The Museum of Hoaxes
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Life discovered on the moon, 1835
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
'Solar Armor' freezes man in Nevada Desert, 1874
Baby Yoga, aka Swinging Your Kid Around Your Head
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
Did Paul McCartney die on Nov. 9, 1966?
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
Shroud of Turin Mystery Solved
image In the debate about the Shroud of Turin, perhaps the strongest argument that the pro-Shroud side had going for it was that no one could figure out how a medieval forger could have created such a thing. How could the forger have etched a three-dimensional photo-negative image of a crucified man onto a piece of linen? Nathan Wilson has pretty much demolished this pro-shroud argument by showing that it would have been quite easy for a medieval forger to have done this. All he (or she, but probably he) would have needed is some white paint, a large piece of glass, and a piece of linen. You paint a figure of a man on the glass, place the glass over the linen, and leave it out in the sun for a couple of days. The sun then bleaches the material, thereby transferring a three-dimensional photo-negative image of whatever was painted on the glass onto the linen. It's one of those things that seems so obvious when you think about it, and answers so many questions about the shroud, that it has to be the solution. And yet it's taken centuries for someone to figure it out. Wilson has a great (and quite detailed) article in Christianity Today explaining how he went about solving the mystery. There's also a shorter article about Wilson's 'shadow shroud' on Finally, check out Wilson's website: The thumbnail shows a shroud-of-turin replica that Wilson created using his method.
Categories: Religion
Posted by The Curator on Fri Mar 11, 2005
Comments (106)
Oooh... I know some people who are going to be so pissed... I better go and e-mail all these links to them!
Posted by Fay-Fay  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  12:19 PM
Yeah, that's how they made the first photographs too. The trick was that the subject had to be still long enough for the image to transfer. That's why people never smile in pre-Civil War era photos-they had to sit still for hours in the same pose.
Posted by Laser Potato, TO BE CONTINUED...  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  01:39 PM
I still find it troublesome that a medieval forger would go through the trouble of creating an effect that wouldn't have been noticed until the modern camera detected it.
Posted by Andrew J  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  02:02 PM
Even if we assume that a forger were capable of creating something like this, the most recent carbon dating put the original fibers of the shroud within a first century time frame. Should we then conclude that it must be a forgery from one of the earliest christians?
Posted by Andrew J  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  02:30 PM
No, you assume that a medieval forger used an old shroud to create the forgery.

This is all explained in the article.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  02:36 PM
This is a nice idea, and I yield to nobody in the firmness of my judgment (until proved otherwise) that the shroud is a forgery, but where would a medieval artist get such a large piece of plate glass? Until the seventeenth century, flat glass could only be made by blowing a cylinder and slitting it open or by blowing a bubble and spinning it to give bull's-eye glass - that's why old windows are made in such small pieces held together by lead strips. In this theory, the shroud would have to have been exposed with one piece of glass, and I can't think of another transparent substance that could practically have been used.

Have I missed something? Or did the originator of the theory have an answer to that one (I skimmed his website but found it rather indigestible)?
Posted by helen  in  UK  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  02:53 PM
The glass issue is addressed on the guy's website, in the faq section:

How big was medieval glass? Could they make big pieces, or were they all little like those in stained-glass windows?
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  03:04 PM

He answers the glass plate size question in the faq at it would have taken two sheets of glass at the sizes they could make.
Posted by bobo  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  03:07 PM
Still, I try to apply Occhams Razer to this and I find myself unsure of what is the simpler answer.

And that's pretty substansial considering the alternative to it being a forgery.

If it is a hoax, I think you may want to revise your list of the top 100. This has got to be numero uno.
Posted by Andrew J  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  04:36 PM
"I still find it troublesome that a medieval forger would go through the trouble of creating an effect that wouldn't have been noticed until the modern camera detected it."

For as long as the shroud has been known, it has exactly been so famous because it seemed to contain a faint depiction of Christ.
People mistakingly believe this depiction was only discovered with the advent of photo camera's, but what they only did was make the depiction more clearly visible, people have been seeing it all along.

