Cover image for The museum of hoaxes : a collection of pranks, stunts, deceptions, and other wonderful stories contrived for the public from the Middle Ages to the new millennium
Title:
The museum of hoaxes : a collection of pranks, stunts, deceptions, and other wonderful stories contrived for the public from the Middle Ages to the new millennium
Author:
Boese, Alex.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xi, 266 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780525946786
Format :
Book

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HV6751 .B64 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

Based on the author's popular website, Alex Boese's The Museum of Hoaxestakes readers on a tour of hundreds of documented hoaxes, many published here for the first time. You'll read about the curiosities and cons of the most notorious hornswogglers and flimflam men of the nineteenth century; you'll be astounded at the impostors, pretenders, carnies, and tricksters of the twentieth. Learn how Edgar Allan Poe got away with an astonishing literary deception. Or how P. T. Barnum turned hoaxing the public into big business. It's all here, from the origin of April Fools' Day to the Taco Liberty Bell, from Bigfoot to the War of the Worlds to recent Internet hoaxes. There's also a Gullibility Test that challenges readers to answer the question: "Would these hoaxes have fooled YOU?" Written with both humor and historical insight, and complete with photographs and illustrations, The Museum of Hoaxeswill be the gift book of choice for anyone who has ever been duped, deceived, tricked, or trumped . . . or just likes watching the pros in action.


Author Notes

Alex Boeseis a graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, where he is completing his doctoral dissertation.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Times may change, and conventional wisdom may evolve and mature, but one thing people never seem to grow out of is the desire to put one over on unsuspecting victims. Boese's Museum of Hoaxes is an amusing catalog of tricks, pranks, publicity stunts, and outright scams that people have played on each other over the years. From fossils that contradicted accepted science, to the woman who gave birth to rabbits (guess how that trick worked), to newspaper reports of life on the moon, Boese describes each trick's appearance, how the perpetrators did it, and its effect on the general public. The book is organized by time period; each chapter begins with an introduction that puts the hoaxes into context, explaining what was believed possible at the time--a helpful inclusion, since many will seem like obvious frauds to modern readers. Whether it is picked for cover-to-cover reading or occasional browsing, readers are sure to find many laughs. --Gavin Quinn


Publisher's Weekly Review

Boese, the "curator" of www.museumofhoaxes.com, here collects some of the more fascinating hoaxes from medieval times to the dot-com era. After an initial "gullibility test," designed to show how hard it can be to detect actual hoaxes, Boese organizes his entries chronologically, arguing that hoaxing styles and subjects reflect an era's overall mood. Thus, in pre-modern times, the "concept of truth" was treated "allegorically and spiritually," so hoaxes (such as Sir John Mandeville's fantastical beasts) were not as scientifically involved as our modern frauds (Rorvik's 1978 cloning of a man or the 1999 Piltdown Chicken). Happily, Boese minimizes his theorizing, letting readers just have fun browsing through a few centuries of human trickery. While most of these hoaxes are entertaining (England's Mary Toft, who in 1726 "began to give birth to rabbits" or the South Seas fatu-liva bird that laid square eggs "which remarkably resembled dice"), a handful are disturbing (the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, involving an unsubstantiated act of racial hatred) or even deadly (e.g., the case of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which was used to justify anti-Semitism). While short accounts of a variety of hoaxes won't satisfy aficionados, the general public may find it useful to know how some familiar hoaxes e.g., the Loch Ness monster were unmasked, and Boese's "suggested reading" list will help intrigued readers dig deeper. Photos and illus. (On sale Nov. 11) Forecast: The enticing jacket, readable layout with lots of curious photos, reasonable cover price and entertaining topic should make for good sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Table of Contents

The Gullibility Test (Questions)p. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Before 1700: Female Popes and Vegetable Lambsp. 7
Chapter 2 The Eighteenth Century: Rabbit Babies and Lying Stonesp. 29
Chapter 3 1800-1868 Lunar Bison and Solar Armorp. 51
Chapter 4 1869-1913 Stone Giants and Antlered Rabbitsp. 77
Chapter 5 1914-1949 New Jersey Martians and Van Gogh's Earp. 104
Chapter 6 1950-1976 Naked Animals and Swiss Spaghetti Treesp. 133
Chapter 7 1977-1989 Australian Icebergs and Cockroach Pillsp. 157
Chapter 8 1990-1999 Crop Circles and Cross-Dressing Kenp. 182
Chapter 9 After 2000 Bonsai Kittens and Monster Catsp. 207
Afterwordp. 235
The Gullibility Test (Answers)p. 239
Endnotep. 245
Suggestions for Further Readingp. 247
Hoaxes by Categoryp. 257
Index of Story Titlesp. 263
Acknowledgmentsp. 267
About the Authorp. 269