The Museum of Hoaxes
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Tourist Guy 9/11 Hoax, Sep 2001
The Lovely Feejee Mermaid, 1842
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
Stotham, Massachusetts: the town that didn't exist, 1920
The worms inside your face
The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
Dead Body of Loch Ness Monster Found, 1972
Did Paul McCartney die on Nov. 9, 1966?
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
Crop Circles and Ostension
An article on smithsonian.com discusses the history of crop circles and why people believe in them. Part of the reason is the paradox of ostension. Fake evidence, even if proven fake, nevertheless tends to reinforce belief:

False evidence intended to corroborate an existing legend is known to folklorists as “ostension.” This process also inevitably extends the legend. For, even if the evidence is eventually exposed as false, it will have affected people’s perceptions of the phenomenon it was intended to represent. Faked photographs of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters and ghosts generally fall under the heading of ostension. Another example is the series of photographs of fairies taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths at Cottingley, Yorkshire, between 1917 and 1920. These show that the motive for producing such evidence may come from belief, rather than from any wish to mislead or play pranks. One of the girls insisted till her dying day that she really had seen fairies—the manufactured pictures were a memento of her real experience. And the photos were taken as genuine by such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—the great exponent, in his Sherlock Holmes stories, of logic.

According to Jan Harold Brunvand in The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, there are a number of varieties of ostension. Ostension itself involves people inspired to act out legends. Examples of this would be "people forming satanic groups and practicing rituals based on stories they have heard, as well as carrying out mutilations, sacrifices, murders, or other crimes." Then there's pseudo-ostension, in which people pretend to act out legends. Example: "teenagers dressing as the grim reaper to scare other teens visiting a legend-trip site." Finally, there's quasi-ostension in which people use legends to explain mysterious events. Example: "observers interpret some puzzling information (such as cattle mutilations) not as a likely result of natural causes (like the work of predators) but as resulting from cult activity or visits from extraterrestrials, as described in rumors and legends."
Categories: Crop Circles, Urban Legends
Posted by The Curator on Wed Dec 23, 2009
Comments (21)
Wouldn't referencing Conan Doyle, who had pretty much gone crazy (from grief at his son's), be an quasi-ostension?

One of my favorite ACD bits:
...Conan Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers...Houdini was apparently unable to convince Conan Doyle that his feats were simply illusions, leading to a bitter public falling out between the two.
-wikipedia (but still accurate)
Posted by stephen525  on  Thu Dec 24, 2009  at  11:20 AM
Bugger. Should be son's death.
Posted by stephen525  on  Thu Dec 24, 2009  at  11:21 AM
Bad example: Doyle was deeply involved in Spiritualism the last 25 years of his life. Logic had very little to do with his views. He was a believer and no logic or evidence could shake his beliefs.
Posted by David  in  Oregon, USA  on  Thu Dec 24, 2009  at  01:23 PM
"He was a believer and no logic or evidence could shake his beliefs."

Doyle is hardly the only one who acted/acts like that, unfortunately.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Dec 24, 2009  at  07:58 PM
Can't most aspects of religion be described as ostention?
Posted by mario  in  new joysey  on  Sat Dec 26, 2009  at  09:13 AM
I think all religion is. That applies to any of them, be that satanism or evangelical christianity.
Posted by master baiter  on  Sat Dec 26, 2009  at  11:38 PM
Mario is correct! I also decribes all religions as ostention.
Posted by Pelle  on  Sun Jan 10, 2010  at  03:21 PM
I think it is true..
Posted by geo  in  New york  on  Sun Jan 24, 2010  at  05:47 AM
I need a website that disproves global warming with actual scientific evidence. Is there one?
Posted by Eileen fisher  in  India  on  Thu Jan 28, 2010  at  01:08 AM
Eileen: you say you 'need' a scientific climate-sceptic website. Do you mean that you're a climate sceptic who's looking for a scientist who can tell you what you want to hear? Try Plimer (a geologist). There are always a few fringe figures in any area of science. But if, as you say, you're interested in scientific evidence, rather than cherry-picking individual scientists, I'm afraid you'll have to start by studying climate science in general, otherwise how are you going to know whether you're reading real science or pseudo-science? Realclimate.org is a good place to start - but it's only a start. When you can understand the science there, you can move on to examining the denialists' arguments.

As it happens, climate change is a prime area for ostension, as we've seen with the recent fuss over the Himalayan glacier prediction in the IPCC report. The IPCC admitted its mistake and retracted the erroneous statement, which ought to have established its concern for accuracy. Instead, in some people's minds the incident has generated an air of dishonesty around the IPCC.
Posted by Mr Henderson  in  Teddington, UK  on  Sun Jan 31, 2010  at  04:49 PM
Well, maybe people believe in them because no one can explain what I understand are a set of very odd characteristics:

[Note: those acknowledged to be fakes have none of these characteristics]

- How all the stalks are laid down without breaking any of them;

- How every two rows are braided together;

- How the soil below them contains the same set of ten short-life radioactive isotopes not found outside of the lab;

- How the roots of the plants involved have tiny metallic nodules attached to them, in a distribution inversely proportional to the distance from the center of each circle.