Remember that around 1380, shortly after the shroud (re)surfaced, a local bishop already claimed the shroud was a hoax created by painting the figure of Christ on it. Radiocarbon dating has shown that the shroud was probably made a few years before that.

It's a hoax and it's even a pretty obvious one.
Posted by Nathan  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  07:06 PM
The world's first contact print! tongue wink
Posted by Vic K.  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  08:23 PM
Alex, I agree with Andrew J. If this guy's tested theory isn't the closest we'll probably ever get to the truth about the shroud - then it would get my vote for the #! hoax in all human history.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  08:39 PM
In 'The Templar Revelations: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ.' the authors, Lynn Picknett, and Clive Prince, claim that it would have been very easy for someone knowledgeable, such as Leonardo da Vinci, to fake a shroud using everyday chemicals easily obtainable during his times. Apparently they believe a history of the shroud prior to Leonardo's time is a fabrication..
In fact they claim that Leonardo is the faker who created the shroud and then delighted in watching an audience worship it while he hid to observe.
The motive? He was supposed to have been a member of a secret society that did not believe in Christianity but could not express their disbelief due to the power that the Catholic Church had at that time. This and numerous other hidden message by him, esp. in 'The Last Supper' and several other paintings are supposedd to confirm his stand against the church.

Posted by pepe nero  in  new york city  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  08:50 PM
"then it would get my vote for the #! hoax in all human history."

Right behind the bible, and Bryan Adams music.
Posted by Annie Nonamoos  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  08:53 PM
All one has to do to KNOW that the shroud of Turin is a fraud is to read John 20:6-7 "Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen cloth lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, NOT lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by ITSELF."

In other words, the head was wrapped seperately from the rest of the body (which was wrapped in mutiple pieces of linen itself). The fact of the matter is that if the REAL shroud had been found, it would have been mutiple pieces of linen, not just one.
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Mo  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  09:32 PM
Could such large pieces of glass have been made in the 14th century? Yes. How common were they? Not very since glass was extrmely expensive until modern times. The guild system limited knowledge to a select few so that jobs would not be lost nor power be shared since the medieval towns were run by the guild officers. Glass was used for very few objects and it is a sign of intense respect and/or wealth when glass was used. That is why medieval glass was almost exclusively used in cathederals. Also, medieval glass had a lot of impurities due to the methods used to blow the glass. As I understand it, it requires more heat in the furnace than was available to the medieval smiths to ensure glass without a lot of bubbles throughout it. However, since the Shroud was a huge pilgram draw, the cost of the glass might have been made up in taxes/fees and the price of souvenirs.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  09:57 PM
I goofed. I guess I was thinking of steel when I made the comment about furnace heat. It was a lack of soda that kept glass from being common, and that was solved prior to the shround becoming well known. However, Alex, why would a forger even bother to use an old cloth? This was the era of tons (literally) of relics. There were enough pieces of "The True Cross" to crucify the population of a small town. Various relics abounded, including a vial of milk from the breast of the Virgin Mary. No one would have thought to investigate the cloth, and it would have been easy and natural for a forger to just grab a sheet and no one would question the age of the sheet.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  10:34 PM
So, the Shroud is lie-dyed
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Fri Mar 11, 2005  at  10:45 PM
Sorry, Anne N, but you'll never get me to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ would actually qualify as the biggest hoax in all of history. I could easily be assassinated for saying that, although it's probably true. So I'm not. But the Shroud of Turin is less of a holy object than WE are, and it deserves to be finally debunked.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  12:51 AM
I'd me more inclined to say the death was more of a hoax. *dodges bullets*

Of course, whoever told the egyptians that pyramids would give them eternal life must have giggled themselves to death. Since it seems likely that the Egyptian citizens (rather than the slaves) built them out of respect for their emperor/god/king dude, with promises of having their own miniature pyramids built, one could call it one gigantic pyramid scheme. *dodges groans*

