In the modern age, it’s pretty hard to pull the wool over some people’s eyes because everyone just assumes that modern technology was used to make you see what they want you to see. For example, in the past, people just assumed a picture was real because there was no way to change the photo after it was taken, unlike today and the development of programs like Photoshop. It is what it is, unless it’s not. There have been some very grand hoaxes played on people of the world. In some cases, it has even taken decades for the truth to come to light. Here are 35 hoaxes that fooled the world, and after knowing the truth, you might wonder why they were ever believed to begin with.
1. Crop Circles – Each summer in English wheat fields, several elaborate crop circles would mysteriously form. However in 1991, British farmers Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitted to being responsible for at least some of them. They even proved how it was possible for non-aliens to create these designs in wheat using ropes and 2×4 boards. It is impossible for 2 men to be responsible for every crop circle ever created but it does prove that it is possible for man to do, ruling out the probability of them being the work of extraterrestrials.
2. Loch Ness Monster – Robert Wilson, a London Surgeon, took this famous photograph in 1934, during a time that Photoshop was far from being a factor in doctoring photos, so it must be real! However 60 years after it was taken, it was finally debunked as a hoax when Christian Spurling, who helped stage the photo admitted to it on his death-bed in 1994. The grainy monster in the photo was nothing more than a toy submarine with a head and neck shape attached to it, which they then set adrift into the lake. But even with a confession and explanation, Nessie still lives on in the hearts of those that refuse to give up on the possibility of a lake monster!
3. The Balloon Boy – In 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene from Fort Collins, CO released a homemade hot air balloon which they claimed their 6-year-old son, Falcon, was in. The news covered the story and the entire world worried for the safety of the boy as he soared 7,000 feet above ground in the balloon. Even the National Guard and police got involved in the pursuit, trying to recover the balloon and the boy. When it landed outside Denver International Airport, it was discovered that Falcon was not in the balloon and speculation started that he may have fallen out. However, they later found him hiding in the basement of his own home. It was discovered that this hoax was arranged by his parents, when he let it slip in an interview that he was told to hide while the parents claimed disaster in order to get their own TV show. Both parents served jail time and had a fine of $36,000 for restitution. Unfortunately for the couple, they did not get their TV show.
4. Spaghetti Harvesting – An April Fool’s joke published in an edition of the BBC program Panorama, shows someone harvesting spaghetti from where it grows in Ticino, Switzerland in 1957. Of course, spaghetti is a pasta and made with flour. It does not grow on farms.
5. Gay Girl In Damascus – Gay Girl In Damascus is a blog of a lesbian girl who was a sensation in the media for her reports against President Bashar Al-Assad while posting, “An out-Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe, and so on.” However this lesbian female turned out to be Tom MacMaster, who is a 40-year-old student and activist to the Middle East. In June 2011, he apologized for the hoax and discontinued writing the blog because he was worried it would hurt real life opponents to the cause he was supporting.
6. Britney Spears Death – A fake BBC News website, with actual links to the real BBC News, reported the death of Britney Spears in June of 2001. They were claiming the singer had been killed in an automobile accident. However, Britney is alive and well, even 14 years later!
7. The Missing Link! – Also known as the ‘Piltdown Man’, it was reported that they had found the missing link tying modern man to the ape in 1912, when a skull was discovered in a gravel pit near Piltdown, England. However it was discovered to be a hoax in 1953, when they determined it was a human skull that was combined with the jaw of a Sarawak Orangutan and had the teeth of a chimpanzee. No one knows who made the skull but this remains one of the greatest hoaxes due to the fact that it had scientists convinced the missing link was found for 40 years!
8. Operation Mincemeat – Although I would consider this more of a military tactic than a hoax, the German’s may disagree. The British took the body of a pneumonia victim and dressed him up in a Royal Marine uniform and handcuffed him to a briefcase full of invasion plans. The briefcase contained detailed plans to invade Greece and Sardinia, and then they dumped the body off the coast of Sicily where the Italians found him and turned the briefcase over to the Germans who were their allies. However the hoax was discovered in July 1943. The papers stated that the Allies’ planned to invade Greece and Sardinia first. However they really planned to attack Sicily first. Because of this hoax, the Allies attacked Sicily because most of the heavy German equipment had been moved to defend other locations.
