Nº. 1 of  3

The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Hoax:

Hitler When a Baby

In 1933, a picture [above left] supposedly showing Adolf Hitler as a baby began circulating throughout England and America. The child in the picture looked positively menacing. Its fat mouth was twisted into a sneer, and it scowled at the camera from dark, squinted eyes. A greasy mop of hair fell over its forehead.

The image was distributed by Acme Newspictures, Inc. and appeared in many newspapers and magazines. For instance, in October 1933 the Chicago Tribune printed it alongside a photo of the adult Hitler addressing 500,000 farmers and storm troopers, above the caption, “Two Pictures of Hitler.” The Winnipeg Free Press ran the picture with the caption: “This is a picture of a man who controls the destiny of a mighty nation, as he appeared when he was not quite one year old. Do you think this photo is prophetic of the figure he has become? The picture is one of Adolf Hitler, who was born in 1889.”

However, the baby picture didn’t actually show the infant führer. The German consulate in Chicago wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune correcting the error:

In the … Tribune of October 22, 1933 there appeared under the title ‘Two pictures of Hitler’ two photographs .. The alleged ‘baby picture’ … was sent to the Foreign Office in Berlin and the Consulate General was recently advised that the photograph stated to be a ‘baby picture’ of the Reichs-Chancellor is a falsification.

If the baby in the picture wasn’t Adolf Hitler, then who was it? The answer to this question wasn’t known until 1938. 

Mrs. Harriet Downs of Ohio happened to see the picture in a magazine and immediately recognized it as her son, John May Warren. However, in the original image her son looked cute, bright, and wholesome [above right]. Someone had darkened the shadows around the child’s face to give him a more sinister look.

However, it still remained a mystery how John Warren’s picture had ended up in Austria in the hands of a photo forger. That mystery has never been solved.

Real baby Hitler.

(Source: museumofhoaxes.com)

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite was a taxidermy collection of all manner of weird and wonderful creatures billed in the 19th century as having been brough to the UK by the fictional Victorian adventurer Professor Copperthwaite. The collection includes bizarre stuffed animals including [2-7] a unicorn, a bat-duck hybrid, a winged cat, a "cheasant" or "phicken", a Cambodian woolly pig, and a yeti. It is thought Victorians were fooled by these mythical creatures because they appeared alongside real animals and other curiosities such as conjoined lambs.

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Fur-Bearing Trout
The fur-bearing trout is a fictional creature native to northern regions of North America. The basic claim is that the waters of lakes and rivers in the area are so cold that a species of trout has evolved which grows a thick coat of fur to maintain its body heat. 
In reality, a possible source may have been a simple misunderstanding. A 17th century Scottish immigrant’s letter to his relatives referring “furried animals and fish” being plentiful in the New World, followed by a request to procure a specimen of these “furried fish” to which the mischievous Scotsman readily complied by making one up, is often cited. In fact, the “cotton mold” Saprolegnia will sometimes infect fish, causing tufts of fur-like growth to appear on the body. 
The hoax can be unequivocally documented to go back to at least the 1930s. Following is an excerpt from an article in the Pueblo Chieftain dating back to November 15, 1938:

“Old-timers living along the Arkansas River near Salida have told tales for many years of the fur-bearing trout indigenous to the waters of the Arkansas … Tourists and other tenderfoot in particular have been regaled with accounts of the unusual fish, and Salidans of good reputation have been wont to relate that the authenticity of their stories has never been questioned—in fact, they’re willing to bet it’s never even been suspected.Then, last week, out of Pratt, Kansas, where water in any quantity large enough to hold a trout—fur-bearing or otherwise—is a rarity, came an urgent request for proof of the existence of the furry fin flappers. Upon the sturdy shoulders of Wilbur B. Foshay, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, fell the delicate task of informing the credulous Kansan, without detracting from the obvious tourist-attracting qualities of the pelted piscatorial prizes. With admirable diplomacy, and considerable aplomb, Foshay dispatched posthaste a photograph of the fish, obtained from a Salida photographer and told the Kansan to use his own judgment as to the authenticity of the species. The photograph sent has been available in Salida for some time.”*

Stuffed and mounted specimens of these fish can be found in a number of museums of curiosities. These are made-up; the Saprolegnia ”fur” cannot be preserved by taxidermy. [Source]
* The use of the English language in this paragraph is beautiful!
[Credit MUST be given to The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things for this, an impeccable blog filled with all kinds of ridiculously interesting things..!]

