The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
Cat that walked 3000 miles to find its owners, 1951
'Solar Armor' freezes man in Nevada Desert, 1874
The most sacred relic: the Holy Foreskin, circa 800 AD
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
Prankster causes volcano to erupt, 1974
The Great New York Zoo Escape Hoax, 1874
The Hitler Diary Hoax, 1983
Iceberg floats into Sydney Harbor, 1978
Use your left ear to detect lies
The Berners Street Hoax, 1810
Can Today’s Audience Be Fooled?
When I read the first paragraph of this story about Orson Welles' Mercury Theater production of War Of The Worlds 70 years ago today, I was a little ticked at the writer. Read it all the way through for the punchline; I won't spoil it for you.

Time
Categories:
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Fri Oct 31, 2008
Comments (12)
Hmm, the writer of that story has a lot of faith in human non-stupidity. I would be willing to be cash that such a hoax would be easy to pull off in these "modern times". All you need to do as adapt the delivery: rather than radio, you'd of course broadcast on television, and have a simultaneous webcast on the associated website.

At the bottom line, I think it just depends on the media you use to deliver the hoax. And seriously, why would commercials and infomercials and the like try to disguise themselves as a newcast, if there wasn't something to back up the idea that people just trust a "newsy" look and feel.
Posted by Bill  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  07:18 AM
The last lines add a strong degree of irony but most of the people today wouldn't be fooled by a similar hoax on tv. Most people in the 30s weren't fooled. Young people of the day recognized Welles' voice as the Shadow and realized it was fiction. It was mainly the old folk who were suckered. Today most computer users don't click on deceptive ads or fall for phishing schemes but new computer-illiterate users are at more of a risk. It's not a matter of being "smart." It's being used to the medium.

Still when Fox aired a show about an asteroid hitting the earth back in the 90s, a number of viewers thought it was real. And there's a percentage of pro wrestling fans who keep the faith.
Posted by Mark  in  Cincinnati  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  09:40 AM
I think the difference with the deception of War of the Worlds...and the last little lines, is that if you weren't in that field in New Jersey, you really had no idea what was going on. Today, we might not be able to see if there is a space ship in a field...but there are plenty of placecs where we can fact check.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  09:51 AM
I think humanity is still, and will always be, ripe for a good hoax. If it wasn't, this site wouldn't have any new stories posted.
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  10:33 AM
And then there's the "hoax about the hoax," which the Time writer fell into. People weren't fleeing into the streets in panic after listening to the radio.

As stated in Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_(radio)]:
"Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic, careful research has shown that while thousands were frightened, there is no evidence that people fled their homes or otherwise took action."
Posted by Robert G.  in  Mercer Island  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  01:16 PM
If you think people can't be hoaxed these days, consider the current presidential election. Many people have been fooled into believing that either McCain or Obama are qualified to lead this country. grin
Posted by gcason  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  02:13 PM
tinyurl again *sigh*
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  02:57 PM
Would it help if I used a different "link shrinker?"
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  08:02 PM
It might
I won't know until you try smile
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Sat Nov 01, 2008  at  03:59 AM
The current election defintly shows people will believe what hey are told without going to any effort to confirm it or not such as "Obama is a Muslim". Especially if you play into peoples fears or hopes no matter how irrational they may be.
Posted by Tim  on  Sat Nov 01, 2008  at  10:19 PM
Yeah, often it's not so much "can they be fooled?", but rather "how willing are they to be fooled?".
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sun Nov 02, 2008  at  05:03 AM
"You can't fool all the people all of the time" - but when you do it lasts for four years.
Posted by Dale irwin  in  Waiheke Island, New Zealand  on  Sat Nov 29, 2008  at  07:41 PM
Commenting is no longer available for this post.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.