by Stephanie Pappas via Live Science
Continue Reading: Mars Hoaxes: Why We Believe
The world-wide appetite for paranormal stories is a magnet for hoaxes. Some hoaxes are simply light-hearted fun but others have more serious consequences such as contaminating genuine research, wasting public money and destroying careers. Love them or hate them, here is our pick of the top ten paranormal hoaxes of all time […] …
# 10 • King Tut’s Curse
When Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered early in the 20th Century, a curse was found inscribed over the entrance: “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king”. Before long, stories were being told about unnatural deaths of workers on the site. “King Tut’s Curse” eventually found its way into popular culture and set the stage for a whole sub-genre of horror stories and movies.
In 1980 the security officer for the original excavation site admitted that stories had been circulated to scare away thieves. Historical records show that most excavation workers went on to lead long and healthy lives.
# 9 • The Cottingley Fairies
In 1917 and 1920, young English cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith produced a series of photographs depicting themselves interacting with fairies. In modern times it is hard to imagine how anyone could be fooled by these obvious fakes, but in the early 20th Century they were convincing enough to attract a huge following and dupe such notables as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
It was not until 1981 that Wright and Griffith admitted the hoax, although they continued to claim that they had indeed seen fairies and that one of the photos was genuine.
More info: The Cottingley Fairies
# 8 • The Cardiff Giant
In 1869, workers digging a well in Cardiff, New York, uncovered what appeared to be the petrified remains of a giant 3-metre (10-foot) man. Archaeologists declared the body to be fake but the public reaction was more accepting, especially among those who considered it evidence in support of biblical history. The body became a business asset as crowds paid for a glimpse. Showman P.T. Barnum tried to acquire the body but eventually made his own replica, causing additional controversy over which was the genuine giant.
In December 1869, tobacconist George Hull confessed to the hoax. The body was sculpted from concrete and buried a year prior to the well-digging.
# 7 • Uri Geller’s Spoon-Bending
During the 1970s Uri Geller enjoyed huge success with his mentalism acts, based largely on his alleged ability to bend spoons with his mind. Geller staunchly defended his claim to supernatural powers until hard evidence finally caught up with him. A 1982 book by James Randi exposed Geller’s tricks, and Geller was caught numerous times on camera manipulating stage props (e.g. pre-bending spoons). He has since earned a reputation for frivolous litigation after a series of failed lawsuits—mostly against people who publish unflattering material about him.
Despite never officially “outing” himself, Geller has tacitly confessed to the hoax. In 2007 he expressed the following change of heart: “I’ll no longer say that I have supernatural powers. I am an entertainer….My entire character has changed.”
More info: Uri Geller
#6 • The Amityville Horror
In 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr shot and killed six members of his family in Amityville, New York. A year later the Lutz family moved in, only to move out 28 days later claiming they had been terrorized by ghostly presences. Their story became a best-selling book by Jay Anson and the basis of a series of films. The franchise has been highly successful, banking on the claim of being a true, verifiable story.
On closer investigation, however, it seems that not much if any of the story can be verified. Police and other records contradict the book’s account and many holes have been found in the story. In 1979, lawyer William Weber claimed: “I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.”
Yesterday I came across the world’s dumbest conspiracy theory.
I know I’ve said this before. I said this about the claim that President Obama was selling us out to the Canadians. I said this about the claim that CERN was designed to reawaken the Egyptian god Osiris. I said this about the claim that Siri was programmed to open the Gates of Hell this coming July.
Each time, I thought we’d reached some kind of Conspiracy Theory Nirvana, that there was no way anyone could come up with something more completely ridiculous.
I was wrong.
Yesterday, I ran across a conspiracy theory that is so perfect in its absurdity that it almost reads like some kind of bizarre work of art. You ready?
Dinosaurs never existed. The whole thing is an elaborate hoax designed to give us the impression that organisms have evolved. All the fossils ever “found” were either manufactured from plaster (“Is it possible,” the author writes, “that dinosaur skeleton replica are secretly assembled or manufactured in private buildings out of public view, with bones artificially constructed or used from a number of different modern-day animals? Why bother having any authentic original fossils at all if alleged replicas can please the public?”) or are assembled from the bones of contemporary animals.
