Pranking others is not, by any means, a new practice. As long as the modern man has been on this earth, there have been people playing pranks on each other (probably, anyway). Here are 20 of the most famous historical hoaxes that have been pulled throughout history. Some are pretty obvious (now) that they were fake. Others? Well, we wouldn’t be surprised if people were still fooled to this day.
1.) 9/11 Tourist Guy: An image of a tourist standing on an observation deck on one of the twin towers in NYC went viral after 9/11. It showed a plane in the background, about to hit one of the towers. It never happened because a 767 crashed into the building, not a 757 (which is what’s shown). Plus, there is no motion blur on the moving plane. Not only that, but the observation deck doesn’t open until 9:30am and a plane hit one of the buildings at 9:03am.
This is the original image of the plane that was photoshopped into the tourist’s picture.
2.) Manbeef: In 2001, a website claimed to be selling human meat for “sophisticated human meat consumer.” It caused enough of a stir that the Food & Drug Administration investigated. However, it was found that no evidence of human meat was every being sold.
3.) The Cottingley Fairies: In the 1920s, photos were seen of two girls, France Griffith and Elise Wright, posing with what appeared to be fairies. They were convincing for the time. It wasn’t until James Randi compared the fairies to illustrations in a book called Princess Mary’s Gift Book that people began to question the legitimacy of the photos.
4.) The Loch Ness Monster: In the 1930s, people claimed to see a large animal in the lake after a road was built along the northern shore. Big game hunters and amateurs alike searched for the Loch Ness monster. Colonel Robert Wilson brought in the famous photograph of the monster breaching the water in the lake, but in 1994 it was revealed to be fake. A man named Christian Spurling admitted of being a part of the hoax.
5.) Balloon Boy: On October 15th, 2009, 6 year-old Falcon Heene was allegedly launched in a giant silver weather balloon and floated for miles. The balloon floated for 12 miles before it landed… without anyone in it, because Falcon had been hiding in his room the entire time, fooling the media.
6.) Bonsai Kitten: The infamous Bonsai Cat website was launched in 2000. This website was dedicated to shaping kittens in plastic containers, due to their “soft bones.” The site caused so much controversy that it caught the attention of the FBI. No evidence of animal cruelty was ever found.
7.) Hitler’s Silly Dance: On June 21, 1940, Hitler had accepted the surrender of France. In the footage seen here, Hitler takes a step back. However, the reel was modified by John Grierson to make Hitler appear as if he was dancing.
8.) The Rolling Stones of Pahranagat, Nevada: On the 26th of October 1867, Dan De Quille published an article on the Territorial Enterprise. He claimed that in the desert of Pahranagat, Nevada, there were perfectly round stones with mysterious properties. If you took them apart, they’d mysteriously roll back together. He later grew tired of his own hoax and the attention he got from it and attempted to debunk it himself.
9.) The Patagonian Giant: In 1766, a ship named the Dolphin circumnavigated the globe. The crew spread the rumors that they encountered 9ft giants of the Patagonian Tribe. The story began to go in print on May 9, 1766. John Byron debunked the rumor, saying he did encounter said tribe but the tallest member was only about 6’6”.
10.) King Tut’s Curse: In November 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen. 2 months later, the sponsor of the expedition died of a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media ran with the news, saying there was a curse causing people associated with the tomb’s opening to die. However, only 6 out of 22 people on the expedition died, making the curse an invention of the media.
11.) The Wingding’s Prophecy: In 1992, Microsoft released Windows 3.1. If you wrote “NYC” in the Wingdings font, you’d see what appeared to be an anti-Semitic messages. After 9/11, the controversy was reintroduced because if you were type “Q33NY” (rumored to be the flight number of one of the planes) in Wingdings it would display the message below. However, the flight numbers were actually 11 and 175.
12.) The Hitler Diaries: On 04/22/1983, a German magazine named Stern claimed that Hitler’s diaries were recovered from a plane crash. The article said that the plane was from Operation Seraglio, which was a project that was transporting important documents to Southern Germany. Less than two weeks after the publishing of the article, forensics discovered that the diaries were forged.
13.) The Central Park Zoo Escape: November 9th, 1874, The Herald published an article stating that all the animals in Central Park Zoo had escaped into the streets. Police were dispatched and people armed themselves. No charges were ever brought against the paper that sparked this chaos.
14.) Arm the Homeless: In the December of 1993, there was a press release in the Columbus, Ohio, announcing the charity of providing training and weapons for the homeless. The charity was called “Arm the Homeless Coalition.” It caused controversy in the media immediately. It turns out the “press release” belonged to Paul Badger, an Ohio State University graduate student.
15.) I Buy Strays: In the December of 2007, a websited called I Buy Strays was launched. They claimed to buy and sell animals to companies who used animals for experiments. The website posted Craigslist ads to garner attention. It was quickly debunked as a hoax.
16.) The Left Handed Whopper: In a 1998 issue of USA Today, Burger King released a full page advertisement to announce a new kind of Whopper targeted toward left-handed consumers. The described the burger had it’s condiments rotated 180 degrees to redistribute the weight of the sandwich. … unfortunately this was just an April Fool’s joke that was taken too seriously.
17.) The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest: On April Fool’s day of 1957, a British News show called Panorama aired a segment about a successful harvest of spaghetti in southern Switzerland. They later released a broadcast announcing the spaghetti harvest piece was a joke.
18.) The Cardiff Giant: In 1869, a gigantic 10 foot man had been allegedly uncovered by workers that were digging a well. The giant was actually an invention of George Hull, after he had an argument with a Reverend who demanded the bible be taken literally. He referred to the Bible quote Genesis 6:4, which says “there were giants in the earth in those days.” George was an atheist, so he created the hoax to poke fun at believers.
19.) Theodore Roosevelt rides a moose: Theodore Roosevelt, although a tough man, never rode a moose like in the picture seen here. The image was created as an advertisement for an upcoming election to represent Teddy for being apart of the “Bull Moose Party,” since he had left the Republican party in 1912.
20.) Snowball the monster cat: This picture of Snowball was uploaded by an unknown prankster, with a caption claiming that the cat was owned by Rodger Degagne of Ottawa, Canada. It also said that Snowball was 87lbs and his mother was found near a nuclear lab. Unfortunately, Snowball (known as “Jumper” in real life) is not that large and this was just some clever Photoshopping.
It’s a little disheartening that there isn’t a giant, 87lb domesticated cat out there somewhere. I don’t know about you, but I was fooled by a majority of these hoaxes (at least for a little bit). Help debunk these hoaxes by sharing the truth with others.