And whoever talked us out of the trees with promises of digital watches should be spanked. Actually, whoever talked us out of the ocean should be spanked. Actually whoever talked us into
meiosis! Mitosis was bliss, damnit. At least as single celled organisms we were too smart to fall for christianity.
Posted by Annie Nonamoos  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  05:10 AM
Posted by John  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  10:40 AM
Christopher, I have a page on this site about the medieval relic trade:

I don't see why a forger wouldn't have used a piece of linen taken from an old grave. It would be cheap (just rob a grave), and even folks in the middle ages might have hesitated before believing that a brand new piece of linen was the burial shroud of Jesus.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  10:57 AM
Actually Alex, anthropologists and psychologists have pretty well determined that the medieval mindset was not the same as ours, which is why in all their paintings they showed people of bibical times wearing medieval clothes and armor. There was a relic of the Virgin Mary's wedding dress that went around and it was a medieval dress. Your line of thought is based upon the scientific method, something the medieval mind did not use. Nor many people today even. A new piece of cloth would not have registered to the medieval mind, or if it did it would have registered as a miracle of preservation.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  01:02 PM
Christopher, I know about the strange medieval mindset that seemed capable of happily believing the most bizarre things. I've even written about it in my book.

But the facts seem to be that a) the material of the shroud dates to around the 1st century; and b) it would have been relatively easy, even for someone in the middle ages, to put the image of the crucified man on the shroud by using the bleach-in-the-sun method.

Therefore it makes sense that a medieval forger bleached an old shroud in the sun. It's the simplest explanation.

The other possible theories (that it was a 1st century forger, or that the shroud really is a miracle) don't make a lot of sense.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  01:21 PM
I've been following this thread, but honestly don't care how it ends. As an atheist, I've kinda already made my decision on whether or not the shroud is real.

It's real. Just kidding.

But when I read this page today, the google ads at the top of the page had a link to this...

I just thought it was a funny place for it to show up...
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  02:25 PM
Ok, folks.. No flaming about religion, please.

Actually, given the prevalence of false relics and readily available shrouds, it's entirely possible that some monk, looking for good relics, pulled out a shroud and found that the previous occupant had left a bit of a stain on it.

Since relics could be made 'real' through belief in them and their ability to perform miracles, and I *think* a few miracles have been ascribed to the Shroud, then you're left with the following conclusion:

The Shroud *IS* a relic of Jesus.

While it may not have actually been worn by him, it's the belief and faith involved that matters.
Posted by Bobcat  in  Californian Wierdo  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  03:14 PM
And how is stating what I believe flaming?
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  03:32 PM
Actually, the shadow shroud only simulates some of the features of the Shroud of Turin and fails to work chemically.


The actual image substance is a caramel-like product that can be scratched from the surface, pulled away with adhesive and reduced with diimide. A reverse bleach process WILL NOT produce such an image.

Also check out for a summary.

Posted by Dan Porter  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  04:15 PM
First, just because one guy got lucky and produced a similar looking linen does not necessarily mean that thes shroud was created by the same means. There is no evidence indicating any thing like this.

Second, the method used to create the shroud has been shown to be entirely believable to any people whether they are from the middle ages or from modern times. Then why wouldnt other fake relics have been made. Especially considering that the shroud had to generate enough revenue in order to pay for the glass screens that were used. These screens could have also been used multiple times.

Third, for the forger to have acquired the material he would have needed to collect it from the middle east. The fabric, according to research, contains pollens and flaxs indigenous to the middle east region. The likelihood that a first century linen composed of these materials would be available during the middle ages is very slim. Furthermore if it was just an ordinary linen or grave linen that was swiped then why has it decomposed very little?

In all likelihood this shroud could verywell have been recovered from the tomb and been preserved by the early Christians and later recovered by the Crusaders. Just because someone discovered a method to make similar images does not necessarily indicate that is what truly happened. I would not cat my vote yet regarding this artifact.
Posted by Jared  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  04:38 PM
I guess we could say, that any wrong theories about The Shroud would be erring Jesus' dirty linen...
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  05:47 PM
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