Posts Tagged 'Hoax'

Grunge Speak – #81 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In the 1990s, grunge was growing in popularity. It was a counter-culture, stripped-down, angsty musical genre out of Seattle that would heavily influence rock music throughout the nineties.

In November 1992, the New York Times printed an article describing how the Seattle grunge scene was developing its own lexicon. Some examples:

  • cob nobbler – loser
  • harsh realm – bummer
  • lamestain – uncool person
  • swingin’ on the flippity-flop – hanging out
  • tom-tom club – uncool outsiders
  • wack slacks – old ripped jeans

A few months later, The Baffler (a Chicago-based magazine), revealed that the lexicon had been a hoax, made up on the spot in an interview with the Times by Megan Jasper. Jasper was a sales rep for Sub Pop records, who fooled the reporter in resistence to grunge becoming more mainstream.

Although the words didn’t catch on, people still used them satirically, to the chagrin of the Times. Some were printed on t-shirts as jokes, and the term “harsh realm” even became the title of a science-fiction series about a group of people caught in a virtual reality world.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump. Continue reading ‘Grunge Speak – #81 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Bonsai Kittens – #82 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In 2000, a website was started up claiming to sell a special kind of kitten:

A bonsai plant, along with its more widely encountered counterpart the topiary garden, achieves its miniature yet mature form through a long and delicate process of trimming during the formative years of the tree. It is not possible to trim a kitten! However, fortunately the Oriental artists of yore were also expert in the modification of animal forms. Both foot-binding and head-binding were practiced in the Far East, for the purpose of miniaturizing the feet and shaping the head into attractive shapes. This technique is also the principle behind the well-known corset, which is regaining popularity in recent years. By physically constraining the growth of a developing living thing, it can be directed to take the shape of the vessel that constrains it. Just as a topiary gardener produces bushes that take the forms of animals or any other thing, you no longer need be satisfied with a housepet having the same mundane shape as all other members of its species. With Bonsai Kitten, a world of variation awaits you, limited only by your own imagination.

The website goes into detail on how the kittens are shaped, and even gives instructions on how you can make your own Bonsai Kitten.

It’s so obvious that this is a hoax. The premise is ridiculous, and no information on how to actually get the cats was offered on the website. But some people actually took this seriously! Here is an email forward that went around about Bonsai Kittens from snopes.com:

To anyone with love and respect for life: In New York there is a Japanese who sells bonsai-kittens”. Sounds like fun huh? NOT! These animals are squeezed into a bottle. Their urine and feces are removed through probes. They feed them with a kind of tube. They feed them chemicals to keep their bones soft and flexible so the kittens grow into the shape of the bottle. The animals will stay their as long as they live. They can’t walk or move or wash themselves. Bonsai-kittens are becoming a fashion in New York and Asia.

See this horror at: http://www.bonsaikitten.com

Please sign this email in protest against these tortures. If you receive an email with over 500 names, please send a copy to: anacheca@hotmail.com. From there this protest will be sent to USA and Mexican animal protection organizations.

Bonsaikitten.com was a silly hoax revealed to have been started by a group of MIT grad students, but it sparked a lot of outrage amongst animal rights groups, has been shut down by a long list of hosts, and was even investigated by the FBI. The protests and news coverage and a list of former hosts of the site are listed here.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jumpContinue reading ‘Bonsai Kittens – #82 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes

I’m re-starting the 100 Hoax Countdown! I’ve recovered from the devastation of losing all of my computer files, and re-compiled the list. I won’t be posting a new hoax every day like I was before, but I’ll try to post a new hoax at least once a week. On with the show…

Number 83 on the countdown is two accidental hoaxes, caused by the satirical news printed in the Onion being taken as true.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News printed a surprising story, that the United States Congress were threatening to move out of Washington unless a new Capitol Building was built:

“Don’t get us wrong. We actually love the dilapidated [old] building,” House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was quoted as saying. “But the cruel reality is, it’s no longer suitable for use by a world-class legislature. Its contours are ugly, there’s no room to maneuver, there aren’t enough bathrooms, and let’s not even talk about the parking.”

