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Weird Stuff

10 Lesser Known Hoaxes Frauds and Pranks

Alex Stacy . . . Comments

Hoaxes and frauds are anything but recent inventions of schemers and scam artists. Historical records show evidence of cons and deception dating as far back as man has walked the earth. While the subject has been addressed on this site before (Top 10 Famous Hoaxes, Top 10 Scientific Frauds and Hoaxes, Top 10 Most Famous UFO Hoaxes, Top 10 Infamous Fake Memoirs, Top 15 April Fools Day Hoaxes, etc…) I feel that it is still a subject worthy of examination. Here are 10 more hoaxes, and the stories behind their execution, presented in no particular order.


Disumbrationism Art Movement


Living in Los Angeles, California, in 1924, the wife of scholar Paul Jordan-Smith had unsuccessfully submitted several still life paintings to an art gallery exhibition. In response to the harsh criticism of his wife’s work from the gallery’s judges, Smith fabricated an art movement named Disumbrationism. He quickly painted a thrown-together picture of an island-native from the South Pacific, and submitted it under the name Pavel Jerdanowitch to the jury at the Waldorf Astoria gallery, in New York. As the painting (‘Exaltation’) attracted attention from the members of the art world, Smith fabricated an entire history for Pavel Jerdanowitch, in which he was born in Russia and contracted tuberculosis while studying art in Chicago, but fully recovered while living on the South Sea Islands. Smith continued to maintain the ruse, submitting additional paintings to galleries in Chicago and gaining praise from French publications such as La Revue Moderne and Revue du vrai et du beau.

In 1927, Smith came forward and described the creation of his hoax to the Los Angeles Times. His legacy lives on, however, and an annual “International Pavel Jerdanowitch” painting contest is held in an attempt to produce the worst painting in history.

(Photo and Information Source: Reverent Entertainment. (n.d.). Disumbrationist School of Painting. In Ecclesiastes 9:11)


The Big Donor Show
De Grote Donorshow


In 2007, The Netherlands’ BNN produced a controversial reality game show titled “The Big Donor Show”. The program’s premise revolved around a woman who was terminally ill and three contestants in need of kidney transplants. During the show’s run, the woman would take advice from viewers (via text messages) as to which contestant should receive her kidney after her death. Immediately following the network’s announcement of the new show, news agencies across the country began criticizing its unethical and exploitative nature.

On the night of the show (01-06-2007), it was revealed to the audience that the entire program had been an elaborate set-up. The terminally ill woman was merely an actress, and the three contestants – while truly in need of kidney transplants – were aware of the show’s false-nature from the beginning. Following the broadcast, the show’s director explained that his intent had been to draw attention to the national shortage of organ donors that the Netherlands was experiencing. The program was given the honor of winning the 2008 International Emmy award for Best Non-Scripted Entertainment, as well as the title of Best Dutch TV Moment of the Year.

(Photo and Information Source: Eideard, . (2007, June 2). Organ Donor Contest Reaches a New High in Reality TV. In Dvorak Unsorted. AND British Talent Dominates at Emmys. (2008, November 25). In BBC News)


John Titor


Beginning in November of 2000, Internet user “TimeTravel_0” frequented the message boards on the Time Travel Institute’s forums and discussed the realistic work that would have to be done in order to achieve time travel. He went as far as to describe what mechanical parts a working time machine would require (including an X-Ray based venting and cooling system, gravity sensors, and magnetic housing units for the machine’s engines). His posts became more detailed as time passed, and after migrating to the Art Bell BBS Forums, he adopted the username ‘John Titor’.

While on the Art Bell BBS Forums, Titor explained that he was a time traveling soldier from the year 2036, and that he had been sent back to the year 1975 to procure an IBM 5100 computer in order to properly debug several computer programs from the future. He further explained that he decided to stop in the year 2000 to retrieve personal effects that he had lost prior to his mission. He then began issuing ‘predictions/recollections’ about our future (his past), including a 2004 Presidential Election that led to extreme civil unrest, Russian Nuclear Strikes against the United States, China and Europe in 2015, and that World War III was sparked by border clashes between Jewish and Arabic citizens in the Middle East.

While skeptics questioned his story and his revelations, it was not until his claims were debunked by the passage of history that his status as an Internet hoax was widely accepted. Today, Titor’s story has been adapted to literature, several websites and a stage play. Photographs of his future-documents can also be found on several message boards dedicated to his original posts, and his Military Insignia is shown in the picture above.

