Proven Hoaxes

These are some claims that have been revealed to be deliberate public hoaxes. This list does not include hoax articles published on or around April 1.

  • George Adamski‘s claims to have gone into space in UFOs. His book was based on his earlier book of fiction.
  • Alien autopsy hoax film by Ray Santilli
  • Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, a fake Syrian blogger, identifying herself as a lesbian on her weblog A Gay Girl In Damascus and blogging in support of increased civil and political freedom for Syrians.
  • The Archko Volume, a collection of documents containing what purports to be a series of reports from Jewish and pagan sources contemporary with Christ that relate to the life and death of Jesus.
  • The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a book about purported sexual enslavement of a nun
  • The balloon boy hoax – a boy reported to be traveling uncontrollably at high altitudes in a home-made helium balloon was later discovered to be hiding in the attic of his house
  • Bananadine, a fictional drug made from bananas
  • Bathtub hoax, an imaginary history of the bathtub published by H.L. Mencken
  • Berners Street Hoax was perpetrated by Theodore Hook in the City of Westminster, London, in 1810. Hook had made a bet with his friend, Samuel Beazley, that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address in a week, which he achieved by sending out thousands of letters in the name of Mrs Tottenham, who lived at 54 Berners Street, requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance.
  • Johann Beringer‘s “lying stones” are pieces of limestone carved into the shape of various animals, discovered in 1725 by Professor Johann Bartholomeus Adam Beringer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Würzburg. Beringer believed them to be fossils, and because some of them also bore the name of God in Hebrew, suggested that they might be of divine origin.
  • Franz Bibfeldt, a fictitious theologian originally invented to provide a footnote for a divinity school student, which later became an in-joke among academic theologians.
  • The Big Donor Show, a hoax reality television program in the Netherlands about a woman donating her kidneys to one of three people requiring a transplantation
  • Biggest Drawing in the World, Erik Nordenankar’s “drawing” of a self-portrait over the entire world using a GPS receiver
  • Jayson Blair‘s plagiarized and fabricated articles for the New York Times
  • C.W. Blubberhouse, whose letters in UK national newspapers were exposed as a hoax by the Sunday Times
  • Steve Brodie, who claimed to have jumped off Brooklyn Bridge
  • Bruno Banani, Tongan luger who, as a marketing ploy, was renamed after a lingerie firm, while insisting it was his real name
  • Calaveras Skull – was a human skull found by miners in Calaveras County, California, which was purported to prove that humans, mastodons, and elephants had coexisted in California.
  • The Cardiff Giant, of which P. T. Barnum made up a replica when he could not obtain the “genuine” hoax
    The Cardiff Giant on display at the Bastable in Syracuse, NY circa 1869.
    The Cardiff Giant on display at the Bastable in Syracuse, NY circa 1869.
  • Andrew Carlssin, a nonexistent “time travelling” stock broker arrested for SEC violations.
  • Thomas Chatterton‘s “medieval” poetry
  • The Shakespearean discoveries of John Payne Collier
  • The Cottingley Fairies
    The first of the five photographs, taken by Elsie Wright in 1917, shows Frances Griffiths with the alleged fairies.
    The first of the five photographs, taken by Elsie Wright in 1917, shows Frances Griffiths with the alleged fairies.
  • Crop circles. English pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed they started the phenomenon, and hundreds of “copycat” circles have been fabricated since by other hoaxers.


  • Donald Crowhurst who entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in an attempt to become the first person to single-handedly sail around the world non-stop. Instead he abandoned the race early on but continued to report false positions in an attempt to make it appear as if he was still competing.
  • Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot, a book containing World War I Aerial combat photos that were actually models superimposed on aerial backgrounds.
  • Disappearing blonde gene refers to false reports that a scientific study had estimated that natural blonds would become extinct, which were reported as fact in reputable media such as the BBC and the Sunday Times between 2002 and 2006.
  • Document 12-571-3570 supposedly establishing that sex had taken place during a space mission
  • The Donation of Constantine – a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine I supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope.
  • George Dupre, who claimed to have worked for SOE
  • The Education of Little Tree (a memoir-style autobiography of simple living, tradition, and love of nature) by Asa Earl Carter, later revealed to be fictional.
  • Albert Einstein quotation supporting Astrology
  • Emulex hoax, a stock manipulation scheme
  • The English Mercurie, a literary hoax purporting to be the first English language newspaper.
  • Ern Malley, a fictitious poet
  • Essjay controversy, a false claim of academic credentials, starting on Wikipedia and continued into a New Yorker interview
  • The False Decretals – a set of extensive and influential medieval forgeries, written by a scholar or group of scholars known as Pseudo-Isidore. The authors, who worked under the pseudonym Isidore Mercator, were probably a group of Frankish clerics writing in the second quarter of the ninth century. They aimed to defend the position of bishops against metropolitans and secular authorities by creating false documents purportedly authored by early popes, together with interpolated conciliar documents.
  • Fiji mermaid, the supposed remains of a half fish half human hybrid.
    Fiji mermaid
    Fiji mermaid