The reporter for the Beijing paper apparently lifted the story from the Onion, reworked it a little, and submitted it without realizing that it was satirical. Even after the editor of the Beijing

The New Capitol Building Design

The New Capitol Building Design

Evening News was told about the error, he defended the story and did not retract it:

Yu Bin, the editor in charge of international news, acknowledged Thursday that he had no idea where the writer, Huang Ke, originally got the story. Yu said he would tell Huang to “be more careful next time.”

But he adamantly ruled out a correction and grew slightly obstreperous when pressed to comment on the article’s total lack of truth.

“How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?” Yu demanded in a phone interview. “How can you prove it’s not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?”

I think Yu Bin has something to learn about burden of proof.

While it might be conceivable that congress would demand a new building, the next accidental Onion hoax is pretty inexcusable…

In August 2009, the Onion published a satire making fun of people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, with the headline “Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked.” How anyone could possibly believe that is beyond me, but two Bangladeshi newspapers ran the story not realizing it was a joke!

The Daily Manab Zamin reported that Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, had admitted at a news conference that the historic landing was part of an “elaborate hoax”.

Neither they, nor The New Nation, which also ran the story, realised that The Onion, which also prints a parody newspaper, was not a genuine news site.

It’s crazy that any newspaper would print a story without even checking for one corroborating source.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Taking the Onion Seriously – #83 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Quick FYI Re: 100 Hoax Countdown

In case anyone’s wondering what happened to the countdown, it disappeared with the death of my laptop :( I had it all mapped out for posting, but now it’s gone. I’ll have to re-compile hoaxes to complete the countdown but that won’t likely happen until after I have my computer back.

In the meantime, you can help by sending me your favourite hoaxes via that contact form.

And make sure you read about these hoaxes that have sprung up on social networking sites with regards to the Haitian crisis.

The Institute for Human Continuity – #84 of 100 Top Hoaxes

You’ve probably heard this crazy rumour going around that the world is going to end in 2012. It’s all a bunch of mildly entertaining nonsense, but it provided the inspiration for 2012, a disaster-porno that came out this year about doomsday.

The movie had a clever viral marketing campaign that has now been revealed as a hoax.

A website for something called the Institute for Human Continuity popped up on teh internets claiming that it’s scientists knew that the world would soon come to an end.

Included on the website was a lottery for determining who would be saved when 2012 came.

When you look at the site now, it states boldly, and over and over again, that it’s a part of the 2012 movie experience. But before the movie came out you had to do some digging to find connections to the movie anywhere on the site.

I read somewhere (though now I can’t seem to find where I read it) that NASA had emails pouring in from worried people asking about the IHC, some who said they would kill themselves so that they wouldn’t have to witness the apocalypse. I hope nobody got too worked up about this hoax, but it is fun to read some of the comments on Yahoo Answers from believers in the 2012 doomsday that were written about the IHC before the hoax was revealed:

there is a saying that goes: tell people the truth they wont believe it anyway. keep your minds and eyes open and watch the signs. the ihc is not a joke. the truth hurts and to most people ignorance is bliss

its for the movie 2012 but when i went 2 the website it looked tooo real, i was freakin out 4 a moment, and i got a ticket just in case

I’ve seen this ad on tv about 2012 (the end of the world?) so i went to the website and i’m not really sure what to think of it. i’m confused and scared cuz i believe all that crap about 2012 lol what you guys think? i mean they are even letting you sign up for a ticket to “survive” i know it sounds stupid and very movie-like but i don’t know.