Fur-Bearing Trout

The fur-bearing trout is a fictional creature native to northern regions of North America. The basic claim is that the waters of lakes and rivers in the area are so cold that a species of trout has evolved which grows a thick coat of fur to maintain its body heat. 

In reality, a possible source may have been a simple misunderstanding. A 17th century Scottish immigrant’s letter to his relatives referring “furried animals and fish” being plentiful in the New World, followed by a request to procure a specimen of these “furried fish” to which the mischievous Scotsman readily complied by making one up, is often cited. In fact, the “cotton mold” Saprolegnia will sometimes infect fish, causing tufts of fur-like growth to appear on the body. 

The hoax can be unequivocally documented to go back to at least the 1930s. Following is an excerpt from an article in the Pueblo Chieftain dating back to November 15, 1938:

“Old-timers living along the Arkansas River near Salida have told tales for many years of the fur-bearing trout indigenous to the waters of the Arkansas … Tourists and other tenderfoot in particular have been regaled with accounts of the unusual fish, and Salidans of good reputation have been wont to relate that the authenticity of their stories has never been questioned—in fact, they’re willing to bet it’s never even been suspected.Then, last week, out of Pratt, Kansas, where water in any quantity large enough to hold a trout—fur-bearing or otherwise—is a rarity, came an urgent request for proof of the existence of the furry fin flappers. Upon the sturdy shoulders of Wilbur B. Foshay, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, fell the delicate task of informing the credulous Kansan, without detracting from the obvious tourist-attracting qualities of the pelted piscatorial prizes. With admirable diplomacy, and considerable aplomb, Foshay dispatched posthaste a photograph of the fish, obtained from a Salida photographer and told the Kansan to use his own judgment as to the authenticity of the species. The photograph sent has been available in Salida for some time.”*

Stuffed and mounted specimens of these fish can be found in a number of museums of curiosities. These are made-up; the Saprolegnia ”fur” cannot be preserved by taxidermy. [Source]

* The use of the English language in this paragraph is beautiful!

[Credit MUST be given to The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things for this, an impeccable blog filled with all kinds of ridiculously interesting things..!]

Joice Heth, the Greatest Natural and National Curiosity in the World
Joice Heth was an African American slave who was exhibited by P. T. Barnum with the false claim that she was the 161-year-old nursing “mammy” of George Washington.
Little is known of Heth’s early years other than that in 1835 she was held as a slave by John S Bowling and in June 1825, she was sold to promoters R. W. Lindsay and Coley Bartram. R. W. Lindsay introduced her as the nurse of former President George Washington, but lacking success sold her in her old age to the upstart PT Barnum. 
Posters advertising her shows in 1835 included the lines,

"Joice Heth is unquestionably the most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the World! She was the slave of Augustine Washington, (the father Gen. Washington,) and was the first person who put clothes on the unconscious infant, who, in after days, led our heroic fathers on to glory, to victory, and freedom. To use her own language when speaking of the illustrious Father of this Country, ‘she raised him’. Joice Heth was born in the year 1674, and has, consequently, now arrived at the astonishing age of 161 years".