Now, this doesn't necesssarily mean non-human organisms - intelligent or otherwise - are at work , but that is one possibility (the others being either some unknown natural phenomenon or some group of humans using an unknown technology.


------


And by the way, religion can't be proven or disproven by logic, so ostension doesn't apply. We can however, apply logic to the belief in God per se, and we of course then find that atheism and agnosticism are irrational, that in fact theism is the only rational position.
Posted by Zeke  on  Mon Feb 01, 2010  at  09:02 PM
Zeke,
In your list of "characteristics of the 'genuine' crop circle" you are conflating different myths. For example,

- How the roots of the plants involved have tiny metallic nodules attached to them, in a distribution inversely proportional to the distance from the center of each circle.

The tiny metallic nodules were iron particles found in one crop circle (Yatesbury, Wiltshire, 1993) and the "distribution inversely proportional to the distance from the center of each circle" comes from Dr Haselhoff's paper describing the distribution of bent nodes on wheat stalks "caused by a ball of light" floating over the centre.

Also, the "ten short-life radioactive isotopes" finding was retracted by its primary author a few weeks after it was published in 1992, albeit to much less public attention as the original press release. (Look it up for yourself.)

Finally, you say "religion can't be proven or disproven by logic, so ostension doesn't apply." Ostension has nothing to do with logic. It means, simply, "to show." The reference to "logic" in our article was an ironic to Sherlock Holmes and, as other readers have rightly pointed out, the apparent disparity between Conan Doyle's belief in Spiritualism and what Holmes may have deduced from the evidence.
Posted by Rob Irving  in  UK  on  Tue Feb 09, 2010  at  12:11 PM
Sorry, that should read 'The reference to "logic" in our article was an ironic [allusion] to Sherlock Holmes and, as other readers have rightly pointed out, the apparent disparity between Conan Doyle's belief in Spiritualism and what Holmes may have deduced from the evidence.'
Posted by Rob Irving  in  UK  on  Tue Feb 09, 2010  at  12:19 PM
Mario is right, belief is belief but at my side religious is also called ostention.
Posted by ethicalcreditrepair  in  United States  on  Wed Feb 17, 2010  at  11:57 PM
I'm very disappointed ya'll attempted to prove crop circles are all hoaxes by illogically applying a definition of some believers acts that has not been shown to apply in all current and historical cases. The Sri Lanka in Oregon was massive and with no tracks or dirt. Humanly impossible to create without leaving evidence. Riddle me that?

And on the climate scientist data...go to NASA. They show the entire solar system is heating up from the sun OR the fact we are entering DENSE space. Nothing mere humans did.
Posted by john church  in  nevada  on  Sat Feb 20, 2010  at  04:03 PM
John, with reference to your mention of the pattern in the Oregon desert (actually a design known as the Sri Yantra, rather than Sri Lanka, the country), it was made in 1990 by the artist Bill Witherspoon. So it is not a 'hoax', as such, and, as with all crop circles to date, nor is it "humanly impossible." There's an article you may enjoy by Jeane Manning at http://changingpower.net/articles/mystery-in-the-alvord-desert/
Witherspoon himself wrote an article on the artwork for Leonardo, MIT Press, Feb 2005, Vol. 38, No. 1, pages 12-13. You can read the abstract here: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/leonardo/v038/38.1witherspoon.pdf
Or, for the longer version, it says at the end of the abstract that you can email the author (Bill) here: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) - Hope this helps.
Posted by Rob Irving  in  UK  on  Sun Feb 21, 2010  at  03:43 PM
Hiya again: Thanks for the leads. I have to agree the "proofs" get a lot more attention than the "explanations. I was having trouble getting around the dirt pattern versus crop circle. Yeah. I should look a little deeper before talking, just like we are all looking at the government to disclose what thew know not what they want to tell us. Until them mysteries will abound.
Really thanks for the links!
Posted by john church  in  Kneevada  on  Mon Feb 22, 2010  at  10:36 AM
I thought the proper term was "extension", as in: "My extension has ostensibly become a distension, due to lack of attention (legend has it)"
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Fri Mar 05, 2010  at  12:24 PM
I saw corp circle first in Shyamalan movie Signs.I never gave thought about its existence.
Posted by David  in  New York  on  Thu Mar 18, 2010  at  03:39 PM
I like this article. in this knew about the Crop Circles and Os tension. thanks to this blogs for this information.
Posted by seolondon@gmail.com  in  gurgaon haryana (INDIA)  on  Wed Dec 15, 2010  at  12:16 AM
I also thought that your thinking is 100% right.
Posted by 360 degree feedback  in  1734 Terra Street USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Euro  on  Fri May 13, 2011  at  01:30 AM
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