. AtleastIhavechicken.com has summarized some of the reasons why it's probably a viral marketing campaign:
1) Emily has gone to some effort to conceal her identity;
2) Her blog is too well written (grammatically speaking) and the story unfolds a little too neatly to be real;
3) Since she started her blog, someone using the username ThatGirlEmily has been comment spamming numerous message boards. See here, and here, and here.
4) In addition to the billboard in New York (which seems to be real), an identical billboard has also been spotted in LA. The dual billboards, in my opinion, is the real clincher, because why would Emily, if she were real, pay for billboards in different cities?
I don't know who's the mastermind behind ThatGirlEmily, but here are the leading theories:
1) It's a viral created by an outdoor billboard company, to demonstrate the effectiveness of billboard advertising. (kind of like the Outhouse Springs campaign.)
2) Or it's a viral for a Court TV show. Possibly Parco P.I. (this is Gawker's favorite theory.)
Emily vows 14 days of vengeance. So I'm sure we'll eventually know the real story behind this.
Status: Strange forms of deceptionIn Hippo Eats Dwarf I define 'Secondary Virginity' as: "Virginity regained by abstaining from sex for a time." But apparently many Muslim women in Europe are using other means of regaining their virginity. The Associated Press reports: Hymen repair struck me as a rather peculiar operation, and I wondered if it was real or just some kind of medical scam. But some quick research reveals that it is a real procedure, according to Hanne Blank, author of Virgin: The Untouched History: However, as the Wikipedia entry about Hymens points out, the condition of a hymen is a very poor indicator of a woman's sexual history:
Status: Strange NewsAmbreed, a New Zealand cattle breeding company, has developed a fake cow to collect semen from bulls. The fake cow is "a small go-kart with natural cowhide on its roof" (kind of like a Real Doll, but for cows). It's been exhibiting this fake cow at the Fieldays agricultural exhibition in New Zealand, promoting the device with live "sex shows" of bulls mounting the device. Here's how it works: I tried to find a picture of the fake cow, but haven't been able to find one. (Thanks to Gary for the story.)
Status: UndeterminedApparently the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin should have been set in Japan, if the new study ("Male and Female Life and Awareness") by the Japan Family Planning Association is to be believed. It found that "7.9% of the men in the 40-45 age segment claimed they have yet to experience sex." That seems like an awfully high figure, and without knowing any details about the study (how were the questions phrased, how many people were questioned, etc.) it's difficult to know whether to take it seriously. Kunio Kitamura, director of the JFPA, blames this figure on poor male-female communication in Japan and widespread performance anxiety among Japanese men: "Their concerns, over things like being unable to achieve erection, or enabling their partner to reach orgasm, became so oppressive they decided to avoid sex altogether." I've searched, but I can't find any more details about this study other than this lone article. (My lack of knowledge of Japanese obviously hindered my search.) But my gut feeling is that this study probably isn't too reliable.
Status: HoaxHere's a hoax that I missed while away in Scotland. Geoff (who withheld his last name) claimed to be a twenty-five-year-old virgin. He launched a website (avirginsplea.com) on May 1, declaring that if his site received five million hits by the end of the month, a girl he knew had promised to sleep with him. Soon blogs were linking to his site to help him out, and the media (unable, as always, to resist an unusual story about sex) deluged him with requests for interviews. Predictably, it all turned out to be a hoax. Geoff, although a real person, was not a virgin, as reporters found out who tracked down a former girlfriend of his. In addition, Geoff hadn't created the site. He was merely the front man for it. The creator of the site was web designer Matthew Gamble who had intended it, so he later claimed, to be an experiment in viral marketing.
I learned about this hoax yesterday when I got a call from MTV Canada, who, after initially having been taken in by the hoax, were now interviewing Gamble on air. They telephoned me to get my opinion as a 'hoax expert'. Specifically, they were very curious about whether Gamble's hoax warranted inclusion in the Museum of Hoaxes. I assured them that it did, which seemed to make them happy. I didn't add that my standards for what warrants inclusion on the site are pretty low. As long as something sounds kind of hoaxy, I'll post about it on my blog. (The standards for what makes it into the Gallery sections of the site are much higher.)
I should also note that avirginsplea.com was a spoof of helpwinmybet.com, a site launched in March by a guy claiming that his girlfriend had agreed to a threesome if his site received two million hits. To my knowledge helpwinmybet.com hasn't been exposed as a hoax, per se, but I'm guessing that it's just a scheme to generate revenue from ads for dating sites.