(Photo and Information Source: John Titor: a Time Traveller From The Year 2036?. (2006, February 1). In BBC H2GH.AND John Titor: Time Traveler, Soldier, or Prophet?. (n.d.). In The Anomalies Network )


Naked Came the Stranger


In 1969, Newsday’s Mike McGrady conspired with twenty-three fellow writers and literature critics to produce a work that reflected the poorly written texts that were quickly becoming favorites among American audiences. Each of the contributors penned a single chapter and combined them together under the title, “Naked Came the Stranger”, with the writing credit given to imaginary author ‘Penelope Ashe.’ The book describes the erotic adventures of Gillian Blake, following the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. For publicity purposes, McGrady’s sister-in-law acted as Penelope Ashe, thereby furthering the hoax’s execution.

The book quickly became a widespread hit, earning itself the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for a week. The authors, having each made a good-deal of money from the book’s sales, eventually decided to expose the hoax on the David Frost Show, thereby ending the ruse. The book continued to sell, and was eventually adapted into a pornographic film of the same name.

(Photo and Information Source: Cymes, A. (n.d.). Naked Came the Stranger . In 20th Century American Bestsellers. AND


Pickled Dragon


Sutton Courtenay friends David Hard and Allistair Mitchell stepped into the public eye, in December of 2003, when they claimed to have found the corpse of a dragon preserved in a jar of formaldehyde. According to their story, they had been searching through a garage when they came across a 30-inch-tall jar containing the dragon body, as well as a collection of documents detailing a past correspondence with scientists from the Natural History Museum. After gaining the attention of the media, Hart explained that his grandfather had worked at the museum and had managed to come into possession of the specimen after the museum refused to accept it into their collection.

Eventually, it was discovered that the entire story was a hoax, meant to generate attention for a novel Mitchell had been working on. It was also discovered that professional model makers, who had worked on the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs, had created the model, and had even gone as far as to custom-make the glass that it was contained in.

(Photo and Information Source: BBC. (2004, March 28). Book Deal for Dragon Hoax. In BBC News. AND The London Telegraph. (2004, January 29). Pickled Dragon Mystery. In Fairfax Digital)


Calaveras Skull


While mining in Calaveras County, California in 1866, miners discovered a human skull that had been buried in over 100 feet of lava. Josiah Whitney, a Harvard University Geology Professor, examined the skull and publicly presented it as evidence of his beliefs. Immediately following his discovery, members of the academic world began to question the validity of his findings, arguing that the skull was simply placed at the mine as a joke. Despite investigations by fellow Harvard Scientists (one of which determined the relative-recent-age of the skull through the use of fluorine analysis), Whitney continued to use the skull as proof of his historical theory.

After years of controversial publicity, the Smithsonian Institution’s William Holmes examined the skull and the area in which it was found. Holmes explained that while other organic matter from the site of the skull’s discovery matched organic fossils from the Pliocene Era, the skull was too modern in structure to have possibly been a legitimate find. To further discredit Whitney’s story, John Scribner, a friend and shop owner from the Calaveras Area, testified as to his placing of the skull at the discovery site. Today, the skull is widely recognized as a hoax in academic and archeological societies, but is still referenced in more amateur-based theories and arguments.

(Photo and Information Source: Archarological Institute of America. (2009). The Notorious Calaveras Skull. In Archaeology Magazine)


London Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814


On February 21, 1814, during the Napoleonic Wars between the French Empire and its opposing forces (the Bourbons supported by the UK and other nations), a man calling himself Colonel du Bourg arrived in Dover, England, and began spreading word of Napoleon’s death. His news of the Bourbon’s victory quickly spread, and was verified by numerous other military officers who delivered the news to London and surrounding areas. In response to the newly established peacetime, the London Stock Exchange experienced a market boom, and prices on government securities skyrocketed.

However, word from French officials soon arrived, stating that the news of Napoleon’s death had been false. Stock market prices returned to their original levels, but not before several massive sales had taken place. Detecting possible fraud, the London Stock Exchange Committee began investigating the sales in question. They quickly discovered that a large collection of government stocks had been purchased a week prior to the news of Napoleon’s death, and had been sold for more than one million British Pounds. The committee charged Parliament member and former Naval enlistee Lord Cochrane with financial fraud, fined him (and his conspirators) 1,000 Pounds apiece, and sentenced them to twelve months in prison, as well as an hour of confinement in a public pillory.

(Photo and Information Source: Johnson, P. (2002). Fraud and Profit in Nineteenth Century London. In Fathom.)


