Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. Generally there is some material object involved, which is actually a forgery. Unlike a fraud or con (which usually has an audience of one or a few), which are made for illicit financial or material gain, or a pious fraud , which is perpetrated to support the revelations of a religion , a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke with a humorous intent, to cause embarrassment, for personal aggrandizement or to serve political purposes. Still, many confidence tricks and the like have also been labeled as hoaxes.
Many hoaxes are also motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public or the absurdity of the target: literary and artistic hoaxes are often of this sort, although political hoaxes are sometimes motivated in part or whole by the desire to ridicule or expose politicians or political institutions .
The status of a given factoid as reliable or hoax is often the subject of considerable controversy.
The word hoax came from the common pretend magic spell "hocus pocus". "Hocus pocus", in turn, is commonly believed to be a distortion of "hoc est corpus" (= "this is the body") from the Latin Mass. Many etymologists dispute the certainty of this claim.
Historically Important Hoaxes
- Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast on October 31, 1938, entitled "The War of the Worlds" has been called the "single greatest media hoax of all time," though it was not intentionally so, and thus does not rank among genuine hoaxes. The broadcast was heard on CBS radio stations throughout the United States. Despite repeated announcements within the program that it was a work of fiction, many listeners believed that the world was being attacked by invaders from the planet Mars.
- Bathtub hoax, perpetrated by American journalist and satirist Mencken in the 1920s, was credited even after it was exposed by the author.
- Alek Komarnitsky 's Christmas Lights Webcam hoax - the christmas webcamWSJ storyAlek's explanation of the hoax
- Bill Stump's stone
- Drake's Plate of Brass accepted for forty years as the actual plate Francis Drake posted upon visiting California in 1579
- Johann Beringer's lying stones
- The Cardiff Giant, of which P. T. Barnum made up a replica when he could not obtain the genuine hoax
- The Cottingley Fairies
- Some Crop circles
- The Donation of Constantine
- Emulex hoax
- Feejee Mermaid
- Furry trout
- George Adamski's claims to have gone into space in UFOs. His book was based on his earlier book of fiction.
- Histoire de l'Inquisition en France, the 1829 book by Etienne Leon de Lamonthe-Langan
- The Hitler Diaries
- The Horn Papers
- The Hundredth Monkey
- Clifford Irving's biography of Howard Hughes
- The Killian memos (see Rathergate)
- Lobsang Rampa
- Palisade, Nevada
- Paul Is Dead, in reference to Paul McCartney
- Pickled dragon
- "Piltdown Man"
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
- A Racial Program for the Twentieth Century
- George Psalmanazar and his "Formosa"
- The Report From Iron Mountain
- Mary Toft, rabbit mother
- the Turk, a chess-playing automaton
- The Priory of Sion
- Steve Brodie , who did not jump from the Brooklyn Bridge
- George Dupre, who claimed to have worked for SOE
- Milli Vanilli, duo that did not sing its own songs
- Rosie Ruiz, who cheated in Boston Marathon
- Benjamin Vanderford's video of his own beheading in Iraq, which circulated on the Internet for months before being reported in the news as fact and subsequently exposed.
- Well to hell hoax
- Richard Bachman
- The Amityville Horror, ghostly events reported by the buyers of a house where another family had been murdered, but later found to be false.
- Thatchergate Tapes. A punk band fools the governments of the U.S. and the U.K. with this fake conversation.
- The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed, book supposedly by AI program Racter
- Kensington Runestone
- Loch Ness Monster: the famous photograph, admitted decades later as a prank
- Roswell alien autopsy film
- Zinoviev Letter
- Time-travelling claims of John Titor
- Zeno map; Shows lands known not to exist, such as Estotiland, Drogeo , Frisland, Podalida , Estland , and Neome .
- The Book Communion by Whitley Strieber; classed as non-fiction, but controversial because of the claims of alien abduction in the book.
- The Patterson-Gimlin film of Bigfoot
- The Vinland map
- Tasaday tribe in the Philippines. Much debated. Note: the term "hoax" in relation to the Tasaday is a very overloaded and overused term, which would be better enunciated as multiple questions: Are the Tasaday a genuine people? Yes. Were some early reports of the Tasaday overstated? Yes. etc.