The Institute for Human Continuity. Its a lottery for survival of course [...] they came up with a plan to make a lottery for survival, so that each individual will get a fair chance at surviving 2012. I honestly don’t think its that fair because there are people out there who don’t have computers or TVs, how would they know about this survival lottery?
If you are one of the winners you get 1 boarding pass to safety in space. Sadly it is only one, so you would half to leave your loved ones behind if they don’t win :( So I encourage you to encourage you family to sign up for this!
The government it basically hiding all this information from us, finally the word is getting out. They cant be trusted what so ever. Yeah people out there are probably telling you that it wont happen and that 2012 is just bogus, well to be honest i would rather be prepared and aware of it. All i know is that i wont beliving a normal day on the day of december 21st 2012. Its a tragedy really, and its hard to believe that the earth might just be destroyed in only 3 years…
Oh and if your wondering what the tragedys might be, they have predicted 3 events, and might i tell you, the world coming to an end in 2012 is a 94% chance now.
1: Solar Acctivity
2:Crustal Displacment
3:Planet X
[...]
I think you should spend time with your family, dont waste your money on stuff that wont give you memories, go enjoy the world, because you might not ever get to see it like it is now, when december 21st 2012 comes.
good luck too you all!

Fortunately these comments are the minority!

Mel’s Hole – #85 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In 1997, a man named Mel Waters began calling into Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM radio show. He claimed that he had discovered a hole with some unique properties: it was 24 kms deep, it was purposely removed from satellite photos, and it had the ability to resurrect dead animals.

Waters continued to call in and talk about his hole on the radio for years. Many people went in search of the hole, but Mel never revealed the location or any evidence of its existence.

Brian Dunning has looked at Waters’s claims on his wonderful Skeptoid podcast. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript for the many reasons why Mel’s Hole is improbable, but I like this hoax because it provides a nice example of why the burden of proof is on the person making the claim, Mel, rather than on skeptics to disprove its existence:

Never assume that implausible stories must be true simply because you’re unable to disprove them. You never will be able to, because special pleadings can always be invented to explain away any questions you might raise. What can’t be invented from thin air is verifiable evidence, and its absence in the case of Mel’s Hole speaks loud and clear.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Mel’s Hole – #85 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Procter & Gamble & Satan – #86 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In the late 1990s, when I had my first email address, I started getting forwards. When they were new to me I used to enjoy them. They were filled with amusing anecdotes and touching stories, but there was one in particular that bummed me out, because, dammit, I love Pringles.

The email went like this:

PLEASE MAKE A DIFFERENCEThe President of Procter & gamble appeared on the Phil Donahue Show on March 1, 1994. He announced that due to the openness of our society, he was coming out of the closet about his association with the church of Satan. He stated that a large portion of his profits from Procter & Gamble Products goes to support this satanic church. When asked by Donahue if stating this on t.v. would hurt his business, he replied, “THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH CHRISTIANS IN THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”

Product list includes:
[snipped the long list of P&G Products]

If you are not sure about the product, look for a Procter & Gamble written on the products, or the symbol of a ram’s horn, which will appear on each product beginning on April. The ram’s horn will form the 666, which is known as Satan’s number. Christians should remember that if they purchase any of these products, they will be contributing to the church of Satan. Inform other Christians about this and STOP buying Procter & Gamble Products. Let’s show Procter & Gamble that there are enough Christians to make a difference. On a previous Merv Griffin Show, the owner of Procter & Gamble said that if Satan would prosper he would give his heart and soul to him. Then he gave Satan credit for his riches.

Anyone interested seeing this tape, should send $3.00 to:
DONAHUE TRANSCRIPTS, JOURNAL GRAPHICS
26 BROADWAY NEW YORK, N. Y. 10007

WE URGE YOU TO MAKE COPIES OF THIS AND PASS IT ON TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. LIZ CLAIRBORNE ALSO PROFESSES TO WORSHIP SATAN AND RECENTLY OPENLY ADMITTED ON THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW THAT HALF OF HER PROFITS GO TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF SATAN.

I was a Christian at the time, and I also pretty much took anything I read in an email from a friend at face value. I was only 13 or 14, after all. What a bummer, now I would have to check every product I used to make sure I wasn’t supporting Satanism.