Status: Strange, but true (I think)Muhamad Noor Che Musa met Wook Kundor while he was a lodger at her house. Soon love blossomed, and the two have now gotten married. Sure, she's 104-years-old, and he's only 33, but let's wish them the best anyway. (I guess kids are out of the question.)
This is the kind of news story that makes you wonder, right away, if it's true. But as far as I can tell, it is. A picture of the newlyweds ran on the front page of Malaysia's Berita Harian newspaper (with, as the Telegraph puts it, "Wook holding the marriage certificate in her gnarled hands"). And a number of reporters seem to have interviewed the couple. Anyway, the idea of a very old person marrying a relatively young person doesn't seem that far-fetched to me. What does seem more questionable is the woman's age (can she prove that she's 104), and the claim that this will be her 21st marriage. That would mean she's married a new husband every 4 or 5 years. Possible, but pretty rare for a Muslim woman.
Status: News76-year-old William Winikoff of Coconut Creek, Florida has been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct for posing as a doctor and offering women free breast exams. Remarkably, he duped at least two women with this scam:
Carrying a black “doctor’s” bag, investigators claim Winnikoff walked up to a apartment building and told a 36-year-old woman, that he was in the neighborhood offering free breast exams. According to police, the woman let Winikoff into her apartment and the phony doctor began the exam, touching first her breasts, and then, her genitals. The woman quickly realized that Winikoff was not a real doctor and she called 911, but the fake doctor had already left her apartment to find another victim; a 33 year old woman who lives in the same apartment complex.
The Smoking Gun has some more details about this case.
It may sound like a stupid scam, but variations of it seem to happen more often than you would think. And the perpetrators always manage to find women who will fall for it. For instance, in October 2002 Zachariah Scott, a Toronto hospital employee, was charged with telling women in the obstetrics ward of Mount Sinai Hospital that he was a 'lactation consultant,' and then examining their breasts. No one realized anything was amiss until one of the women asked a nurse if she could see him again. She was told that the hospital only had female technicians.
Even weirder was the case, reported by Portuguese newspapers in 2002, of a woman who phoned other women and told them about a revolutionary new technology that allowed breast examinations to be conducted by satellite. All they had to do, she told them, was stand topless in an open window and a passing satellite would conduct a mammogram. Every woman who was contacted complied with the strange instructions. One woman even stripped entirely naked. The phone would then ring again, but instead of getting their mammogram results, the phony doctor would describe her sexual fantasies to the women in graphic detail.
Status: FakeAbout a week ago a touching scene took place in South Korea. A couple boarded a train and then proceeded to get married in front of all the passengers. The groom explained to everyone that he was too poor to pay for a proper ceremony, so he and his bride had decided to get married on a train instead. After the ceremony the crowd broke into wild applause, and pictures of the wedding (taken by a passenger with a cellphone) began to circulate on the internet.
But now it turns out that the scene wasn't quite as romantic as it appeared. The couple were actually actors from the Theatre and Film Department at Hoseo University. Naturally, some people are annoyed by the deception. Mr Shin Jin-woo, who dreamed up and directed the performance, has issued a statement saying: "I sincerely apologise to subway passengers who believed the ceremony was real, as well as many Internet users who posted encouraging messages online. It was not our intention to deceive the public. We felt that it would be rude to the passengers at that time if we told them that the ceremony was not real, but just a play."
The part I don't understand is this: Why would being poor explain why the couple was getting married on a train? Surely it would have been cheaper for them to get married in a civil ceremony at town hall rather than arrange for someone to marry them on a train. I realize it was all an act, but their story doesn't strike me as being logical.
Aug. 25, 2002: Mock Weddings
Aug. 26, 2003: Mock Weddings II
Feb. 16, 2005: Fake Marriage Proposal
Mar. 6, 2005: Wedding Photos
Status: The intention seems genuine (though it doesn't look like the service has matched anyone up)Ally forwarded me a link to the website withchild.us, along with this comment:
A friend sent this to me (we used to be part of a young mom's group) and I thought it was really disturbing... Could this site be a hoax? I sure hope so... It's a site that hooks up men who want to adopt with girls who don't want to give up their babies and they have the slogan "Attention Single Men Seeking To Adopt A Baby: Why snatch a baby from a poor 18-year-old birthmom when you can have the baby and the birthmom?" Yeah, weird...
