With a title like this, how can you resist? Look out, Jackalope sighting ahead!
Imagine going on a “tour” of hundreds of documented hoaxes, lies, and outright flimflams courtesy of some of the most clever, resourceful and downright deceitful human beings to ever walk the earth. This project, compiled by author Alex Boese, began as a doctoral dissertation, if you can believe that (yes, that is true and not one of the book’s many hoaxes) and developed into a hugely popular website, www.museumofhoaxes.com, and this corresponding book.
The stories documented in The Museum of Hoaxes cover many centuries of silliness, including the legend of a seventh-century pope who gave birth to the modern day phenomenon of Snowball, the eighty-seven-pound cat. In between are all kinds of legends, urban or otherwise -- about a magic turtle appearing in pre-WWII Paris, faeries caught on film in England, New Jersey under Martian attack, and The FeeJee Mermaid displayed in Barnum’s Museum in 1842. Did you know that in England during the reign of King George, there lived a lady named Mary Toft who gave birth to a litter of rabbit babies? Or were you at all aware of the popular hobby of growing Bonsai Kittens?
I most love the stories of April Fool’s Day hoaxes, especially the phony Sports Illustrated story about an amazing pitching prospect named Sidd Finch who was trained in a Tibetan Monastery and used the fine art of Yoga to polish up his pitching arm. Not to mention the dozens of alien landing hoaxes throughout the latter part of history, and the wild Y2K flimflams that almost had us all running for the hills. I also loved reading about perhaps the premier hoaxster of human history, Alan Abel, who started such legends as the Omar the Beggar’s School for Panhandling during the 1980’s. Abel was such a clever hoaxster he even got the New York Times to print his death announcement in their January 2, 1980, issue…despite the fact that he was alive and well.
Everything in this book will result in a chuckle, if not an outright belly-laugh. Sometimes you’ll laugh at the hilarity of the hoax itself, sometimes you will guffaw over the sheer audacity of the hoaxsters and flimflam artists. But more often than not you will laugh because of the gullibility (and often, stupidity) of the public caught up in the grips of these hoaxes and deceptions. It is the human reaction these hoaxes perpetrated that makes this book such an astounding examination of how easy it is to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
The Museum of Hoaxes is a blast to read, and may even give some dormant hoaxsters out there some great ideas for future attacks on public sense and sensibility. Perhaps there are baby Alan Abel’s right now reading this book and planning their first big venture into prank-making history.
I, for one, can’t wait!