Thankfully, the claims are simply not true, and I will continue to enjoy my favourite snack.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Procter & Gamble & Satan – #86 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Forgotten Silver – #87 of 100 Top Hoaxes

It says here that my number 87 hoax was proclaimed by Guinness World Records as the greatest film hoax in history. But if any lessons should be taken from this countdown, it’s don’t trust random pieces of information you read on the internet.

In 1995, film directors Peter Jackson and Costa Botes released their documentary, Forgotten Silver, about a forgotten filmmaker named Colin McKenzie, who “presented as the first and greatest innovator of moderncinema, single-handedly inventing the tracking shot (by accident), the close-up (unintentionally), and both sound and color film years before their historically documented creation. The film also shows fragments of an epic Biblical film supposedly made by McKenzie in a giant set in the forests of New Zealand, and a ‘computer enhancement’ of a McKenzie film providing clear evidence that New Zealander Richard Pearse was the first man to invent a powered aircraft, several months prior to the Wright Brothers.”

The hoax wasn’t held up for very long at all, it was revealed the day after the film’s release. But it was an ingenious tribute to the classic film styles that Peter Jackson loved:

Jackson is ultimately a film nut, and “Forgotten Silver” gave him the opportunity of his dreams: to become a part of the medium’s history. Or at least to pretend he was.

The set-up is simple but ingenius. Jackson, tipped off by his neighbor, investigates some old, discarded films. A fan of New Zealand culture, he plans on taking them to the country’s film archive but after viewing what he has in hand there he sees something more incredible than he could have imagined: the lost films of fabled New Zealand director Colin McKenzie. McKenzie was, as he explains, a pioneering director whose works were long thought destroyed, and due to this the man’s legacy in film history had been lost. It turns out, McKenzie in fact pioneered the tracking shot and close-up, not to mention creating the first sound and color films years, sometimes decades, before previously thought. Jackson and Botes explain exactly how monumentally these change the face of film history as we know it and head off in search of McKenzie’s masterpiece, an adaptation of Salome nearly completed before its torturous shooting schedule killed his wife (and unborn child).

It’s a remarkable tale that shows both genuine scholarship and fine documentary work. It’s also, of course, completely and totally fake. Enlisting the help of film historian/critic Leonard Maltin and distributor/sleazeball Harvey Weinstein, Jackson and Botes managed to convincingly convey that they may have made the discovery of a century. The pair also had a journalist friend write up the film in the New Zealand Listener before the broadcast in order to create publicity…

Ultimately, though, the hoopla that surrounded the movie is a lot less interesting than the film itself. Its higlights are the impressively, almost mind-bogglingly perfect recreations of old movie styles… Jackson’s turn-of-the-19th-century-style shorts are done with a loving level of accuracy that’s ultimately what made the entire film so believable.

This hoax is an example of how trickery can be an art form, and how it can be used positively to bring attention to ingenuity.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Forgotten Silver – #87 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Donald Crowhurst – #88 of 100 Top Hoaxes

Donald Crowhurst’s is a sad story. It started off with good intentions, but turned into a tragic hoax.

In 1968, Crowhurst, an amateur sailor, signed on for a lone round-the-world race. He signed up for the prize and the glory, but quickly realized he was in over his head. But it was too late: he had put his house up as collateral to cover the costs of the race, and the pressure put on him by his many supporters left him no chance but to go through with it.

Before signing up for the race, Crowhurst didn’t have nearly enough experience to prepare him for sailing in the open ocean. He hoped that the race would help him garner publicity for his business ventures, which included selling safety and navigation equipment for sailing. Unfortunately he failed to complete the products in time for the start of the race, and ultimately started the race with an incomplete boat.

