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W.J. Elvin III

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Is Nessie an Expat?

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
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.

Cicirelli Fake “Walk-about” Plays Out On Facebook

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Crazy Facebook Hoax starts with unemployment, ends stranded in mexico
by Cody Permenter
The Daily Dot
August 21, 2013

Dave Cicirelli, an art director from New York City, posted on his Facebook profile in late 2009 that his life was at a standstill and something desperately needed to change. He announced his decision to quit his job and hitchhike across country, taking his laptop and cellphone to document his journey. Along the way, he fell in love with an Amish woman, joined a doomsday cult, got stranded in Mexico, and got inked up with a bowtie tattoo.


Sounds like a pretty crazy adventure, right?

As with most things that sound too good to be true are, Cicirelli”™s story was completely fake””an elaborate scheme played out on Facebook with the help of Photoshop. In his new book Fakebook, Cicirelli tells the story of his six-month hoax that fooled more people than he ever thought it could. (more…)

Eyeball-licking Craze? Really?

Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks

From W.J. Elvin III: An interesting study in mainstream media wiggling and waffling. They should have just said “We were suckered. Sorry.” But instead a lot of jabber about how they were just one of many, “maybe” dropped the ball as far as fact-checking and heeding warnings, blah, blah, blah…

The readers’ editor on”¦ how we fell into the trap of reporting Japan’s eyeball-licking craze as fact
bu Chris Elliott
The Guardian
August 25, 2013

The story was all over the web, but it was not especially difficult to cast doubts on the claim that there was an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye

lick2-200The web is voracious. It gobbles up stories, themes and memes like a monster from outer space. With the merest puff of wind to launch them, a bewildering slew of tales take off, powered by the perpetual motion of repetition.

The Guardian was among a crowd that made the mistake of filling the sails of one of the weirder stories to take off in this way. The article appeared on the Shortcuts blog. It aims to be a fast-paced humorous column, which is described as “trending topics and news analysis”.

[Video from Huffington Post]

The headline on the story, posted on 14 June 2013, is: “Eyeball-licking: the fetish that is making Japanese teenagers sick”. The author explains that the article will be about “oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs “¦ oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia “¦ It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.” (more…)

War of the Worlds, Alabama Style

Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Publicity Stunts

Alabama radio station”™s hoax alien alert terrifies community, strains cops
by Michael Walsh
New York Daily News
September 2, 2013

Star 94.9″™s prank, inspired by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of “˜War of the Worlds,”™ caused some Tuscumbia to fear a takeover. The hysteria saw the police flooded with phone calls, and now the cash-strapped department has to pay officers overtime.

aliens3n-1-web-200The radio promotion was inspired by Orson Welles”™ radio adaptation of “˜War of the Worlds”™ in 1938.

Station Star 94.9 thought a mock warning of an extraterrestrial invasion would generate publicity for a programming change, but it spiraled out of control when listeners in Tuscumbia took it seriously last week.

“It’s a very innocuous promotion that got blown out of proportion,” Brian Rickman, program director for the Shoals Radio Group, told local news site

Worried parents reportedly flooded the police with phone calls Thursday about a supposed bomb threat. Frightened children stayed home from school, and police were dispatched to several schools to calm fears.

“It may have started as something innocent,” said Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan, “but it has gotten out of hand and turned into an issue concerning public safety.”

Logan said that the department needs to pay officers overtime wages for the extra time they put in even though there is not enough money in the budget, reported the Times Daily, a local newspaper.

Anonymous No More?

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

High School Pals Targeted In FBI Hacktivist Probe
The Smoking Gun
August 10, 2011

Three teens eyed in “Anonymous” attack on Koch sites

A trio of high school buddies are among the targets of on ongoing FBI probe into an online “Anonymous” assault carried out earlier this year against web sites of Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the influential Republican benefactors, The Smoking Gun has learned.

In simultaneous raids last month, federal agents searched the Long Island homes of three teenagers who have excelled academically at Bellport High School on Long Island”™s South Shore. Agents removed an assortment of computer equipment from the respective homes in connection with the criminal investigation being run from the FBI”™s Kansas City field office (Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita).

As TSG reported last month, the FBI is probing a coordinated series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Koch Industries web sites in February and March. The assault–organized by the so-called hacktivist group “Anonymous”–flooded several Koch Industries web sites with so many requests that it left the sites unavailable for legitimate visitors. (more…)

China: The Alice”™s Restaurant of Fake Collectible Coins

Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Among many great discoveries that can be attributed to the Chinese is that Western consumers will buy shit if it”™s chocolate covered and packaged as an upscale brand. Our longtime fakes and frauds columnist W.J. Elvin takes a look at one little slice of the Chinese counterfeit market, collectible and rare coins, an area in which he dabbles with commercial and journalistic interest.