- Philippines historical figure Kanatiaw
- the Shroud of Turin was "cunningly painted" by a monk in the 14th century, according to the local bishop.
- The Voynich Manuscript
- The Book of Veles
- Mel's Hole
Practical Joke Hoaxes
- The Balloon-Hoax
- The Dreadnought Hoax
- Forgotten Silver
- I, Libertine, originally nonexistent book
- Naked Came the Stranger
- Sawing off of Manhattan Island
- Dihydrogen Monoxide Hoax: a call to outlaw the 'dangerous' chemical H2O
- Horace de Vere Cole, British aristocrat
- Benjamin Franklin
- Brian G. Hughes, US banker
- Reginald Jones , British professor
- Harry Reichenbach, Hollywood publicist
- Joey Skaggs, US media prankster
- Edward Askew Sothern, British actor
- Hugh Troy, US painter
- Andy Kaufman, US comedian and inter-gender wrestling champion
- Alan Abel, US professional hoaxer
- Dick Tuck, US political prankster
Hoaxes of Exposure
"Hoaxes of exposure" can be thought of as semi-comical, private sting operations. Their usual purpose is to expose people acting foolishly or credulously, to encourage them to fall for something that the hoaxer hopes to reveal as patent nonsense. See also culture jamming.
- The Atlanta Nights hoax
- The Sokal Affair
- The Spectra hoax
- The Taxil hoax
- Media pranks of Joey Skaggs
- The avant-garde "music" of "Piotr Zak"
- The Arm the Homeless Coalition
- The British television series Brass Eye encouraged celebrities to pledge their support to nonexistent causes, to highlight their willingness to do anything for publicity. For instance, Phil Collins was invited to campaign against paedophilia using the slogan "I'm talking Nonce Sense", and an MP was enticed to ask questions in Parliament about a non-existent drug called Cake.
- Benjamin Vanderford, created a video depicting his own beheading in Iraq and distributed it over the Internet. He claimed that one reason he created it was to show how easily such videos could be faked and yet taken by the news media as fact, pointing out that he gave information such as his address in the video that would make its inauthenticity easily verifiable.
Journalist may be over-eager to "get a story", both to increase his own prestige or write something that would increase the sales of the publication. Also see Journalistic fraud.
- Harry J. Anslinger's magazine pieces on the dangers of marijuana
- Reefer Madness a propaganda film for the "public good" is a secular counterpart of pious fraud
- Nik Cohn's New York Magazine article, "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night", which was the source material for the movie Saturday Night Fever.
- Janet Cooke, who wrote about an eight-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy
- Stephen Glass
- Killian memos
- Joseph Mulholland
- Operation Tailwind, CNN's report
- William Randolph Hearst, inventor of tabloid journalism
- The Great Moon Hoax of 1835
- The New York Zoo hoax of 1874
- Terry Milewski vs the Forces of Darkness. Over dramatic coverage of the APEC inquiry.
- George P. Burdell, eternal student
- Allegra Coleman, nonexistent supermodel
- Sidd Finch, nonexistent baseball prodigy
- Lester Green, inventive farmer
- Ern Malley, Australian poet
- Claude Émile Jean-Baptiste Litre
- Simonya Popova , nonexistent tennis player
- Henry Root and Henry Raddick (possibly the same person)
- Udo of Aachen, fictional monk
- Nat Tate, fake 1950's American artist
During certain events and at particular times of year, hoaxes are perpetrated by many people and groups. The most famous of these is certainly April Fool's Day, the annual 'open season' for fictional accounts and dubious announcements.
- famous April Fool's Day jokes
- Internet humor
- Anomalous Phenomenon
- Conspiracy Theory
- Urban Legends
- Museum of Hoaxes
- idiosyntactix's culture jamming page
- List of miscellaneous Hoaxes & Pranks
- TREND Micro(tm) Hoaxes
- Virus Hoax Busters
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