Here I turn to Wikipedia

Crowhurst left from TeignmouthDevon, on the last day permitted by the rules: 31 October 1968. He encountered immediate problems with his boat and equipment, and in the first few weeks was making less than half of his planned speed. According to his logs, he gave himself only 50/50 odds of surviving the trip, assuming that he was able to complete some of the safety equipment before reaching the dangerous Southern Ocean. Crowhurst was thus faced with the choice of either quitting the race and facing financial ruin and humiliation, or continuing to an almost certain death in his unsafe boat. Over the course of November and December 1968, the hopelessness of his situation pushed him into an elaborate deception. He planned to loiter in the South Atlantic for several months while the other boats sailed the Southern Ocean, falsify his navigation logs, then slip back in for the return leg to England. As last place finisher, he assumed his false logs would not receive the scrutiny of the winner.

Since leaving, Crowhurst had been deliberately ambiguous in his radio report of his location. Starting on 6 December 1968, he continued reporting further vague but false positions and possibly fabricating a log book; rather than continuing to the Southern Ocean, he sailed erratically in the southern Atlantic Ocean, and stopped once in South America (in violation of the rules) to make repairs to his boat. A great deal of the voyage was spent in radio silence, while his supposed position was inferred by extrapolation based on his earlier reports. By early December, based on his false reports, he was being cheered worldwide as the likely winner of the race, though Francis Chichester publicly expressed doubts about the plausibility of Crowhurst’s progress.

After rounding the tip of South America in early February, Moitessier had made a dramatic decision in March to drop out of the race and recircle the globe. On 22 April 1969, Robin Knox-Johnston was the first to complete the race, leaving Crowhurst supposedly in the running against Tetley for second to finish, and possibly still able to beat Knox-Johnston’s time (due to his later starting date). In reality, Tetley was far in the lead, having long ago passed within 150 nautical miles (278 km) of Crowhurst’s hiding place; but believing himself to be running neck-and neck with Crowhurst, Tetley pushed his failing boat (also a 40-foot (12 m) Piver trimaran) to the breaking point, and had to abandon ship on 30 May. The pressure on Crowhurst had therefore increased, since he now looked certain to win the “elapsed time” race. If he appeared to have completed the fastest circumnavigation, his log books would be closely examined by experienced sailors, including Chichester, and the deception in all probability would be exposed. It is also likely that he felt guilty about wrecking Tetley’s genuine circumnavigation so near its completion. He had by this time begun to make his way back as if he had rounded Cape Horn.

Crowhurst ended radio transmissions on 29 June. The last log book entry is dated 1 July. Teignmouth Electron was found adrift, unoccupied, on 10 July.

Crowhurst’s body was never found. He may have committed suicide, drivento it by guilt and by the fear of humiliating himself and his family, and by his months alone trying to keep up his deception.

His widow was haunted by the possibility of him still being alive, and this was fueled by hoaxers who faked messages from him and reported spotting him.

Crowhurst was a tortured man, whose over-ambitious adventure turned into an unfortunate hoax. But he was also very brave, and pushed himself to his limits to try to make his family proud.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Donald Crowhurst – #88 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

Sydney Iceberg – #89 of 100 Top Hoaxes

Today I’m going to take the easy way out, and just quote the entire hoax from one of my favourite websites, the Museum of Hoaxes.

Number 89 on my countdown is the Iceberg that graced Sydney harbour in 1978 (The ’70s must have been a great decade for hoaxes):

On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders (as residents of Sydney are known) were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded.

Smith said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. The cubes would be marketed under the brand name ‘Dickciles.’

A radio station reporter kept up a live broadcast from the iceberg (christened the Dickenberg 1) as it made its way into the harbor. Excitedly the entire city waited to catch a glimpse of the curiosity. Boaters who traveled out to meet the berg were given complimentary cubes.

Then it began to rain.

The water washed away the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the iceberg was really made of, exposing the white plastic sheets beneath. In this degraded condition the Sydney Iceberg sailed proudly on, floating past the opera house and city skyline. Boaters who now joined the procession were still given free cubes… though the cubes actually came from the onboard beer refrigerator.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Sydney Iceberg – #89 of 100 Top Hoaxes’


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