China: The Alice”™s Restaurant of Fake Collectible Coins
by W.J. Elvin III
July 28, 2011

Seems kind of weird for a Wag-the-Dog culture like ours to be getting all righteous with the Chinese over a bit of fakery.

I”™m talking about fake Apple stores in China, a scam so marvelously done that even some of the employees believed they were working for Apple.

Latest reports indicate those shops have been shut down. But, to give China its due, that story was just one little blip on the fake-o-rama radar.

Most fake stuff coming into the U.S. originates in China where, so we hear, not only factories — entire towns are devoted to producing counterfeit popular merchandise.

Those folks get down to it, even making money by making money.

How do you do that? (more…)

Chinese Take-Out? Make That Fake-Out

Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Update, 7/22/11: China’s Fake Apple Store Sparks Customer Ire; Staff Remains Defiant

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Love it that maybe the employees don’t even know they’re not working for Apple…

China’s Fake Apple Stores Mimic Real Thing–Down To Product Displays
by Steven Hoffer
The Huffington Post
July 20, 2011

The following is perhaps the greatest Chinese knock-off of all time.

A blogger living the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, in Yunnan province has discovered bit-for-bit rip-offs of the iconic and well-branded Apple retail stores.

The BirdAbroad blog describes a store housing display cases filled with what appear to be Apple products, that unmistakable Apple Store design, “classic Apple store winding staircase” and even Apple “employees” wearing blue t-shirts ready to assist customers with all of their Apple troubleshooting needs.

But, of course, there’s more to this store than meets the eye. Bird writes, “this was a total Apple store ripoff. A beautiful ripoff – a brilliant one – the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day). (more…)

Yarn Bombing: Not Your Grandmother’s Doily

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

Extreme Knitting and Crochet Art
by Brynn Mannino
May 19, 2011

Check out 10 elaborate masterpieces made from yarn and string

While some people may think knitting and crocheting are just for grandmas, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, in the last few years, there has been a huge resurgence in these techniques, and the projects go far beyond scarves and gloves. Crocheted and knitted artworks have taken the world by storm, both on the street””a movement referred to as “knit graffiti,” “yarn bombing” and “urban knitting”””and in modern art circles alike. Loved for the humanizing quality it lends to everyday objects, the medium continues to attract artists, who have no doubt been inspired by the pioneering works below.

“Locker Room”

Through his artwork, New York–based artist Nathan Vincent works to gender-neutralize objects associated with overt masculinity. When completed, “the objects are no longer rough and manly, but soft and inviting,” he says. This particular installation, for which he crocheted over 200 skeins of Lion brand yarn, will be displayed at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle through June 26, 2011. Photo: courtesy of Bellevue Arts Museum

Banksy Tribute

In 2011, Polish artist Agata Oleksiak””who goes by “Olek”””paid homage to one of the great street artists of her time, UK-based Banksy, by crocheting Red Heart acrylic yarn to emulate one of his most famous pieces: “Balloon Girl” (a.k.a. “Girl with Red Balloon”). She installed her works (five in all) on the sides of buildings throughout downtown Manhattan to help promote Banksy’s documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Oscar. Photo: courtesy of Olek


Facebook Candid Camera Prank: Adware or Worse

Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Prank Busters

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

Facebook Users Warned of Sexy ‘Candid Camera Prank’ Attack
by Ellen Messmer
May 18, 2010

Security firms are warning Facebook users to beware of what’s being called the “Candid Camera Prank” attack recently spotted on Facebook that tries to use the lure of a sexy video of a scantily clad woman on a bicycle to download a video player that’s actually Hotbar adware, and maybe worse.

Also: FBI details most difficult Internet scams

Websense and Sophos are among the security firms pointing out the dangers of the “sexiest video ever” trick, posted automatically on users’ profile pages, that shows a message posted on the walls of Facebook users, seemingly by their friends, of a movie thumbnail of a woman on a bicycle wearing a short skirt in a video entitled “Candid Camera Prank.” (more…)

LiteratEye #49: Biff! Bam! Super-Journalist Takes On the Academics

Filed under: Media Literacy

Here’s the forty-ninth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #49: Biff! Bam! Super-Journalist Takes On the Academics
By W.J. Elvin III
January 29, 2010

“I have never done any research that shows blondes are more aggressive, entitled, angry or ‘warlike’ than brunette or redheads.” Aaron Sell, Center for Evolutionary Psychology, in a letter to the Times of London.