New York Zoo Escape


On November 9, 1874, the front page of the New York Herald told of a disastrous breach of security at the Central Park Zoo that led to the escape of the park’s animals, including, but not limited to, a Rhinoceros, an Anaconda, a Giraffe and a Lion. The reports detailed the efforts of New York City Police Officers to capture the animals, as well as the chaos that had resulted in injuries to over 200 people, and the deaths of 49 others. A panic quickly spread, and soon people were arming themselves in the streets, pulling children from schools, and barricading their homes for the inevitable stampede of wild animals.

Had the panicked citizens read the entire article however, they would have understood that the story was simply a fabrication of one of the paper’s writers. The final paragraph of the article spelled out in clear terms that the aforementioned material had been the product of fantastic thinking, and that no animals had actually escaped. Second editions of competing papers denounced the hoax on their front page and questioned the intent of the Herald’s authors in their publication of the story. As a way of apologizing and protecting their industry, Herald editors ran a story the following day that claimed the original article was meant to draw attention to security measures at the Zoo and was misinterpreted by the majority of its readers. Surprisingly, no drops in subscriptions to the Herald were recorded.

(Photo and Information Source: Museum of Hoaxes. (n.d.). The Central Park Zoo Escape. In Museum of Hoaxes)


Rose Bowl Hoax


At the conclusion of every NCAA Football season, two teams face off in the Tournament of Roses celebration, more commonly known as The Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, California. Traditionally, the two teams represent colleges with a well-developed and highly funded athletic program, thereby excluding most technical institutes such as M.I.T. and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In response to their continued absence from the event, several Caltech students (calling themselves the ‘Fiendish Fourteen’) planned to distribute flip-cards to prank audience members during the game’s halftime show.

The game began and the competition between the Washington Huskies and Minnesota Gophers commenced. By halftime, the Huskies had a 17-point lead, and cheerleaders, along with Washington’s marching band, had taken the field for the big show. As audience members held up their flip-cards, images of school mascots and other such designs were flashed out to players on the field and news cameras that were covering the game. On the last design however, the students flipped their cards and spelled out ‘CALTECH’ instead of the name of either of the schools represented in the game. News anchors laughed at the prank, and cheerleaders on the field were unable to finish their halftime routine because of the confusion stemming from the prank. The hoax was duplicated and imitated by several schools in later years, but none had been as successful as Caltech in their hijacking of the Rose Bowl.

(Photo and Information Source: The Great Rosebowl Hoax of 1961. (n.d.). In Caltec Today)




In the early days of widespread Internet usage, hoax-webpages managed to fool a great number of users with their shocking messages and far-fetched premises. Sites like Bonsai Kitten offered a service wherein a live cat would be trapped inside of a glass jar, and preserved in a manner resembling a Ship in a Bottle, and web surfers responded with petitions demanding the site’s cessation of debauchery. took the hoax further and offered users resources related to the preparation and consumption of human flesh, meat and organs.

According to Internet traffic reports, the site experienced over half of a million visitors on a daily basis. Eventually, the Food and Drug Administration investigated the site’s claims, ultimately stating that the site was within legal parameters. due to the fact that it did not sell human meat. By June of 2001, site creators Chris Ellerby and Joseph Mallett revealed that the site was, indeed, a hoax and that they had only meant to stir up controversy among Internet users.

(Photo and Information Source: Emery, D. (n.d.). Is a Hoax. In About.Com.)

  • danny medina

    Ha ha lmao… This was a very interesting list.. :)

    • Jfrater

      I agree – hence my choice to publish it :)

    • shockipedia

      the only hoax here is the name of the author – wikipedia is what should be credited

      • Really? Can you clarify where the copying is because I checked it first, it has been edited three times, and sources are cited.

      • CrackedPepper86

        All the sources are cited, moron.

  • Canuovea

    Nice read.

    • Brittany V.

      What about

      If I recall correctly, that was posted as a prank on the Yahoo! search engine for some time, and it was regular practice to “RickRoll” (if you will) unknowing internet browsers with a link to instead of their desired destination.

  • ianz09 Not what I expected. Got to stop watching late night Comedy Central

    • Jfrater

      Haha that was my first thought too

    • chela sounds like some porn site or site devoted to male body builders hahaha

      • that what i thought, the name is to the point but misleading at the same time. The pic of the two guys at the bottom of the screenshot does not help either. Honestly i was expecting some guys on guys stuff . . . not actual man beef :D

  • Bowie89

    Great list! Can’t get enough of the weird, wonderful and unexplained……..or in this case, the very clearly explained! :)

  • Ceebs

    I love these kinds of lists. Well done!