She was toward the end of her life, blind and almost completely paralyzed when Barnum started to exhibit her. As a 7-month traveling exhibit, Heth told stories about “little George” and sang a hymn. Heth earned Barnum $1,500 a week, a princely sum in that era and his career as a showman took off.
Because doubt had been expressed about her age Barnum announced that upon her death she would be publicly autopsied. She died the next year; she was probably no older than 80. Barnum stated that Joice’s remains were “buried respectably” in his home town of Bethel, Connecticut.
Barnum engaged the service of a surgeon to perform the autopsy in front of fifteen hundred spectators, with Barnum charging fifty cents admission. When the surgeon declared the age claim a fraud, Barnum insisted that the autopsy victim was another person, and Heth was alive, on a tour to Europe. 
Barnum later admitted the hoax.

Joice Heth, the Greatest Natural and National Curiosity in the World

Joice Heth was an African American slave who was exhibited by P. T. Barnum with the false claim that she was the 161-year-old nursing “mammy” of George Washington.

Little is known of Heth’s early years other than that in 1835 she was held as a slave by John S Bowling and in June 1825, she was sold to promoters R. W. Lindsay and Coley Bartram. R. W. Lindsay introduced her as the nurse of former President George Washington, but lacking success sold her in her old age to the upstart PT Barnum. 

Posters advertising her shows in 1835 included the lines,

"Joice Heth is unquestionably the most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the World! She was the slave of Augustine Washington, (the father Gen. Washington,) and was the first person who put clothes on the unconscious infant, who, in after days, led our heroic fathers on to glory, to victory, and freedom. To use her own language when speaking of the illustrious Father of this Country, ‘she raised him’. Joice Heth was born in the year 1674, and has, consequently, now arrived at the astonishing age of 161 years".

She was toward the end of her life, blind and almost completely paralyzed when Barnum started to exhibit her. As a 7-month traveling exhibit, Heth told stories about “little George” and sang a hymn. Heth earned Barnum $1,500 a week, a princely sum in that era and his career as a showman took off.

Because doubt had been expressed about her age Barnum announced that upon her death she would be publicly autopsied. She died the next year; she was probably no older than 80. Barnum stated that Joice’s remains were “buried respectably” in his home town of Bethel, Connecticut.

Barnum engaged the service of a surgeon to perform the autopsy in front of fifteen hundred spectators, with Barnum charging fifty cents admission. When the surgeon declared the age claim a fraud, Barnum insisted that the autopsy victim was another person, and Heth was alive, on a tour to Europe.

Barnum later admitted the hoax.

Spaghetti Tree Hoax

The spaghetti tree hoax is a famous 3-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools’ Day 1957 by the BBC current affairs programme Panorama. Broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some Britons were unaware that spaghetti is a pasta made from wheat flour and water, it told a tale of a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree after a mild winter and the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil”. 

Footage of a traditional “Harvest Festival” was aired along with a discussion of the breeding necessary to develop a strain to produce the perfect length and was made more believable through its voiceover by respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. 

Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger dreamed up the story after remembering how teachers at his school in Austria teased his classmates for being so stupid that if they were told that spaghetti grew on trees, they would believe it.

Hundreds of viewers phoned into the BBC, either to say the story was not true, or wondering about it, with some even asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Apeman of the Amazon

Could these pictures dated from the 1930s of a supposed apeman found in the jungles of Brazil be proof for the much sought after missing link? His giant lips and furrowed brow and awkward monkey-like gait appear to be simian, and the Dutch magazine Het Leven, which published them in 1937, certainly seemed convinced, describing the pictures as those of a ‘mystery apeman.’

However, in spite of any excitement at the zoological and anthropological find of the past one hundred years, many online observers have cast a keen eye onto the pictures and found the tell-tale signs of prosthetic make-up on the face of the apparent monkey-man. Rather than changing the perceptions of scientists across the world, it appears that the apeman’s mouth and brow are stuck into place using rudimentary make-up. Visible in one picture is the line of the prosthetic mouth which covers the chin up to the bridge of the nose.

