Fact or Fiction?

A look at conspiracy theories, “official truths”, political spin, propaganda, tall tales, urban legends, magic, and illusion, all as they relate to the Art of the Prank. When truth intersects with a personal agenda, established facts are challenged, or human gullibility is preyed upon for ulterior motives, we hope that skepticism, logic, reason, and facts have a balancing effect.

Blog Posts

The Art of Human Hacking

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception

Patrick Howell O’Neill reports from Def Con 2014 in Las Vegas, where he witnesses an odd sort of game: Social Engineering Capture the Flag.


Inside the Super Bowl of Lying
by Patrick Howell O’Neill
The Daily Dot
September 2, 2014

Nobody can find a seat, the room is so packed. The boisterous audience, undeterred, crowds against the walls and lies down on the floor at every edge of the room to catch the action. A line of people stretches out the front door.

Social engineering capture the flag

via social-engineer.org

This is the 2014 Def Con hacker conference at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. The people are in one of the tiniest rooms in the casino to see the Super Bowl of lying.

The Social Engineering Capture The Flag contest was launched by Christopher Hadnagy in 2009. This year, nine teams of two players each are given a long list of goals that can only be accomplished through skillful lying and manipulation. The contest has been going on for five years, but most of the crowd, listening in rapt attention, is experiencing it for the very first time.

Hadnagy has another name for social engineering: “The art of human hacking.” While almost all of Def Con is dedicated to the art of computer hacking, this event targeted the mind. (more…)

World Class Literary Deception

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes

Celebrity biography readers beware. David Cay Johnston catalogs how one best-selling author, C. David Heymann, who wrote books of historical significance about world leaders and A-class celebs, filled his pages with inaccuracies and downright scurrilous fabrications.


C. David Heymann’s Lies About JFK and Jackie, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor
by David Cay Johnston
Newsweek
August 27, 2014

C. David Heymann’s Lies About JFK and Jackie  Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor-425

He had been dead for over two years, but he still had a magic touch with readers.

When best-selling author C. David Heymann’s latest (and last) book, Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love, came out in July, it received the kind of reviews most authors would kill for. The Columbus Dispatch called it an “engrossing portrait.” The Christian Science Monitor and the New York Post raved. Kirkus Reviews said it was “a well-researched story” revealing the “profoundly unethical behavior of the medical and mental health professionals who dealt with [Monroe].” The popular Canadian magazine Maclean’s praised Heymann’s research, finding “his sources credible.”

The publisher, a subsidiary of media behemoth CBS, says Joe and Marilyn tells “the riveting true story” of the lusty, tempestuous and brief marriage between the Yankees slugger and the iconic actress. In this and his previous 10 books, Heymann served up intimate details no other celebrity biographer could match. It was often titillating and sometimes shocking stuff. In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann wrote that DiMaggio beat Monroe, wiretapped her home and stalked her by skulking around in disguises, wearing a fake beard and for hours holding up a copy of The New York Times so no one would notice him in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

(more…)

Celebrity Scammers Hiding In Plain Sight

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

In one of its trademark listicles, Cracked spotlights five famous frauds who have been pretty much forgiven by the public.


“5 Successful People Who Everyone Forgets are Exposed Frauds”
by Sammy Trujillo
Cracked.com
August 25, 2014

James O'Keefe

James O’Keefe (via Getty Images)

“Making a career out of ripping people off takes a special kind of asshole. But to make a career out of defrauding the general public, get exposed as a fraud, and then keep right on defrauding people as if nothing ever happened takes a special kind of asshole with balls of industrial steel. Either that, or a sociopathic lack of self-awareness. Here are five people who just can’t stop making shit up (and are inexplicably rewarded for it).”

Mirage Men: Smoke, Mirrors & Government Disinformation

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?, Urban Legends

AOTP contributor John Lundberg’s movie Mirage Men, co-produced with Mark Pilkington, Roland Denning & Kypros Kyprianou, is now available for rent and on DVD. The book, Mirage Men: A Journey into Disinformation, Paranoia and UFOs: The Weird Truth Behind UFOs, written by Mark Pilkington and published in 2010 by Constable, documents the making of the film.

Watch the trailer:

The Guardian in the UK covered the movie:

The real Men in Black, Hollywood and the great UFO cover-up

In a new documentary, US government agents claim they spent decades giving fake evidence of extraterrestrials to gullible ufologists. But why? And how can we trust them now?

Read the whole article here.


Purging The Purge

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Filed under: High School Pranks, Satire, Urban Legends

In the last two weeks, the Purge hoax has gone viral, causing alarm in numerous cities… again.

In July, 2014, after the premiere of The Purge 2 Anarchy (the sequel to The Purge, a sleeper hit movie in which for 12 hours all crime is legal without consequence), a humor website CreamBMP.com reported that “a group of teenagers re-enacting the plot of the film The Purge 2 in Chicago murdered over 112 people”. Read Chicago ‘Purge’ Murders on Snopes.com.

112-murdered-by-group-of-teens-425

Then last week, a Louisville high school student tweeted what he thought was a joke: “Whos (sic) trying to get a Louisville Purge Started With Me?” and all hell broke loose. See this article posted by the Crimson Student Press detailing the story: Teen responsible for “Purge” hoax speaks up.

Purge-Blacked-Out-Image-425

From there, both panic and humor have hit cities all over the country. See Additional Purge Warnings on Snopes.com.

(more…)

Swatting Ringleader Meets His Demise

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Phone Pranks, Pranksters

People do a lot of things with phones. Some are harmless and potentially amusing. Others can get you tossed in the slammer.