  • #3 New York Zoo Escape – Made me think of ’12 Monkeys ‘ and the scene where all the animals run free in the city, loved it cause i think zoos are shit. Enjoyed the list :)

    • Jfrater

      I don’t mind zoos but that also reminded me of twelve monkeys

    • Armadillo

      I thought of Jumanji :O

      • Josh Fox

        I think the real question is why would the newspapers make up stories in the first place? Aren’t there any gruesome murders or sophisticated bank robberies to be reported instead?

        • One way or another the article proved that many people don’t read really read things properly.

          “The final paragraph of the article spelled out in clear terms that the aforementioned material had been the product of fantastic thinking, and that no animals had actually escaped”

          so all the stories on bank robberies and murders are really of no use if they are not read properly

        • Sadly I am not entirely sure that papers have EVER not made up stories…

          • Bob

            Wait, what? Jfrater, are you saying you suspect newspapers of making up every single story in them? Please tell me I misunderstood.

  • ZebraGun

    My favorite hoax is the Isaac Bickerstaff astrology hoax. Jonathan Swift made up an astrologer called Isaac Bickerstaff and published an article by him to predict the death of a famous astrologer. Then, months later, declares that the famous astrologer, still very much alive, has died.

    • Jfrater

      I haven’t heard of that – thanks – I will look it up

    • Armin Tamzarian

      Ben Franklin did the same once. In his almanac he predicted the death of a rival almanac maker, Titan Leeds. When the day came, and the man wasn’t dead, Franklin published the obituary anyway and claimed pretenders had taken over the name to keep on publishing the almanac.

      The funniest thing was that, when Leeds really died, Franklin congratulated the pretenders on finally ending the charade.

  • Le Sombre Desperado

    Best list in a while.

  • Josh Fox

    That Dragon in a Bottle looks amazing, though I can’t imagine how anyone could expect to get away with it in the long run. Good List!

  • loapaja

    Very amusing list!

  • itswinston

    Made me lol :D

  • james

    “Josiah Whitney, a Harvard University Geology Professor, who believed that humans and mastodons had once cohabited a prehistoric Earth”

    They did. Mastodons only died out 11,000 years ago.

    • I have altered that now – but is it possible that at the time that was not the widespread view of scientists in his field?

      • littleboots

        Thanks. I was trying to figure out what his beliefs were, since the entry wasn’t specific on that. This clears it up

  • Suvro

    Where is the Patterson film on the Bigfoot?

    • Planet Earth

      It’s not on the list cause no one can prove it’s a fake . I tend to think it’s real and the reason why is in 1967 or 68 i not quite sure . If they were to fake that Bigfoot video wouldn’t have made way more sense to make a fake Male Bigfoot costume . Why go through all the trouble of making the Bigfoot Female with large breast . Make no sense to me i think the video is real . Do you know how much a ape suit would have cost in those day’s no to mention the special effect in Hollywood were not very good .

      • Josh Fox

        I don’t believe that the Patterson film is real for many reasons:
        1) No bones or droppings of a “bigfoot” have ever been found, despite thousands of footprints.
        2) If it was real, why didn’t they shoot it or run after it and get a very close up view?
        3) They probably made it female because they thought people would think exactly like you have: “It must be real because why would they bother to do that?”
        4) In a close up shot the bigfoot in the patterson film clearly has no toes.
        5) Surely by 2011 someone would have discovered this thing living in the woods.

  • Awesome stuff. Haven’t heard of any of them. Love the disumbrationism movement. I personally can’t see on what basis a simple drawing becomes art. This does include the highly specialized pieces like The Mona Liza, however so called ‘modern art’ pieces confuse me. Is there a special something that one looks for while judging the value of art pieces?

    • Armin Tamzarian

      Nope. Modern art criticism is a scam, in my humble opinion. There’s nothing that separates normal art from Art with a capital A.

    • Josh Fox

      Art Critics judge based on the quality of the piece (think accuracy, pleasing the eye) and the emotional value. Emotional value is complicated but basically if someone were to just scribble on a page the emotional value would be zero, if however their work was well thought out and clearly showed inspiration from real life events it might be considered a good art piece. The “Exaltation” painting shown is only valuable because of the Artists background and (fake) experiences, hence the whole point of the hoax.

      • Armin Tamzarian

        How does one measure emotion? And isn’t an outsider just as fit to assess emotion as a professional critic?

        Also, according to that idea, most realistic and naturalistic works aren’t art, since those artists strove to eliminate all emotion from their works.

        • Josh Fox

          Emotion is measured by how well the artist conveyed it to the canvas (or whatever material they used). Critics can tell if an artist has painted (or any other method) with real emotion, or if the artist is just being quirky for the sake of uniqueness.

