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Category: This Day in History
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 29
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 29, 2014
July 29, 1955: The MacNab Photograph
Bank manager Peter MacNab took this photo on a "hazy, warm" July afternoon in 1955. However, he didn't share it with the world until October 1958 on account of "diffidence and fear of ridicule." It quickly came to be considered a classic Loch Ness Monster photo. However, MacNab distributed two slightly different versions of what he claimed was the original negative, leading many (even Nessie believers) to suspect a hoax, because if MacNab did doctor the original image (either painting in the monster, or painting out a boat) he may created multiple "original" negatives during this process.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 28
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 28, 2014
July 28, 1932: The Latin-Chanting Ghost of Joliet
As word spread of a ghost that chanted songs in Latin at midnight in the graveyard of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet, crowds of hundreds of people (pictured) started gathering to hear the phantom crooner. Each night the voice was said to emanate from a different grave. But on this day in 1932, prison officials finally located the source of the singing. It was an inmate, William Chrysler, who had night-watch duty at the prison's quarry pumphouse behind the cemetery. His voice carried into the graveyard and seemed to "haunt" it. He was actually singing in Lithuanian, not Latin.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 27
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 27, 2014
July 27, 1907: The Wedding of the Ancients
On this day, a widely reported wedding to unite John B. Bundren, Sr. (101-yrs-old) and Rose McGuire (100-yrs-old) was exposed as a fake. The couple were said to have been engaged 85 years ago, but could not wed at that time due to the objection of her parents. The romantic tale was a fiction created by 44-year-old John B. Bundren, an army clerk, who had worn a wig and beard to look like a senior version of himself in the wedding announcement photo. The bride-to-be was an actress. He did it, he said, in order to gather facts about longevity for a book he planned to write on the subject.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 26
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 26, 2014
July 26, 2011: Internet Explorer Users Are Dumb
On this day, AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting Co. released a study revealing that Internet Explorer users scored lower on IQ tests than users of other web browsers and were therefore "dumb". This result was duly reported as fact by numerous news outlets. However, not only was the study fake, but also AptiQuant wasn't a real company. The graphics on its site had been copied from the site of a legitimate French firm. The hoax was the work of Tarandeep Gill, a Canadian web developer, who later said he had hoped to "create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6." [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 25
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 25, 2014
July 25, 1990: Operation Blackbird Hoaxed
On this day, the high-tech Operation Blackbird, whose mission was to record the creation of a crop circle by a UFO, appeared to meet with success. The monitoring equipment recorded flashing orange lights in a field, and the next morning two large circles had formed. But the hopes of the researchers were dashed when they found a horoscope chart and wooden crucifix in the middle of the circles — evidently the calling card of a hoaxer. The flashing lights on their equipment, the researchers admitted, had probably been the heat signature of humans running around. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 24
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 24, 2014
July 24, 1907: The Old Librarian's Almanack
On this day, Edmund Leaster Pearson first mentioned the existence of the Old Librarian's Almanack in his column in the Boston Evening Transcript. It was, he said, a small almanac from 1773 that contained the "opinion and counsel" of a rather curmudgeonly librarian whose ideas were strikingly non-modern. For instance, the Old Librarian felt it was the duty of all librarians to "cast out and destroy" any book that was "merely frivolous." Pearson later arranged for the reprinting of this 18thC curiosity. Very few people realized that he himself had written it as a joke. [Internet Archive]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 23
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 23, 2014
July 23, 1943: The Death of Ern Malley
The unknown Australian poet Ern Malley was said to have died of Graves' disease on this day, prompting his sister to send the poems she found among his possessions to Max Harris, editor of the Angry Penguins poetry journal, who then decided to dedicate a special issue to Malley's strange poems. But upon publication, Harris discovered Malley wasn't real. He was the satirical creation of two Australian poets hostile to modern poetry. Ern Malley remains Australia's most famous literary hoax. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 22
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 22, 2014
July 22, 1931: Mr. A.A. declared man with shortest name
On this day, Mr. A.A. (first name Aaron) was declared to be the man with the shortest name in the United States, following the death of H.P. Re. But within a month he was revealed to be a fraud after he was charged with forgery and a judge issued a warrant for his real name, Earl Gerske. Mr. A.A. was merely an alias, Gerske explained, adopted on account of a deal with a laundry company so that "they could advertise that the phone number of their laundry was the first one listed in the directory."