Along the way, we learn that (1) radiometric dating is a method fabricated to give the dinosaur claim credibility, (2) fossilization is impossible, (3) the biblical creation story is true and the Earth is about 6,000 years old, and (4) paleontologists are big fat liars. All of the evidence, in the form of fossil beds such as the ones at Dinosaur National Monument and the extensive fossil-rich strata in North and South Dakota, were planted there. “Finds of huge quantities of fossils in one area, or by one or few people, goes against the laws of natural probability,” we are told, despite the fact that once something occurs, the probability of its having occurred is 100%.
But so far, there’s nothing much to set this apart from your usual run of creationist nonsense. The pièce de resistance, though, is who they think is behind all of this falsehood, duplicity, and deception. Who is it that has invented all of these fake “theories” about radioactive decay, geostratigraphy, and evolutionary descent? Who planted all of these artificial fossils all around the world?
It’s been a hot time for hoaxing thanks to the Internet. With Photoshop, citizen journalism sites, YouTube, and postboards for the latest photo leaks, it is way too easy to send a lie half way around the world before the truth can pull its shoes on.
In this post, I wrote about a busy week in paranormal-themed news. In chatting with a correspondent — Jeb Card, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department of Miami University — over a shared interest in the state of the paranormal today or “occulture,” we got to talking about the state of hoaxing.
Make no mistake, hoaxing has always been around. Hoaxers have been trying to fool people by displaying their special skills (scams) or stupendous stories since the beginning of civilization, I think. But there is a particular history of hoaxing in occulture. Lately, it has gotten more frequent (or we sure notice it more), more absurd (to outdo the last one) and more involved (because the payout can be big while the scrutiny greater).
There are many famous hoaxes from this scene. It’s hard to say if it’s more common now than in the past. Some of the hoaxes, notes Jeb, have been very influential in the creation of popular folklore. Big ones have defined UFOlogy: Roswell and the Men in Black. Not everyone would conclude these are deliberate hoaxes — there is a grain of truth to them — but they went way out of control and now there are hoaxed videos, documents and tales based on these events that never happened the way the lore says it did. Stories like that, which have taken on a life of their own as if they were true, are called “fakelore.”
The Bigfoot field is trampled over with fake footprints, stories, casts, photos and videos. It can’t be denied that the majority of Bigfoot stories are unbelievable, without supporting evidence, or obvious hoaxes. Every new bit of Bigfoot “evidence” these days makes us roll our eyes and say “SERIOUSLY!?” This reputation is damaging to those who truly believe something is out there to be found. The credibility of Bigfoot researchers scrapes the bottom of the barrel. The history of hoaxes colors this topic deeply when we realize that the seminal story of “Bigfoot,” Ray Wallace’s trackway, was revealed to be a hoax.
A longtime follower of the occulture fields, Jeb says he can’t think of a time when these communities weren’t awash with . . .
- Inside Source Claims “Shooting Bigfoot” Documentary Climax is Just a Big Hoax (illuminutti.com)
- Foiled Again: Lake Monster, Bigfoot Body and Alien Humanoid All in One Week (illuminutti.com)
- Where’s the Beef? Thoughts on the Lack of Paranormal Evidence (illuminutti.com)
- List of UFO-related hoaxes (Wikipedia)
- Join Us for Sharon Hill’s Workshop: “I Doubt That: The Media Guide to Skepticism” (randi.org)
- Yet Another Sylvia Browne Fiasco (randi.org)
- The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore. (zedie.wordpress.com)
- Score: Aliens-1 Bigfoot-0 (yankeeskeptic.com)
- The Loch Ness Monster Search & Bigfoot Mystery (disclose.tv)
- Rumors, hoaxes and myths of the week, then I tell you how to sort through it (idoubtit.wordpress.com)
- Friends spreading Internet hoaxes? How to make them stop (today.com)