Did you know you can’t say the word gullible without touching the top of your mouth with your tongue? It’s true…and you just tried to do it, didn’t you? It’s funny how easily duped we can all be, even when things are technically true. So, although hindsight is 20/20 and you might know that all of these hoaxes were proven false, don’t get too high and mighty; we are all susceptible to being fooled. From jackalopes to alien autopsies, here are 25 Hoaxes That Had Us Fooled.
The Balloon Boy
On October 15, 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene launched a helium-filled balloon to float into the atmosphere and claimed that their son, Falcon, was inside it. The media reported that the balloon, shaped like a silver flying saucer, was traveling at altitudes of 7,000 feet. After further investigation, authorities discovered that Falcon was hiding in their attic the whole time.
The Fiji Mermaid
Mermaids have always haunted the imagination of humans. So in 1842, P. T. Barnum decided to exploit this curiosity and exhibited the “remains” of a creature believed to be half mammal, half fish. Many people bought the story, but in reality, the “mermaid” was nothing but the head and torso of a baby monkey sewn to the tail of a fish and covered in papier-mâché.
Tall tales spoke of a species of “killer rabbits” with deer antlers known as The Jackalope. Many people claimed and believed that the female Jackalope could be milked while asleep and that its milk could be used for medicinal purposes. Jackalopes were believed to efficiently mimic any sound, including the human voice. It has since been established, however, that no such creature exists and that stories of Jackalopes may have been inspired by rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus which causes antler-like tumors in various parts of a rabbit’s body.
The Mars Hoax
An email circulated in 2003 claiming Mars will appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye on August 27, 2003. It didn’t happen. The hoax circulated again in 2005 up until 2012. The 2003 Hoax stemmed from a misinterpretation of data stating the Earth was only about 55,758,000 kilometers away from Mars, the closest distance between the two planets since September 24, 57,617 BCE.
The Microsoft Hoax
In 1994, it was reported that IT company Microsoft had acquired the Catholic Church. Rumors started going around that people would be able to take communion through their computer. Silly, yes. But let’s not forget that this happened in 1994, back when people were none the wiser about how the internet works. The Microsoft Hoax owns the title as the first hoax that reached the masses through the internet.
Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Given the Latin name Octopus paxarbolis, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus was rumored to be an endangered species of cephalopod, living both on land and in water. It fooled many until it was proven that the Tree Octopus was an internet hoax created by Lyle Zapato in 1998.
The Pickled Dragon
In December 2003, David Hart claimed he found a jar with a reptile-like winged creature immersed in formaldehyde. He then showed it to his friend, Allistair Mitchell, who runs a marketing firm in Oxford. Together, they told the press that the jar and its contents came with documents stating it was submitted by German scientists to the Natural History Museum in the late 19th century. It turned out that the whole thing was a hoax purported by Mitchell to promote his upcoming novel.
The Piltdown Man
Stories about bone fragments of the fossilised remains of an unidentified early human began circulating in 1915. The fragments were said to have been found in Piltdown, East Sussex and were subsequently named Piltdown Man. The hoax was exposed when it was discovered that the remains were a fabricated combination of the lower jawbone of an orangutan and the skull of a fully developed modern human.
The Cottingley Fairies
In 1917, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took photos and claimed they had shots of some real fairies. Elsies father, Arthur, never believed the photos were real. At that time, famous writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote an article for The Standard Magazine which vouched for the authenticity of the photographs. In the 1980’s, the girls admitted the four photos were fake. However, Frances insisted that the fifth and final picture was real and maintained this claim up until the time of her death.
In a nutshell, psychic surgery is a supposed surgical procedure involving the use of bare hands. It’s believed the pathological matter causing the disease is removed without the aid of medical equipment and that the incision spontaneously heals. The US Federal Trade Commission has thankfully dismissed Psychic Surgery as a form of medical fraud.
The Left Handed Whopper
In 1998, Burger King published a full-page advertisement in USA Today publicising the launch of a brand new item: the “Left-Handed Whopper” specially created for the 32 million left-handed Americans. The new addition comprised just the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. People actually got very excited about the new item, but several days later, Burger King confirmed that it was nothing more than a playful hoax.