          As for realistic and naturalistic work, they are a different type of art that would solely be judged on the basis of accuracy, to whatever they were copying.

          • Ok now you’ve lost me. How can you tell whether one has painted with emotion or not. I am not trying to be a jerk. Just honestly curious.

          • Josh Fox

            Well let’s take David Hockney as an example. His work on Yorkshire landscapes progressed from the very standard landscape stereotype, to unusually vibrant colours inclunding pinks and oranges. Over the course of about 50 paintings development in his style was very clear, he had made conscious decisions to use unrealistic colours to give way to his own emotional interpretation of a landscape.

            For a more information, go here — >

          • Josh Fox

            Or for even more information,

          • Armin Tamzarian

            “Critics can tell”

            How? What makes them more perceptive of emotion than the average Joe?

            Also, what are they going to do if I create a school of art that strives to eliminate all emotion yet retain a sense of abstraction?

        • Josh Fox

          Most critics have studied art, or were artists themselves with years of experience. They know exactly what Art has emotional responses with an audience.

          Also, emotionless art would only ever be an attempted exact copy of something.

          • Armin Tamzarian

            Since when do artists or critics study psychology too? Also, I thought you said the emotion has to be in the work of art, not the reaction of the audience?

            Besides that, isn’t it a big fail on the side of the critics that they say they know exactly what art has emotional responses with an audience, when 99% of the populace find Art a stupid bunch of scribbles, a pretentious waste of money, or just don’t get it?

          • Josh Fox

            Look, this is my last comment now because I have a feeling you’re just trolling. You seem to think all art is squiggles, when that only applies to a very small minority. Most gallery art is considered “good” by ordinary people, though many struggle to accept work by Picasso without looking into it more. Anyway case closed now, if you want more info click on the links I provided earlier.

          • Armin Tamzarian

            Nope, not trolling. I just think the current art establishment is looking out for itself by declaring the difference between art and Art is something only they can determine. And I’m a bit appalled by that.

            And I don’t think all art are squiggles. I just think the majority of people would like a statue found at a garden centre more than one made by an acclaimed artist, because it represents their aesthetic values better.

            Of course if ‘I like it’ is the only difference between art and Art, Art becomes extremely subjective, and the art world loses its authority. So they do what they can to make sure the definition of Art stays extremely obscure and unintelligible for outsiders.

          • Bob

            Not everybody agrees with the criteria art critics use to determine whether or not a piece is good, and they can claim to see the emotion in a painting, whilst the vast majority of humans only care about it’s aesthetics. Fact of the matter is, whether you like a painting or not is subjective, and you don’t need a fancy degree or title to say you like a painting.

    • Traditionally the criteria for art was beauty which was believed to be objective – based on such criteria as symmetry etc. Modern art intended to abolish the idea that beauty was objective (and it succeeded – no one thinks it is nowadays).

      • Armin Tamzarian

        No, modern art has abolished the idea that art has to be beautiful. Because beauty, as it is said, is in the eye of the beholder. And that means that everyone can be an art critic.

  • chela

    i like the pickled dragon. it’s so cute! i’d make it a centerpiece :D

  • Will Trame

    Number five reminded me of the Piltdown Man hoax. I believe that that one had people fooled for nearly four decades. Good list; definitely an interesting read.

    • Armin Tamzarian

      That’s cognitive bias at work. People are willing to believe everything, as long as it supports their ideas.

      • Man oh man. Your comment (which is completely true) immediately brought to mind a million modern beliefs that are only that for the reason you give! They also involve some of the more controversial opinions these days so I can’t name them.

        • Otter

          Please name them. I don’t want to start a flame war between you and the closed minded individuals on here but I’m curious now.

          • One day on another list :)

      • copperdragon

        You just uncovered the basic idea behind religion.

    • Since Mastodons only became extinct 13,000 years ago, the chance of humans hunting them is high…also, there have been Mastodons discovered with what appears to be spear-heads in their side. That would, if verified, pretty much guarantee that the human/Mastodon interaction was fact. Some experts even believe that humans may have played a part in the extinction of the beasts.

  • Armin Tamzarian

    Good list today. Just a few small mistakes:

    The French magazine would be ‘Revue du vrai et du beau’, and describing the Napoleonic Wars as wars between the French Empire and the Bourbons is quite serious misrepresentation.

    • Thanks for the correction on the spelling – I have edited the list. Also, the Bourbons were fighting against Napoleon – but obviously not alone – so I have also edited that entry to clarify.

  • Nice list.
    They are making anything into a reality show these days.(# 9)

    Getting an idea : Whom, Mom loves the most…..
    They can show families with more than one kid. And I’m sure there are families who will be interested to take part.

