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

Is Nessie an Expat?

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Filed under: Urban Legends

From W.J. Elvin III: With Scotland about to vote on independence, the Loch Ness monster has fled to a more monster-friendly environment


Scots Referendum: Has the Loch Ness monster just left Scotland?
by Dave Snelling
DailyStar.co.uk
11th September 2014

Hi-tech camera spots sea creature in English lake, and it looks a lot like Nessie

Nessie in England? Photo by Ellie Williams

Scotland will decide on independence next week, but it seems one of the country’s most famous animals might have already made up its mind.

A creature, looking similar to the Loch Ness monster, has been spotted taking a dip in the Lake District.

The image was snapped on a hi-tech Autographer life camera, which automatically takes snaps throughout the day. Read the rest of this article here.

Blame It On The Devil

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Filed under: Satire, The Big One

Naked Satan Statue Has Vancouver Locals Asking, ‘What The Devil?’
by David Moye
The Huffington Post
September 9, 2014

Naked-saluting-Satan-statue

What the hell?

That’s the question some Vancouver locals were asking after a naked, anatomically correct statue of Satan was mysteriously erected in a local park.

The 9-foot-tall statue was a representation of the devil, complete with red skin, a pointed tail and horns atop his head. The statue also holds one hand up in a devil-horn salute familiar to heavy metal fans the world over.

But what has aroused controversy is the statue’s prominent, erect phallus, CTV News reports. Read the whole story here.

Watch the video




Eavesdropping via Fake Cell Towers

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Fraud and Deception

Can you hear me now? In case you still thought you had personal privacy…


Fake Cell Towers Allow the NSA and Police to Keep Track of You
By Lauren Walker
Newsweek
September 5, 2014

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The Internet is abuzz with reports of mysterious devices sprinkled across America—many of them on military bases—that connect to your phone by mimicking cell phone towers and sucking up your data. There is little public information about these devices, but they are the new favorite toy of government agencies of all stripes; everyone from the National Security Agency to local police forces are using them.

These fake towers, known as “interceptors,” were discovered in July by users of the CryptoPhone500, one of the ultra-secure cell phones released after Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA snooping. The phone is essentially a Samsung Galaxy S3 customized with high-level encryption that costs around $3,500. While driving around the country, CryptoPhone users plotted on a map every time they connected to a nameless tower (standard towers run by wireless service providers like Verizon usually have names) and received an alert that the device had turned off their phone’s encryption (allowing their messages to be read). Read the rest of this article here.

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