And other observers have pointed out that the forehead will always be covered with hair in any make-up situation to blend in the prosthesis. Another shrewd onlooker has pointed out that for a man recently found wild in the jungles of Brazil, he is remarkably well shaven and has a particularly neat, if unfashionable haircut.

Others online have made the sad claim that this apeman is most likely an unfortunate individual born with birth defects and exploited to wear the make-up and prosthetics to pose and pretend to be a newly discovered apeman.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Gregor MacGregor & Poyais: The Fake Colony

Gregor MacGregor was a Scottish soldier, adventurer, and coloniser who, in 1820, claimed to be ’prince’ of Poyais, a fictional Central American country. He claimed the native chieftain had given him 12,500 mile² of fertile land with untapped resources and cooperative natives eager to please. He had created a civil service, army and democratic government. Now he needed settlers and investment. He sold land for 3 shillings and 3 pence per acre, a very generous price, and also raised a £200,000 loan on behalf of the Poyais government.

He published a guidebook entitled Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, including the Territory of Poyais, descriptive of the country, supposedly written by one Captain Thomas Strangeways. It described Poyais in glowing terms, concentrating on how much profit one could get from the country’s ample resources. The region was even free of tropical diseases.

In 1822 a ship called Honduras Packet set sail to Poyais with 70 settlers aboard. Its cargo included a chest full of “Poyais Dollars”, fictional currency which many of the settlers had converted their pounds sterling to. Another ship later left for Poyais with 200 settlers. 

What the settlers found was an untouched jungle; there was no settlement of any kind. They built rudimentary shelters, however, tensions began to build and tropical disease began to take its tole - one man who had spent his life savings on the trip committed suicide. A passing ship, upon hearing the settlers’ story, took them to British Honduras but 180 of the 270 settlers perished during the ordeal. 

Officials in the UK were quickly notified (naval ships had to be sent out to tell five other ships that had set out for Poyais to turn back) and the whole story was published in the newspapers. McGregor, however, was already in France, trying to accumulate more investors. In fact, apparently undeterred by having caused the deaths of hundreds of people, McGregor continued the scheme until 1837. He was jailed for a week in 1826 but otherwise went unpunished. He died in 1845.

[Image Sources: 2 (Poyaisian dollar) : 3 (McGregor’s Book)]

(Source: Wikipedia)

La Pascualita: The Corpse Bride of Mexico

La Pascualita is a bridal mannequin that has “lived” in a store window in Chihuahua, Mexico for the past 75 years. According to urban legend, La Pascualita isn’t a dummy at all, but the perfectly preserved corpse of the previous owner’s daughter.

La Pascualita was first installed in 1930, dressed in a spring-seasonal bridal gown. People simply could not tear their sight away from this new mannequin, with the wide-set glass eyes, real hair and blushing skin tone. They realized that the mannequin closely resembled the shop’s owner at the time, Pascuala Esparza. It didn’t take long for them to come to the conclusion that the dummy was in fact the embalmed body of her daughter, who had died recently on her wedding day [and] By the time Pascuala could issue an official statement denying the rumors, nobody was willing to believer her. 

Of course, the speculated presence of a corpse must naturally be accompanied by supernatural happenings. Several odd incidents have been reported. It is said that a love-sick French magician would arrive at night and magically bring it to life, taking her out to town. A few others believe that her gaze shifts and follows them around the store. At night, she is also believed to shift positions in the window.

Sonia Burciaga, a shop worker says, “Every time I go near Pascualita my hands break out in a sweat. Her hands are very realistic and she even has varicose veins on her legs. I believe she’s a real person.”

[Image 3]

(Source: odditycentral.com)

A prank from the 1930s.

A prank from the 1930s.

Isaac Bickerstaff
As society teetered between its medieval past and the “Age of Reason,” the practice of astrology held wide appeal in early 18th-century London [and] No astrologer was more influential than John Partridge, who delivered a healthy sense of impending doom to thousands of discerning readers each year.
However, all that was to change in January 1708 [when] curious predictions were published by a previously-unheard-of astrologer identifying himself as “Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.” He wrote:

“My first prediction is but a trifle… It relates to Partridge the almanack-maker; I have consulted the stars … and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever.”