  • Amin

    The ‘Sokal affair’ is one of the more humorous hoaxes to have happened!

    It was an article sent by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University to a major journal, which was purportedly an experiment to test if such a journal would publish an article salted with nonsense…i.e. if it *sounded* good!

    The article was hilariously named “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in which the footnotes would often contain mathematic jokes.

    As expected, the editors overlooked the content… instead going by the credentials of the professor and published the article. And why not? If Picasso can do it why not him!! :)

  • Interesting list, have only ever heard of one of them, the John Titor entry, which is suprising because I only heard about that a few days ago in a thread about interesting unsolved mysteries.

    It’s strange the way you hear/see something then start seeing it all over the place. Like when you hear a word used for the first time ever and then during the day you hear it used frequently.

    Of them all, I would think that the best was the Donar show, mostly because the general idea behind the show seems scarily plausible.

  • Arnaud

    The Goncourt Award is the most important literary prize in France. You can receive it only once. Romain Gary had won it in 1956 for Les Racines du Ciel.

    But the years had passed and Gary had become old fashioned, and despised by the french intelligentsia for being right-wing…

    So in 1975 he published the novel La Vie devant Soi (The Life before us) under the alias Emile Ajar.

    Notice that Gary was of russian descent and that in russian Gary means “burn” while Ajar means “embers”…

    And of course… Gary won the Goncourt… again !!!….

    The deception was not revealed before Gary’s death in 1980…

    There’s more about this story. You can probably find it on Wikipedia I guess…

    • Armadillo

      I was about to mention this, too :)

      There’s also this woman that wrote a book (Misha- A Mémoire of the Holocaust years) about living with wolves after escaping the Nazis. She pretended it was her own true story, made several million dollars out of it before admitting it was all a lie.

      I think both stories are pretty well known, though.

    • Arsnl

      So he won what? 20 francs?

    • Very interesting – I hadn’t heard that before. What a can of worms that should have opened regarding the “intelligentsia”. I bet it didn’t though.

  • lolreligion

    i’d have suggested religion for this list, but it’s a well known hoax

    • Josh Fox

      Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

    • That will stir something up.

    • jarrodnb

      A religion could only be considered a hoax if the creators knew it was a hoax, which in this case, I don’t think they do/did (at least for the major ones).

      So not hoaxes, merely fake/frauds :D

      • Princess

        Ex. scientology :)

        It’s runoured that the creator or Scientology Made it up to see how stupid people were to follow it. But no I dont think all religion is a hoax (ie Christianity, Hinduism, Buddism etc)

    • The only problem with that is that “religion” essentially is merely man’s search for something higher. It isn’t a thing invented or created – it is part of man’s essence to search and religious concepts invariably form part of that. So perhaps you meant “organized religion”? :)

  • Handrejka

    Great list. I’d heard of a couple of these (Titor and manbeaf) but most were new to me and I’ll enjoy looking into them further.

    I particularly like than number 10 came about because people were mean to his wife.

    • Yeah – that is nice. Not many spouses would go that trouble for their loved one I am sure.

  • Gully

    Great list, had only heard of the Cal Tech one before. Fun read!

  • This is very interesting. Good job!

  • oouchan

    What a great topic! I loved the one and the NY zoo escape. I really do enjoy reading how people use their imaginations. Quite fun.

    A very good list.

  • Hercules321

    Excellent list! These kind of lists are the reason why I love this website. :)

    I didn’t understand No7 though.. What was the point of writing that book?

    • To criticise the writing world of the time which was fawning over badly written books.

  • soreheid

    don’t know how well it is known so can’t quantify whether it should be on the list or not, but the dreadnought hoax involving virginia woolfe is quit a good one.

    • Thanks for mentioning this – I hadn’t heard of it. It is hilarious! Here is a link for others who might want to read about it:

      Bunga bunga!

      • Skippy the Impaler

        Thanks for the link. That was a great story!

  • vanowensbody

    Great list.

  • Metalwrath

    Recently, around the year 2006 or so, there was a publicity hoax by (I think) SNCF (the French national trainway system) about the building of a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean from Paris to New-York, which would join the two cities in a 5 hour train ride. These adds were everywhere, on TV and as posters all over the metro system. Obviously inspired by the Channel Tunnel, the hoax was actually successful amongst many bypassers. The company even had a website promoting the construction of the tunnel. I don’t know how the media reacted to it though, but I remember the effect this publicity had on people, many of them truly believed it, probably because they weren’t expecting such a bold publicity stunt. It was a typical example of “the more the lie is outrageous, the more the people will believe it” kind of thing.