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 21
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 21, 2014
July 21, 1959: Jacqueline Gay Hart Disappears
Hart, a 21-year-old heiress, disappeared from Newark airport and was the subject of a nationwide search for two days until she turned up in Chicago's Grant Park, claiming she had been abducted by two men who drove her, bound and gagged, to Chicago. But within a day she admitted her story was false, explaining that she had "sort of exploded" because of tension over her approaching wedding and had fled, wandering around New York and Chicago for two days before deciding to return.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 20
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 20, 2014
July 20, 1971: The National Review Hoax
The conservative National Review magazine released a set of documents that it claimed were secret government papers dealing with the war in Vietnam. A day later it admitted the papers were a hoax, designed as a response to the Pentagon Papers published by the New York Times the previous month. William F. Buckley, editor of the National Review, claimed his magazine's hoax demonstrated that "forged documents would be widely accepted as genuine provided their content was inherently plausible." [Lewiston Daily Sun]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 19
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 19, 2014
July 19, 2002: The Case of a Phony 9/11 Survivor
On this day, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported the inspirational story of Daniel McCarthy, who had just been wed in Lake Tahoe. McCarthy, the paper said, was a Brooklyn police officer who had survived after being buried for 79 hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center. However, the national attention brought by the article quickly exposed McCarthy's elaborate tale of heroics as a complete fraud. McCarthy was neither a cop nor a 9/11 survivor. In reality, he had a long criminal record, and, on top of everything else, was already married. So his new marriage made him a bigamist. [Editor & Publisher]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 18
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 18, 2014
July 18, 1938: Wrong Way Corrigan
On this day, Douglas Corrigan landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland after a solo, 28-hour flight across the Atlantic. The FAA had denied him permission for the flight because of the poor condition of his plane, but Corrigan claimed that he had intended to fly to California from Long Island but accidentally went the wrong way because of a broken compass. The explanation earned him the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan. His error was viewed by almost everyone as intentional, though he never admitted to this. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 17
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 17, 2014
July 17, 1842: The Feejee Mermaid
Inspired by the arrival in the city of a "Dr. J. Griffin" who claimed to have the body of a mermaid in his possession, New York City papers all ran mermaid pictures (supplied to them by PT Barnum), showing the creatures as seductive ocean maidens. But when Dr. Griffin got around to exhibiting his mermaid a week later to sell-out crowds, it proved to be, in the words of Barnum who had engineered the entire scheme, "an ugly, dried-up, black-looking, and diminutive specimen." Nor, of course, was it a real mermaid. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 16
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 16, 2014
July 16, 1866: The Calaveras Skull
At the July 16, 1866 meeting of the California Academy of Science, Josiah Whitney announced the recent discovery of a skull that he believed to be evidence that humans had been in North America for millions of years. It had been found my miners 130 feet below the surface and beneath a stratum of lava. The authenticity of the skull was immediately questioned, though Whitney did not waver in his belief. However, subsequent analysis has shown that the skull was no more than 1000 years old. It was probably planted by miners playing a practical joke. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 15
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 15, 2014
July 15, 2002: New Elements Faked
A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a short statement in the journal Physical Review Letters retracting its earlier announcement that it had successfully created two new elements, ununoctium and livermorium (Nos. 118 and 116). Officials at the lab later concluded that physicist Victor Ninov had fabricated data to make it appear as if these elements had been created, whereas, in fact, there had never been any evidence for the elements. Ninov strongly denied the accusation, but was nevertheless fired from the lab. [Atomic Lies (pdf)]
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.