The Rabbit Mother
In 1726, Mary Toft became the subject of controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she gave birth to rabbits. Following skepticism from the medical world, Toft was brought to London where she became the subject of an extensive study. Later, Toft confessed to the hoax and was sent to jail for fraud.
The Tourist Guy
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a photo of a guy on top of the World Trade Center became an internet sensation. The photo was supposedly taken a few seconds before the plane hit the tower. It was later discovered that the picture was edited and was, in fact, taken in 1997.
The Alien Autopsy
A man named Ray Santilli claimed that he was able to obtain footage from the U.S military, and it was supposedly linked to the Roswell UFO incident in 1947. The story convinced numerous people until 2006 when Santilli confessed that the “alien” was a mere sculpture and that animal parts were used to make the autopsy appear authentic.
The Hitler Diaries
In April 1983, German magazine Der Stern paid 10 million German marks to acquire what was believed to be Adolf Hitler’s Diary. The hoax was uncovered within 2 weeks when they found out that the diaries were written using modern ink and paper. The culprit, Konrad Kujau, was a forger of Hitler’s works. He was subsequently sentenced to 42 months in prison.
lonelygirl15 was a massive Youtube sensation back in 2006. The videos feature a girl named Bree who was going through teen drama perpetuated by obsessive parents and a cocky boyfriend. Soon viewers noticed the professional editing touches of the videos and gave rise to doubts about lonelygirl’s authenticity as a real-life video blog. It was later revealed that Bree was 19-year old American-New Zealand actress Jessica Rose. lonelygirl15 was created by filmmakers Mesh Flinders, Miles Beckett, and Greg Goodfried.
In 2002-2006, reports that natural blondes would become extinct by 2200 began circulating. This was reported as fact by credible media such as BBC and the Sunday Times. The World Health Organization later issued a statement saying that no such study about the extinction of the blonde gene had been conducted, reducing the reports to nothing but a hoax.
Many claimed a planet called Nibiru would collide with Earth in 2012, causing widespread destruction. NASA debunked this claim, saying it had no factual basis. Nibiru and other stories about other planets colliding with Earth are nothing but internet hoaxes.
Bald For Bieber
Fans of Justin Bieber shaved their heads in support of the pop star after false reports claimed he was diagnosed with cancer. The lengths crazy fans would go to show their love.
Facebook Shutting Down
Last March, a rumor started spreading that Facebook was shutting down, supposedly because Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg “wanted his old life back.” Millions of users around the globe started to panic and began saving their photos and other relevant information like crazy. The rumor was later debunked by a Facebook spokesperson. We all heaved a collective sigh of relief.
In 2012, a 16-year-old girl tweeted that there was someone in her house. A few moments after her last tweet, she disappeared. 34,000 people retweeted her tweets and the topic #HelpFindKara trended worldwide. Police officers soon reported that the girl staged her own kidnapping. Understandably, many people felt disgusted by this seemingly cheap call for attention.
A cult known as the Raelians claimed that they had created the first human clone– a girl named Eve. According to the group’s leader, Rael, their ultimate goal was to achieve immortality. The claim was confirmed to be a hoax when the group failed to show proof of the cloned child.
Crop formations have long been associated with alien sightings and are believed to be phenomena plaguing the earth’s farmers for centuries. Contrary to popular belief, crop formations actually date back about thirty years. Their existence remained a mystery until September 1991 when Doug Bower and Dave Chorley came forward and confessed to creating the crop circles as a ploy to make people believe that aliens are about to invade the Earth.
Idaho, the US state with a made-up name
Possibly the only state named due to a hoax, lobbyist George Willing suggested the name “Idaho” for the new territory claiming it meant “Gem of the Mountains” in a Native American language. It was eventually discovered that he had made the term up…but the name stuck.
The Amityville Horror
In 1974, a family in Amityville, New York, was murdered by the youngest son, Butch Defeo. After a year, George and Kathy Lutz, together with their three children, moved in and soon reported that they experienced demonic attacks. They later collaborated with Jay Anson, a novelist, who peppered their story with embellishments. The novel was subsequently made into a movie. Several years later, DeFeo’s lawyer confessed that he and the Lutzes fabricated the entire story.