  • Heitham

    I remember

    the perfect list for reading on an iphone while going to work

  • J

    Some of these make me realize not all humans are created equal. A guy gets on a BBS and says “I am from the future” and people must wait until his predictions prove wrong to know he is just making it up? The guy was widely accepted prior to that? Was it the the Tinfoil Hat BBS?

  • moopersoup

    I am a big fan of both hoaxes and pranks but I’m completely against frauds.

  • Tesa

    Great list

  • Dave

    I want that dragon!

  • dotmatrix

    I’ve always lover the Caltech prank; it should be #1. It was a complicated operation, here’s the full story:

  • dotmatrix

    *loved, dammit.

  • mystery

    #3 is so funny! :)))

  • This is a great list! The John Titor entry just makes me think that people will believe anything.

    Two more hoaxes are the stories of Anthony Godby Johnson and Kaycee Nicole. Both of them are really sick. You’d have to be desperate for attention to make them up.

    • Disgusting! I hadn’t heard of those at all. What horrible people they must be to do things like that.

  • Planet Earth

    #4 i ‘ ve read that story somewhere but i can’t remember were . I would like to learn more about this incident . Who owned the banks in 1814 in England & France ?If someone has a full article about this story send me a the link

    • The Bank of England was privately owned until 1946 when it was nationalised by the Labour government.

      • Planet Earth

        Ok so who owned it prior to 1946 ? Was it one specific Family ?Rothchild ?
        I also don’t understand why the Rothchild’s are not on any list of the rich ? If they were behind the scam of 1814 there millions back then would be worth billions today .

        • I have no idea who owned it at that time.

  • tillurdizzy

    Shouldn’t Global Warming be #1? I guess we’ll have to wait another 10 years before it takes it’s rightful place.

  • Matt

    I hadn’t heard of a lot of these. The dragon hoax would have been a lot of fun- although it reminds me too much of that “sasquatch” find in Georgia a year or so ago-

  • wasd

    Numbers 1 and 2 were just stupid.

  • This was very interesting to me. Didn’t know about most of these

  • carlos salvador

    big coincidence calaveras is the spanish word for skulll

    • Maggot

      I live near Calaveras County in California and do a lot of hiking and camping around there, and enjoy learning about the local history. There’s a cool trail called “River of Skulls Trail” that I have often hiked and fished along. Here’s an excerpt from Wiki about the origin of the name:

      “The Spanish word calaveras means “skulls.” The county takes its name from the Calaveras River; it was said to have been named by Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga when he found many skulls of Native Americans along the banks of the stream. He believed they had either died of famine or been killed in tribal conflicts over hunting and fishing grounds. In fact, the human remains were of the native Miwuk people killed by Spanish soldiers after they banded together to rise against Spanish missionaries.”,_Ca

  • littleboots

    The dragon in a jar reminded me of the merman in a tourist shop in Banff Alberta, Canada. I’ve seen it first hand and it is indeed creepy, even knowing it’s a hoax. Seriously, check it out!

  • Man beef. Lol forever. How could anyone fall for that?

  • Kirk

    Great list, loved the piece about Disumbrationism.

  • VintageObsessive

    I like most of the lists on LV, but this week they have been even more entertaining that usual. My favorite lists have topics that aren’t especially broad (i.e. Top Ten Vacation Spots)* OR so focused & specific that alot of the entries seem contrived. (i.e. Top Ten Talk Show Hosts Whose Name Begins With The Letter “G”)*

    *neither of these are actual lists on LV. :):)

  • Yusuf

    Great list- surprisingly I had never heard of any of these. Also Listverse needs more lists like these…

  • ben

    Number five kind of pisses me off because it never tells what Whitney’s “beliefs” were. It’s hard to care about a hoax when you’re only given half the information. What was supposed to be so special about the skull that Whitney claimed it proved?

  • YouRang?

    It’s just a shame you didn’t mention the Woyzeck hoax. To this day there are thousands of people who believe this man actually exists!

  • davo

    I like how people “questioned the validity” of number 8, as opposed to calling bullshit from day 1.

    • Skippy the Impaler

      I like it too. It’s nice to see non-believers being polite for a change instead of just jumping in and calling everyone who disagrees with them an idiot. Politeness seems rare in that group,but maybe I’m just used to the ones on Listverse.

  • OmegaMan

    I remember visiting a decade or so ago when I read an article in a newspaper. I didn’t believe the article and thus visited the website.

    But until today, I didn’t know that it was a hoax. Perhaps it is due to the double standards used by the media who does not give much coverage to the news after it has lost its sensationalism.