9. E-lane – Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter, created a walking lane for those who are guilty of distracted walking due to electronic devices. City officials painted lines with stick figures near city hall calling it an “e-lane” in 2012. They did this to call attention to the problem of people who don’t pay attention to their surroundings because they keep their eyes on their cellphones.
10. Missing Colleagues – Josef Stalin was reported to routinely have enemies air-brushed out of photographs. In this photo a commissar was removed from the original (on the right of Stalin in the photo) because he fell out of favor with Stalin.
11. Disappearing People – Borrowing a page from Josef Stalin’s ideals, Adolf Hitler would also have people removed from photographs. It’s amazing how far communist dictators will go when they feel slighted. They won’t just remove you from their life (and most likely yours as well) but will try to erase you from existing at all.
12. Hurricane Sandy – In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and many people took advantage of this devastating storm by producing unbelievable photos, which turn out to be photos you shouldn’t believe because they were indeed fake. Some of these photos include the storm cloud hovering over the Statue of Liberty, waves crashing around the Statue of Liberty (borrowed from the movie The Day After Tomorrow), as well as a picture of a shark swimming in the flooded streets.
13. OJ Simpson Photo Tampering – On the cover of Time Magazine, was OJ Simpson after his arrest related to the murder of his ex-wife which was made to appear more menacing. Here is a comparison to the same, unaltered photo used on the cover of Newsweek.
14. “Three Out Of Five” Abstract Painting by Naromji – This abstract painting was created by Naromji, only Naromji was actually Jim Moran who said abstract paintings made him want to tear his hair out. This is also why he named his art work “Three Out of Five” which is the product name for a hair restorer at the time. Moran was known as “America’s #1 Prankster” in the 1930s and 40s.
15. War On The Worlds – A radio broadcast panicked America when they tuned into a production by Orson Wells who, unbeknownst to his listeners, was reciting an adaptation of the novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The one-hour broadcast was presented as a series of news bulletins describing an alien invasion that was currently in progress. Unfortunately, most listeners tuned in AFTER the introduction and because there were no commercial breaks it was believed to be real news instead of a work of fiction.
16. Big Foot Sighting – This picture was taken in 1977 by Ivan Marx, showing the legendary Big Foot in the hills of Northern California. Unfortunately this Big Foot turned out to be a fake.
17. Cottingley Fairies – In 1917, two English girls named Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took pictures of themselves with fairies. These 5 photographs became a sensation in England and were even proclaimed as authentic by a famous writer. However in 1983, one of the women admitted to faking the photos, which were cut out of a popular children’s book.
18. Most Impressive Photo! Or Not – This photograph taken by Liu Weiqiang won an award for one of the 10 most impressive news photos of 2005. However the photograph was actually a combination of two separate photos, one with antelope and the other with the train.
19. Herbert Hoover Campaign – In this campaign photograph of Herbert Hoover with his hand on the shoulder of running mate, Charles Curtis, it was found that the two men never posed together. Hoover’s press director later explained that two separate pictures were combined and the hand was painted by an artist.
20.The Petrified Man – In 1869, workers digging a well in New York found a 10′ tall statue of a giant that many believed to be a petrified man. But it turned out to be created by a man named George Hull who was an atheist from New York City who hired a stonemason to carve the giant and bury it on his cousin’s farm outside of Cardiff, NY to be ‘discovered’ the following year. His cousin, William Newell, made money by charging people 25 cents to view the Cardiff Giant. However, when P.T. Barnum made his own petrified giant and declared Newell’s a fake, the scammers finally admitted their hoax in court and both their and P.T. Barnum’s statues were declared a hoax.
21. 18th Century Mermaid – This is a late 18th century hoax of a mermaid that was actually a combination of a monkey and a fish with the help of paper-mâché.
22. Kidnapped Bride – Jennifer Wilbanks was kidnapped the night before her wedding from her home in Duluth, GA in 2005. A massive search was organized to help find the bride to be, however she fabricated the kidnapping to avoid getting married.