Photo by Eric Richardson

Swatting falls into the latter category. It involves providing an emergency service like 911 with a false tip that provokes an armed police raid on the home of an innocent (and likely terrified) person, be it a personal enemy, a celebrity, or just some guy. These hoaxes are a particular menace for the LAPD, since they happen so often to Hollywood stars.

On Tuesday, Jason Allen Neff pled guilty to running a ring of swatters in various locations. Neff, as it happens, has a long and storied career of hacking activities dating back to the ’90s. He awaits sentencing and faces five years in federal prison. The hostage faker seems poised to become a hostage of his own making.

photo: Eric Richardson, Creative Commons

World’s Fastest Sex Change

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic

Criss Angel BeLIEve: Criss Rips Bodies Apart (On Spike)

Criss Angel BeLIEve

Watch the video:

Bigfoot — Escape Artist

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Filed under: Urban Legends

While performing with the Tiny Top Circus during the Perform Chinatown: Chaos Reigns festival in LA on July 26, 2014, BIGFOOT once again escaped. The $10 million dollar reward, which had been rescinded when he returned from his sojourn in New York, has been reinstated. Everyone is warned to approach with caution, as BIGFOOT can be extremely flatulent.

Bigfoot-Reward-poster-425

Watch the video:

Who Put the White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge?

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Who raised white flags on Brooklyn Bridge — and why?
by Michael Winter
USA TODAY
July 22, 2014

BigfootBrooklynBridge-425

The New York Police Department had a big whodunit on its hands Tuesday, in addition to egg on its face.

Who swapped out two big American flags flying over the Brooklyn Bridge towers with Old Glories that had been bleached white? And, more important, why?

But a more pressing concern was how did the overnight caper happen right under the noses of the NYPD on one of the city’s most heavily guarded and constantly watched landmarks?

“We’re lucky they just put a flag up there — and not a bomb,” a law enforcement source told the New York Post. “It’s an embarrassment.”

Read more here.

Tiny Top Circus & BIGFOOT to Appear in LA

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Filed under: Urban Legends

From Joey Skaggs and the Tiny Top Circus, the world’s only pataphysical circus:


Two weeks ago, BIGFOOT mysteriously returned to the circus compound after escaping from the Tiny Top Circus while performing in New York City. The $10 million dollar reward has now been rescinded. Tiny Top Circus thanks New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police for their outstanding assistance.

bigfoot-tinytopcircus-3558-425

Tiny Top Circus will now resume its touring schedule with an appearance at Perform Chinatown in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Admission is free.

Perform Chinatown 2014 – Chaos Reigns!
July 26, 2014, between 12 Noon and 10 pm
Next to the historic Wishing Well in Gin Ling Way
Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA

For more details, press release and posters, visit http://tinytopcircus.com

Bigfoot Sighted at World Cup Celebration

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Bigfoot-with-Germans-at-FIFA

photo: AP/ibnlive.in.com

Another Bigfoot Sighting!

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Bigfoot was spotted but not captured at a 4th of July celebration yesterday:

Bigfoot4thJuly.8618685.425

Bigfoot Sighting!

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Bigfoot spotted at New York’s annual Gay Pride Parade, June 29, 2014:

Bigfoot spotted at NYC Gay Pride Parade

Thanks Nick Gaetano
photo: hulubei.net

The Bigfoot Movie

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Watch the movie:

Tiny Top Circus Cast & Crew: Proprietor & Ringmaster: Joey Skaggs; Barker: Sarah Farrell; Performers: BIGFOOT, Justin Blaser, a.k.a. Stitch the Geek, Ian Harvey, a.k.a. Trick, the Bastard; Army Special Forces: Tom Tenney, Felipe Ribeiro; Clowns: Rev Jen Miller; Joe Heaps Nelson; Marc Slanger; Miranda Torn; Strongman: Andrew Carr; Sign Carriers: Matt Lucas, Bobby Savage, Norman Savage; Himalayas Band: Welf Dorr, Matthew Fass, Nina Geiger, Jennifer Harris, Sandra Koponen, Jocelyn Selene Perry, Robyn Siwula, Kenny Wollesen

Production: Producer & Still Photographer: Judy Drosd; Cinematography & Editing: Kate McCamy; Additional Camera: Tony Torn; Music & Sound Effects: Colby Johnson; Cage & Costume construction: Ivy Drechney, Troy Suite; Graphics & Signage: Paula Sharpe

Special Thanks: Tony Barsha, Katryn Beckwith, Doris Deither, Iliya Fridman, Akim Fridman, Francis “Faceboy” Hall, Dr. Larry Herbert , Albert Kahn, Valentina Kvasova, Jim Monroe, Naomi Pitcairn, Libby Reed, Erin Rogers, Dorothy Skaggs, Jon Truskey, Nancy Weber, Henry Zemel

Bigfoot has Escaped and is Loose Somewhere in NYC. Search Continues.

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, You Decide

While on an international tour as the principal attraction of the Tiny Top Circus, Bigfoot escaped from his cage in New York City.

bigfoot-sightings

Watch the video:

Authorities are searching and citizens are on alert.
WARNING: BIGFOOT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
Mayor Bill de Blasio says an ongoing investigation is underway.

Bigfoot sightings

Tiny Top Circus has posted a $10 million dollar reward for the safe return of Bigfoot. With sightings, or for more information, contact Ringmaster, Peppe Scaggolini at info @ tinytopcircus.com