And indeed, on the 30th of March [a] letter circulated around the city. The author reported sitting at Partridge’s bedside on March 29. He recalled how Partridge had fallen ill three days earlier and had confessed to being a fraud before succumbing to his fever at 7:05pm—just four hours off the time predicted by Bickerstaff.
The news left London in a state of shock, though it’s likely that no one was as surprised to hear the news as Partridge was, for, as it happened, he was alive and well. It wasn’t difficult to work out that the letter had been written by Isaac Bickerstaff.
The hoax would plague Partridge for the rest of his life. Mourners, who believed him to be dead, often kept him awake at night crying outside his window; an undertaker arrived at his house to arrange drapes for the mourning; an elegy was printed and a gravestone carved [source]. But others reveled in tormenting him; stopping him in the street [to enquire] how his widow was coping, or to chide him for lacking the decency to be properly buried.
Partridge would spent the rest of his days trying to discover Bickerstaff’s true identity, to no avail. However, the answer that eluded Partridge was not lost to history. It was eventually uncovered that Bickerstaff was a pseudonym for none other than Jonathan Swift. Swift often amused himself by terrorising his friends and enemies with elaborate pranks on All Fools’ Day. Not a fan of charlatan astrologers to begin with, Swift had taken a special interest in Partridge after some sarcastic remarks the cobbler had made about Swift’s employer: the Church of England.
In the end, half of Swift’s prophesy came true: John Partridge eventually died. The precise date fell somewhere around 1715, putting Swift’s prediction off by a mere 62,000 hours—the blink of an eye on fate’s great cosmic scale. [Edited from Source]

Isaac Bickerstaff

As society teetered between its medieval past and the “Age of Reason,” the practice of astrology held wide appeal in early 18th-century London [and] No astrologer was more influential than John Partridge, who delivered a healthy sense of impending doom to thousands of discerning readers each year.

However, all that was to change in January 1708 [when] curious predictions were published by a previously-unheard-of astrologer identifying himself as “Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.” He wrote:

“My first prediction is but a trifle… It relates to Partridge the almanack-maker; I have consulted the stars … and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever.”

And indeed, on the 30th of March [a] letter circulated around the city. The author reported sitting at Partridge’s bedside on March 29. He recalled how Partridge had fallen ill three days earlier and had confessed to being a fraud before succumbing to his fever at 7:05pm—just four hours off the time predicted by Bickerstaff.

The news left London in a state of shock, though it’s likely that no one was as surprised to hear the news as Partridge was, for, as it happened, he was alive and well. It wasn’t difficult to work out that the letter had been written by Isaac Bickerstaff.

The hoax would plague Partridge for the rest of his life. Mourners, who believed him to be dead, often kept him awake at night crying outside his window; an undertaker arrived at his house to arrange drapes for the mourning; an elegy was printed and a gravestone carved [source]. But others reveled in tormenting him; stopping him in the street [to enquire] how his widow was coping, or to chide him for lacking the decency to be properly buried.

Partridge would spent the rest of his days trying to discover Bickerstaff’s true identity, to no avail. However, the answer that eluded Partridge was not lost to history. It was eventually uncovered that Bickerstaff was a pseudonym for none other than Jonathan Swift. Swift often amused himself by terrorising his friends and enemies with elaborate pranks on All Fools’ Day. Not a fan of charlatan astrologers to begin with, Swift had taken a special interest in Partridge after some sarcastic remarks the cobbler had made about Swift’s employer: the Church of England.

In the end, half of Swift’s prophesy came true: John Partridge eventually died. The precise date fell somewhere around 1715, putting Swift’s prediction off by a mere 62,000 hours—the blink of an eye on fate’s great cosmic scale. [Edited from Source]

Nº. 1 of  3