I'm sad to say that I don't think withchild.us is a hoax. Bizarre, yes. But not a hoax. The idea the site promotes, as Ally said, is to pair up guys who want to adopt or find a wife, with pregnant, single women who are considering adoption. The mother gets to keep her baby, the guy gets to have an instant family (wife and kid), and theoretically everyone is happy. But check out the two guys, George Duckworth and Patrick Gibbons, who are listed as seeking pregnant brides:
Not surprisingly, there are no women-seeking-men registered on the site.
Withchild.us is registered to Tom Alciere, who seems to view the adoption industry as an evil business that encourages young girls to get pregnant so it can sell their babies. His alternative is to encourage the young girls to marry guys who would otherwise be shopping for mail-order brides. (He even says, "Why travel to the Philippines to marry an 18-year-old cheerleader when there are young ladies available in your area?") On the surface it seems like a logical solution. Except, of course, that it completely ignores real-world considerations, such as whether any 18-year-old girl in her right mind would want to be saddled with Duckworth for the rest of her life. Alciere is also registered as the owner of internetbrides.info, where he offers info about finding an internet bride, as well as links to sites where you can "get laid tonight". A quick google search reveals that Alciere was a New Hampshire state representative, in which position he stirred up controversy by encouraging people to kill police officers. Charming guy.
Status: Seems to be an urban legend reported as newsRemember that story about the British parrot that kept squawking the phrase "I love you, Gary", thereby revealing to its owner, Chris Taylor, that his girlfriend was having an affair with a guy named Gary? It was all over the news about a week ago. (Charybdis posted it in the forum.) Well, it's looking more and more like the story was bogus. The couple has been refusing offers of thousands of pounds to get their photo taken with the parrot. In fact, it's not clear that the couple even exists since the freelance reporters who produced the story are the only ones who have access to them. The New York Times has posted a correction to its original story about the parrot:
An article on Wednesday about infidelity exposed by a chatty parrot described the way the parrot, owned by a man living with his girlfriend in Leeds, England, kept screeching the name of the woman's secret lover. When the parrot said "I love you, Gary," in what sounded like the woman's voice, her boyfriend (whose name is not Gary) broke up with her. Although the article reported that the information had been obtained from reports in The Daily Telegraph and other British newspapers, The Times could not verify the former couple's accounts because the information was given to the British press by a freelance journalist who charged for the account. The Times does not pay for information. The Times should have disclosed fully to readers why we relied on other news reports. Or, perhaps it would have been prudent, given that condition, for The Times to have resisted parroting the episode at all.
The New York Daily News encountered similar difficulties when it tried to track down the couple, leading it to speculate that the entire thing was a case of an urban legend reported as news:
When The News' Adam Nichols investigated the tale, he found strikingly similar ones earlier in the year, in Israel and Germany. When contacted, freelancer Paul Hardaker, who wrote the original story, would not give up his sources. "You see the same stories about parrots over and over, going back hundreds of years," explained urban legend expert David Mikkelson, who runs the Web site http://www.snopes.com "I re.ally have a hard time believing that there are that many people who are caught by parrots blurting out their lovers' names."
Status: FakeHere's an image going around, captioned "Saudi Bride." First of all, I think it's safe to assume that these two aren't really bride and groom. I don't think she's wearing traditional Saudi wedding attire. (Though maybe she really is a bride... perhaps an American one.) Also, the guy's face has obviously been photoshopped. For instance, the left ear has been reduced in size, while the right ear has been enlarged. In fact, I'd guess that his entire face has been pasted into the photo.
Status: HoaxPherotones are ringtones that will make you "irresistible to the opposite sex." They're basically like pheromones, but they work via sound rather than scent. They're also a hoax. According to NewsTrend.com, the website promoting them is part of a viral marketing campaign dreamed up by the McKinney-Silver ad agency. NewsTrend writes:
The first mentions of Pherotones began around December 30, on "Dr. Vanderhood's" Pherotones blog, where the good doctor began posting "an ongoing diary of the life of a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough." The JoniMueller blog caught wind of the Pherotones blog and posted about it on January 16. The real story began to break on January 18th with an Oreilly interview with Vanderhood.
The strange thing is that no one knows what this stealth marketing campaign is for. It seems a bit useless to attract all this attention, and then blow it by not revealing what you're advertising. (Thanks to Thilo for the link.)