Top 10 PRANKS That Far Too Many People Fell For
Whether it be to make money or for entertainment purposes, an elaborate hoax can cement itself in history if it catches on. In this installment, we are going to explore the history of deception for the best, most elaborate public hoaxes. From a boy in a balloon to a witch in the woods, these deceitful acts won’t soon be forgotten.
The Blaire Witch Project
Had the Blaire Witch Project been released today, there would be little hope of it garnering the attention it did during its original release in 1999. The film’s marketing was brilliant, with a website touting news articles about the area of Burkittsville, Maryland, the Blaire Witch legend, and the three missing film-makers. The lack of any large production crew and the trio’s unknown status made it easy to present the found-footage movie as a real instance of supernatural terror. Shortly after the film’s release, Burkittsville became a tourist spot, with an influx of curious travelers trying to find the truth behind the film, despite many of The Blaire Witch Project’s locations not actually being in the small town. Though the film was polarizing, there’s little denying the marketing was ingenious and ahead of its time.
The War of the Worlds
During a time when technology was still budding, it was fairly easy to get people to believe anything; which is partially why Orson Welles radio drama, The War of the Worlds, put portions of the United States in a tailspin of terror and panic. Immediately after the initial broadcast of the extraterrestrial invasion, the cast of the seemingly harmless drama started to hear word of panic in pockets across the country. Suicides, stampedes, people fleeing their homes, townspeople forming mobs in the streets – though it sounds like a clever marketing scheme, the reports of these instances that trickled in were quite real. Yet it was believed that the extent of the panic was slightly exaggerated by the media. It may not have been intended to be a hoax, but to many, it certainly became one.
37 Die From Marijuana Overdose
In 2014, Colorado, along with Washington state, became the first states in the U.S. to completely legalize recreational marijuana. As many people thought this was going to create mass chaos and hysteria, it gave satire writers an opportunity to cash in on. An article from the Daily Currant, a satire site that rivals the Onion, wrote an article claiming that the first day Colorado legalized marijuana, some 37 peple died from an overdose. Despite not ever having a single case of a marijuana overdose in human history, that didn’t stop Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop from testifying against marijuana legalization before the Maryland legislature, citing the Daily Currant as his reputable source.
The Alien Autopsy
Following the crash of a UFO in 1947 in the area of Roswell, New Mexico, the world has been extraterrestrial crazy. In 1995, Ray Santilli, a British music and film producer, jumped on the ET bandwagon by claiming he had footage of the autopsy of one of the Roswell aliens. According to Santilli, a retired military cameraman gave him the footage for a small sum of $100,000. The black-and-white film carried many inaccuracies, including improper handling of the surgical tools and the apparent rubber look to the body. In 2006, Santilli eventually confessed that the famed footage had been filmed in a London apartment and the alien body provided by sculptor John Humpreys. Despite his confession, Santilli still claims there is a video out there, though the footage was too poor for public viewing.
Cambodian Midget Fighting League Mutilation
There is a lot to this story that just oozes falsities, but that didn’t stop the internet – and the New York Post – from gripping on and taking the roller coaster to hoax-ville. In April of 2005, it was reported that a Cambodian fighting league composed entirely of Little People were squared off against a fully grown lion. The 42 fighters, at the behest of the Cambodian Midget Fighting League president, were thrown in the ring with the beast after a CMFL fan claimed a lion could tear the fighters apart. Even the Cambodian Government was reported to be behind the fight, accepting 50% of the commission to allow the fight to take place. Of course, anyone wise enough to do some digging would find that the CMFL does not exist and the story was posted on a fake website in response to a simple “Lion vs. Little Person” debate among friends.
The Tasaday Tribe
The Tasaday Tribe was discovered in 1971 by Manuel Elizalde, Jr. after a hunter of a different tribe stumbled upon them. The Tasaday were thought to be a stone-age tribe that survived without the interference of modern man for an unbelievable amount of time. The truth behind the Tasaday came to light when Swiss Journalist, Oswald Iten sought out the infamous tribe. What he found was no stone-aged people living in cave dwellings, but rather huts of people dressed in normal clothing and living a life far from primitive. When questioned, members of the tribe stated Elizalde put them up to the hoax, providing money and the promise of security in exchange for their cooperation. Despite the confession, it is even believed that enemies of Elizalde bribed those members to lie about Elizalde’s involvement in the hoax. Truth be told, it’s difficult to weed out the truth behind the Tasaday, and though they are a real tribespeople, their existence certainly does not span thousands of years.
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but apparently at one point, it was believed that spaghetti most certainly did. Thanks to the British news show, Panorama, and respected anchor Richard Dimbleby, there was a time when every family wanted their very own spaghetti tree to harvest pasta from. The broadcast chronicled The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, where a family was filmed pulling spaghetti from one of their successful spaghetti trees. Surprisingly, the broadcast wasn’t even revealed on a random day of the year, either; it fell on the very telling date of April 1st. Still, households ate the Spaghetti Harvest up as a real ordeal and were likely more than a little disappointed when they eventually came to realize no such thing existed.
The thought of an album with the combined talents of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney just sounds too good to be true – but many still fell for Rolling Stone’s review of the nonexistent 1969 album. The story was that the four musicians recorded an album under the alias of the Masked Marauders to avoid infringement with their contractual agreements, though the truth was really that Rolling Stone editor, Greil Marcus, sought to parody the trend of “supergroups” that was overtaking the music industry. Despite the satirical tone, inquiries flowed in from all over, including the artists’ managers. To elaborate on the hoax even further, the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band from Berkley, California was brought in to record three songs mentioned in the review. After purchasing the production rights to the album, Warner Bros continued with the hoax, going so far as creating the Deity record label to match Marcus’ review.
NVIDIA’s Crop Circles
The movie Signs tackled the concept of crop circles as being markers for an extraterrestrial invasion, and while much of the public may still be lingering onto the concept that they are alien in nature, crop circles tend to carry a less sinister reasoning. Take, for instance, the 2013 etches discovered in a farm in California. The elaborate design was so perfect looking that the public was quick to cry wolf, or more specifically, cry alien. During the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, though, NVIDIA president and CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, gave credit to the design to the company as a publicity stunt for the new Tegra K1 Graphics Chip.
For the Heene family, being featured on an episode of Wife Swap wasn’t quite enough fame. The eccentric parents, Richard and Mayumi, were known for their wild antics and storm chasing hobby; but their fame in 2009 shifted focus when one of their sons, Falcon, allegedly took off in a silver, homemade balloon shaped like a flying saucer. Reaching altitudes of nearly 7,000 feet or 2,130 meters, panic gripped the American population as the boy’s safety became top priority. When the balloon finally landed after a 50 mile journey, it was found that the boy was not inside. Fear turned to outrage when it was found that Falcon was safe and sound, hiding in the attic of his house. When asked in an interview with Wolf Blitzer why he was hiding, the boy outed his parents, claiming it was all done for a show.