  • Sidd Finch, fictional baseball player. Finch was raised in an English orphanage, learned yoga in Tibet, and could throw a fastball as fast as 168 miles per hour (270 km/h).
  • Spiritualist Arthur Ford‘s claim of psychic contact with Harry Houdini.
  • Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood 1939–1948, Binjamin Wilkomirski‘s memoirs, which were supposed to be a faithful account of his childhood in a Nazi death camp
  • Furry trout
    Fur-bearing trout
    Fur-bearing trout

  • Stephen Glass‘s falsified articles for The New Republic
  • Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia claims by Eugenia Smith and Anna Anderson
  • The Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814 about the then-ongoing Napoleonic Wars, affecting the London Stock Exchange.
  • Gundala (film) a super hero movie that was promoted on the web despite the fact that it did not exist
  • The Hand that Signed the Paper, purportedly based on the experiences of “Helen Demidenko”, actually Helen Darville
  • Hanxin, industrious and scientific hoax of a forgery Digital signal processor. The Hanxin 1 was reportedly the first DSP chip to have been wholly developed in China; however, the chip was later revealed to be a duplicate of a chip developed in the West, with the original identifications sanded away.
  • Recordings allegedly made by the pianist Joyce Hatto. Hatto became famous very late in life when unauthorized copies of commercial recordings made by other pianists were released under her name, earning her high praise from critics. The fraud did not come to light until a few months after her death.
  • Jimi Hendrix supposed recording of the Welsh National Anthem – see The Red Dragonhood
  • Joice Heth, African-American slave exhibited by P. T. Barnum as George Washington‘s nurse.
  • The Historia Augusta, a fictionalized collection of Roman imperial biographies, written in the late fourth century under the names of six third- and early fourth-century historians.
  • Histoire de l’Inquisition en France, the 1829 book by Etienne Leon de Lamonthe-Langan
  • The Hitler Diaries
  • The Horn Papers – forged historical records pertaining to the northeastern United States for the period from 1765 to 1795.
  • Idaho’s name. In the early 1860s, when the United States Congress was considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested the name “Idaho,” which he claimed was derived from a Shoshone language term meaning “the sun comes from the mountains” or “gem of the mountains”. Willing later claimed that he had made up the name himself.
  • Il Bambino, a sculpture created by Michelangelo but sold as a classic Greek statue.
  • The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries, a collection of Shakespeare-related documents supposedly discovered by William Henry Ireland and published in 1795 by his father, Samuel Ireland; the discoveries included a “lost” play, Vortigern and Rowena
  • Clifford Irving‘s biography of Howard Hughes
  • The Jackalope, supposedly a form of rabbit with antlers.