  • Stu Miller’s Gust

    tillurdizzy / 24 Aug, 2011 at 10:00 am
    “Shouldn’t Global Warming be #1? I guess we’ll have to wait another 10 years before it takes it’s rightful place.”

    God willing, we’ll all survive ten years. Here in the States, we’ve been plagued by record heat and droughts. I’m assuming that 95% of objective, qualified scientists are correct, and that the other 5% are spinning the facts to suit the needs of their corporate sponsors.

  • Atromoautogue


  • William

    Well what John Titor actually said was that there are many time lines and our time lines don’t overlap. So very likely he wouldn’t be going back to the same 2036, just hopefully. He also said that because of this his predictions would most likely never occur in our timeline. He told people repeatedly that they would not be satisfied with his predictions because most likely they wouldn’t happen. In his timeline the outcome of the cold war was not the same, leading to different events throughout his history that were only slightly different than our own. It was very convincing and at the very least, incredibly smart and creative. He covered his tracks very well and his theories never seemed to contradict each other – something that has trumped previous “time travelers”. I actually have the entire original transcript saved on my computer and I read it from time to time. It really is an interesting read. And.. to his defense, no ip address was ever recovered, no one ever knew who he was and he disappeared from the internet when he said he would – and never came back.

    History didn’t disprove John Titor, he’s in a different time line. He said it himself that nothing he predicted would come true. Still, awesome story and awesome list!

    • Maggot

      He told people repeatedly that they would not be satisfied with his predictions because most likely they wouldn’t happen.

      Well that’s certainly convenient, isn’t it?

      History didn’t disprove John Titor, he’s in a different time line. He said it himself that nothing he predicted would come true.

      In other words, even when untestable, and unprovable bulls.hit is staring them smack in the face, gullible people still will lap it up.

      • Slappy

        That’s what I did with quantum tunneling.

      • William

        Oh.. I am in no way saying I believe John Titor was a time-traveler. I just think some interesting info was missing from the post. It was a cool story, kill me.. And to my knowledge, no one ever disproved him because, like I said, it wasn’t ever traced back to anyone.

        Not only that he knew previously unreleased information about the IBM 5100, so that was an interesting twist.

        It’s the only item on the list without a definitive explanation on why it was deemed a hoax, how it was disproved or anything of that nature – I thought it was interesting that it was a hoax by interpretation. No solid facts on either side.

        Either way it was a cool read, you should check it out.

  • Slappy

    Remember: it’s not a hoax if the speaker believes what he’s saying. Could John Titor have created his own little fantasy world and gotten lost in it? Others have done so.

  • eduardo jaramillo

    Some of these are very good actually… the one concerning the fake report of Napoleon’s death and the manipulation of the stock market was fascinating, and the story about Caltech was also a fun read… however, while some of these may seem like funny pranks, they can have serious implications towards people lives. Okay, the fact that Caltech made a joke at a football game is perfectly fine, but on the whole it’s a bad idea to get too serious about this type of thing.

  • Eddie

    Timetravel isnt really possible. That’s what i recently learned in Physics due to the Entropy thing. Entropy increases over time; it never decreases. Thus it’s not possible to decrease entropy and therefore not possible to go back in time :D

    • MeDan

      Entropy constantly decreases. All of life is based on the decrease of entropy. It’s only in the larger picture that overall entropy is believed to steadily increase. Time travel would have nothing to do with that. In any case, entropy increases over time. If an object is moved into the future without passing through the intervening time, entropy would not occur for that object. It would be utterly irrelevant.

  • Sarah

    The Bonsai Kitten hoax actually stirred up a lot of racism too. So many people are stupid.

    • YouRang?

      Good one, Sarah. I never even thought of that. Apparently, some people actually believed the Bonsai Kittens were real. I’m told that a lot of people ordered “kits” from the fake web businesses to grow their own Bonsai Kittens. But I think the REAL fear was that people would damage and torture cats in the process of taking faked photos.

  • linda10989

    Wasn’t the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull proven to be a modern artifact, and not made by the Mayans? I seem to recall that the original owner, Ann Mitchell-Hedges “found” it, but wouldn’t let it be tested/carbon dated. I think she died about 3 years ago and her husband did have it examined and it was found to be a hoax.

    Does anyone know anything about this?

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  • Mcooper

    When war of the worlds was broadcast on the radio ppl actually thought it was real and after that radios were more careful about stating it wasn’t real

  • “skeptics questioned his story and his revelations”

    Well thank goodness even in 1975, someone figured that time travel was bogus. Geez…

  • D

    Look up the Pomegranate phone =]

  • Pebygency