23. Dangerous Mission – This Great White Shark was captured leaping out of the waters under the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to attack a helicopter hovering above the San Francisco Bay. But as you can probably guess, two photographs were combined to show one amazing photo. The only place Great White Sharks are known to leap out of the water is near South Africa, nowhere near California’s coast!
24. Not Vice President Material – Shortly after Palin was announced as running mate for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, this photo of Sarah Palin wearing a skimpy, albeit patriotic swimsuit and holding a rifle surfaced. However, it was actually just Palin’s head put on the body of a different gun-toting bikini clad woman.
25. The Haunting of Lady Walpole – Raychem Hall is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole in Norfolk England. Hubert C. Provand and Indre Shira took this photo in 1936, claiming it captured the image of Lady Walpole descending the stairs. However it actually happens to be a smear on the lens of the camera and not a specter of the lady ghost.
26. Crater Caused by Meteorite – Outside of Riga, Latvia in October 2009 a meteorite hit a field, creating this crater in Mazsalaca. However by November, scientists proved this crater was actually a hoax and not caused by a meteorite.
27. Street Shark – This photo of a shark swimming down the flooded streets in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irene in August 2011 (photo in upper corner) was just a combination of two pictures. The shark was actually photographed for the African Geographic in 2005 following a kayak, not swimming down the streets of Puerto Rico.
28. Seconds Before Disaster – This photo started circulating the internet shortly after September 11, 2001. It shows a tourist that captured a photo of one of the hijacked planes before it hit the World Trade Center. However, the man in the photo is Peter Guzli who had this photo taken in 1997 and added the plane himself as a joke.
29. Photo Altering – This picture was featured on the cover of National Geographic, however it had been altered to make a more dramatic photo of the Great Pyramid of Giza and to fit the vertical format. Tom Kennedy who later became the Director Of Photography for the magazine said that they will no longer alter photos they publish.
30. Faked Forgiveness – This photo of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding practicing together appeared on the cover of New York Newsday with a headline claiming the pair will skate together the following day. However the two never practiced together after Kerrigan was attacked by an associate of Tonya Harding’s husband and the photo was actually two photographs combined to appear like they were together.
31. Presidential Primaries Problematic Picture – In 2004 during the presidential primaries, a photo surfaced that showed John Kerry and Jane Fonda together at a stage rally. However Jane Fonda, an anti-war spokesperson who was protesting the Vietnam War and President Nixon at a convention in 1972, and John Kerry, who was a decorated veteran of the same war Fonda was protesting, was photographed preparing to speak at a peace rally in 1971. Obviously the picture showing them together was a composition of two separate events that weren’t even in the same year, just to influence the results of the primaries in 2004.
32. Snowball The Super-Sized Kitty – This is a picture of a cat named Snowball who was reportedly born near a nuclear lab in Canada which caused its enormous size. The photo was a fake. Snowball is an average sized cat, if that’s even his name.
33. Student Diversity in Wisconsin – The University of Wisconsin produced a brochure with this picture on the cover (pictured on the right). However, when you compare with the original on the left, you will notice they added the face of a black student in an otherwise all white crowd of football fans. Supposedly, they wanted to illustrate the diverse enrollment at their school.
34. Hitler’s Diaries – In 1983, Adolf Hitler’s diaries were found and sold to German magazine Der Stern for $6,000,000. The diaries were composed of 60 small books which covered the time between 1932 and 1945. They were found to be a hoax from a forger who was able to mimic Hitler’s handwriting perfectly. They discovered the forgery because it was written on modern paper, using modern ink, and had some historically inaccurate details as well.
35. Facebook Post Gone Too Far – Jeanette Evitts, a graphic design student in Michigan, posted a picture of some funnel clouds that she claimed were taken behind her apartment after a string of tornadoes were reported in the Midwest. The photo was eventually broadcast on the news before she finally admitted that she did not take the photo, nor were the funnel clouds even in Michigan.
Some of these hoaxes were jokes which unintentionally went viral, whereas some were meant to make or break careers. Some had dire consequences that included fines and even jail time. But what they all have in common, is the national and world-wide attention they received, which was beyond anything their creators ever expected to achieve. I wonder what the next great hoax will be! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.