  • The Jacko hoax a supposed gorilla or sasquatch caught near Yale, British Columbia in 1884.
  • Jdbgmgr.exe virus hoax. It was actually a valid Microsoft Windows file.
  • Anthony Godby Johnson, a nonexistent author of a hoax autobiography A Rock and A Hard Place.
  • The Lady Hope Story, a claim of Charles Darwin‘s deathbed conversion to evangelical Christianity
  • Lobsang Rampa is the pen name of an author who wrote books with paranormal and occult themes. Following the publication of the book, newspapers reported that Rampa was Cyril Henry Hoskin (8 April 1910 – 25 January 1981), a plumber from Plympton in Devon who claimed that his body hosted the spirit of a Tibetan lama going by the name of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, who is purported to have authored the books.
  • Fred Lorz 1904 Olympic Marathon. In the marathon at the 1904 Olympic Games, Lorz stopped running because of exhaustion after nine miles (14.5 km). His manager gave him a lift in his car for the next eleven miles (17.7 km), after which it broke down; Lorz then continued on foot back to the Olympic stadium, where he broke the finishing line tape and was greeted as the winner of the race.
  • Enric Marco, who presented himself as a victim of the extermination camp of Mauthausen until uncovered in 2005.
  • Maggie Murphy hoax, a hoax that claimed a farmer grew an oversized potato
  • Mars hoax, a yearly hoax, started in 2003, falsely claiming that at a certain date Mars will look as large as the full moon
  • The Masked Marauders, an album issued by a Warner Bros. Records subsidiary that reportedly featured a jam session between Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The perpetrator: Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Michelle Remembers, a memoir of Satanic child abuse
  • The Microsoft hoax, a 1994 hoax claiming that Microsoft had acquired the Roman Catholic Church. The hoax is considered to be the first hoax to reach a mass audience on the Internet.
  • Internet reports that the Military Personnel Records Center was destroying paper records (2004)
  • The Moles’ “We Are The Moles”, a 1967 single promoted with not-so-subtle hints that it might be The Beatles recording under a pseudonym. It was actually recorded by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound – a 1960s UK pop group, members of whom later formed the progressive rock band Gentle Giant.
  • “Monkey Style”, a purported variant of the “Animal Style” cheeseburger on In-N-Out Burger‘s secret menu, promoted as a rumor in a YouTube video in 2013
  • Mon cher Mustapha letter, a letter supposedly written by a Muslim immigrant in France, designed to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment
  • My 61 Memorable Games, a fake version of My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer
  • Ompax spatuloides Castelnau, a fish “discovered” in 1872 in Australia, made of a mullet, an eel and the head of a platypus.
  • The Works of Ossian, “translated” by James MacPherson
  • Our First Time“, an early popularized Internet hoax. Eighteen-year-olds “Mike” and “Diane” made a public announcement declaring they were to lose their virginity.
  • Edward Owens (hoax), perpetrated on the English-language Wikipedia in 2008 by a class at George Mason University. The students created a website and a fictitious entry on English Wikipedia about Edward Owens, purportedly a Virginia oyster fisherman born in 1853 who became a pirate.
  • The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis). This fictitious endangered species of cephalopod was given the Latin name “Octopus paxarbolis” (which roughly means, “Pacific tree octopus” in Dog Latin). It was purported to be able to live both on land and in water, and was said to live in the Olympic National Forest and nearby rivers, spawning in water where its eggs are laid. Its major predator was said to be the Sasquatch.
  • Paul is dead (Paul McCartney death hoax)
  • The perpetual motion engines built by John Ernst Worrell Keely and Charles Redheffer
  • Pickled dragon. In December 2003, David Hart claimed to have found a pickled dragon or, more precisely, what appeared to be the foetus of a winged reptile-type creature preserved in a 30-inch (76 cm) tall jar of formaldehyde in his garage in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire. In reality the dragon was made by the model-makers behind the BBC TV series Walking with Dinosaurs, and the jar was made by a specialist glass blowing studio. The hoax was a publicity stunt to publicise Mitchell’s forthcoming novel, and won him a publishing contract with Waterstones, a major British bookselling chain.
  • Piltdown Man was a paleoanthropological hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England. The Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni (“Dawson’s dawn-man”, after the collector Charles Dawson) was given to the specimen. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the cranium of a fully developed modern human.
  • Platinum Weird, deliberate hoax by David A. Stewart and Kara DioGuardi about a non-existing band from 1974 promoted using false advertising.
  • Pope Joan – the one and only supposed female pope.
  • Princess Caraboo, aka Mary Baker was a noted impostor who went by the name Princess Caraboo. She pretended to be from a far off island kingdom and fooled a British town for some months.
  • The Priory of Sion, a made-up secret society that plays a prominent role in The DaVinci Code
  • Progesterex, a date rape drug.
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book instrumental in the surge of antisemitism during the last hundred years.
  • George Psalmanazar and his “Formosa
  • Psychic surgery is, a pseudoscientific procedure typically involving the pretense of creating an incision using only the bare hands, the removal of pathological matter, and finally the spontaneous healing of the incision.
  • Q33 NY, an Internet hoax based on the 9/11 event. After September 11, 2001, an email was circulated claiming that entering ‘Q33 NY’, which it claims is the flight number of the first plane to hit the Twin Towers, in Wingdings would bring up a character sequence of a plane flying into two towers, followed by the skull and crossbones symbol and the Star of David.
    The "Q33 NY" symbols typed out in Wingdings
    The “Q33 NY” symbols typed out in Wingdings

    This is a hoax: the flight numbers of the two airplanes that hit the towers were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175; the tail numbers were N334AA and N612UA

  • A Racial Program for the Twentieth Century is an antisemitic hoax promoted by Eustace Mullins. It is often cited as “proof” of a Jewish and/or Communist plot against white Americans, in much the same way as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, another forged document, is used as “proof” of a Jewish global domination conspiracy.
  • Tamara Rand prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, which was actually made after the fact (Randi 1982:329).
  • Rejecting Jane chronicles the rejection by publishing houses of the opening chapters of Jane Austen novels submitted to them under a pseudonym by British writer David Lassman.
  • The Report From Iron Mountain, a literary hoax claiming that the government had concluded that peacetime was not in the economy’s best interest.
  • Rosie Ruiz, who cheated in the Boston Marathon. The most damning evidence against Ruiz surfaced when two Harvard students, John Faulkner and Sarah Mahoney, recalled seeing Ruiz burst out of a crowd of spectators on Commonwealth Avenue, half a mile from the finish. Not long after that, freelance photographer Susan Morrow reported meeting her on the subway during the New York Marathon and accompanying her from the subway to the race.
  • Frank Scully‘s 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers, which claimed that aliens from a crashed flying saucer were being held
  • Seriously McDonalds“, a viral photograph apparently showing racist policies introduced by McDonald’s.

  • The Skvader, a form of winged hare supposedly indigenous to Sweden.
  • Songs of Bilitis, supposed ancient Greek poems “discovered” by Pierre Louÿs
  • Space Cadets, a 2005 TV programme by Channel 4, in which contestants were fooled into thinking that they were training at a Russian space academy to become space tourists.
  • Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax
  • Thatchergate Tapes, a fake conversation with which the punk rock band Crass fooled the governments of the USA and UK.
  • Robert Tilton‘s “prayer cloths”
  • John Titor‘s time travelling claims. Allegedly, his posts on several bulletin boards during 2000 and 2001 claim that he is a time traveler from 2036. In these posts, Titor made numerous predictions (a number of them vague, some quite specific) about events in the near future, starting with events in 2004. He described a drastically changed future in which the United States had broken into five smaller regions, the environment and infrastructure had been devastated by a nuclear attack, and most other world powers had been destroyed.
  • Mary Toft, the rabbit mother
  • Toothing, an invented fad about people using Bluetooth phones to arrange sexual encounters
  • Tourist guy, fake photo of a tourist at the top of the World Trade Center building on 9/11 with a plane about to crash in the background.

  • Trodmore Racecourse, a fictitious Cornish race meeting
  • The Turk, a chess-playing automaton that actually contained a person
  • Tuxissa, a computer virus hoax. The virus is based on the Melissa virus, with its aim to install Linux onto the victim’s computer without the owner’s notice. It is spread via e-mail, contained within a message titled “Important Message About Windows Security”. It first spreads the virus to other computers, then it downloads a stripped-down version of Slackware, and uncompresses it onto the hard disk. The Windows Registry is finally deleted, and the boot options changed. There the virus destroys itself when it reboots the computer at the end, with the user facing the Linux login prompt.
  • Benjamin Vanderford’s beheading video
  • Villejuif leaflet, a pamphlet distributed in Europe with claims of various food additives having carcinogenic effects.
  • Southern Television broadcast interruption hoax (1977), hoax message inserted into an IBA broadcast in the United Kingdom on 26 November 1977
  • David Weiss a non existing person that was used by the Jerusalem Post as a source
  • Laurel Rose Willson‘s claims to be a survivor of Satanic ritual abuse (as Lauren Stratford), and of the Holocaust (as Laura Grabowski)
  • Yellowcake forgery, the false documents suggesting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was to purchase uranium from Niger
  • Zzxjoanw, a fictitious word that fooled logologists for 70 years

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