You probably noticed the anti-British journalist rant posted on this site yesterday, provoked by the article referred to above. If not, it’s still available for your reading enjoyment.

The controversy has been getting a lot of play on sites catering to scholars such as Arts & Letters Daily as well as some more popular arenas like Defamer.

Thus far, though, no one seems to be standing up for British journalists. Until now, that is. Here in the LiteratEye bunker we’re taking a contrarian position on the matter. We declare British journalists to be the best and brightest in the business.

As I recall, old school British journalists could typically run circles around their American counterparts as news-getters and as entertaining writers. The few I’ve known as editors could no doubt have donned general’s uniforms and tidied up Afghanistan and Iraq in short order.

Their secret – and I’m speaking here of those I knew in the good old days — is that they understood and served reader interest. I’m sure they could have produced brilliant thumb-sucker think pieces or razor-sharp analysis of yet another boring issue. Or they could have written suck-up puff stories touting their intimate buddy-buddy relationships with the high and mighty. But, no, they wrote for the fellow who, over his morning coffee, would peek from behind the paper to say: “Jumpin’ cheeses, Alice, listen to this!” (more…)

The Short Life of the Astoria Scum River Bridge

Filed under: Creative Activism

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III as seen on Posterchild’s Blade Diary and Jason Epping’s flickr page:

Astoria Scum River Bridge:

For several years, a leaky pipe on 33rd Street beneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct approach has submerged more than a hundred square feet of heavily-trafficked sidewalk under a festering cesspool of standing water. Astoria Scum River, as it’s called, stretches the entire width of the sidewalk, and as winter approaches, the river ices over and becomes particularly hazardous to cross.

Astoria Scum River Bridge was constructed to offer Astorians an opportunity to safetly cross this hazard. The unauthorized bridge is a gift to the pedestrians of Astoria in the absence of successful municipal efforts to ameliorate the problem.


Freedom of the Press vs. The Truth

Filed under: Media Literacy

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: British Journalism 101: Don’t let facts stand in the way of a good story…

British Newspapers Make Things Up
by Satoshi Kanazawa
Psychology Today
January 24, 2010

In April 2008, I wrote that British journalists interpret “freedom of the press” to mean that they can make up anything they want and publish it as fact in British newspapers. Now another evolutionary psychologist has learned the lesson the hard way.

In the earlier post, I explain that, by the American standards, all British newspapers are tabloids because they don”™t distinguish between what is true and what they make up. I knew this from my own experiences of dealing with British journalists, but, as it turns out, even the British government admits, in an official government publication, that British newspapers make things up and report them as facts.

Most British people consider the Times of London to be the most respectable “broadsheet” newspaper (as opposed to “tabloid” newspapers) in the UK, despite the fact that the Times, along with most British “broadsheet” newspapers, is now published in the tabloid size to make it easier for people to read it in crowded London subways. Last week, the Sunday Times published an article with the headline “Blonde women born to be warrior princesses.” The article reported that “Researchers claim that blondes are more likely to display a “warlike” streak because they attract more attention than other women and are used to getting their own way – the so-called “princess effect.”” The Times article quotes the evolutionary psychologist at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Aaron Sell, and his findings are purportedly published in his article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, written with the two Deans of Modern Evolutionary Psychology, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.

As it turns out, however, none of this is true, as Sell explains in his angry letter to the Times. He and his coauthors do not mention blondes at all in their paper and they don”™t even have hair color in their data. The supplementary analyses that Sell performed after the publication of the paper, as a personal favor to the Times reporter, show the exact opposite of what the Times article claims. After he presumably listened to Sell explain all of this on the phone, the Times reporter nonetheless made up the whole thing, and attributed it to Sell. (more…)

LiteratEye #48: Newspaper Nostalgia: Biped Beavers, Libidinous Man-Bats on the Moon

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Pranks

Here’s the forty-eighth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #48: Newspaper Nostalgia: Biped Beavers, Libidinous Man-Bats on the Moon
By W.J. Elvin III
January 22, 2010

beavers-200The New York Times, you may have noticed, plans to start charging for portions of its web content. One assumes the portions will be the those readers find most interesting.

So then patronage will fall off, and with fewer readers there will be fewer advertisers, and so on until we hear the death rattle of yet another newspaper. Well, in the case of the Times it probably won’t be quite that bad, but the Internet era has certainly seen the downsizing or demise of quite a few news publications.

How bad is it? MSN Money lists newspaper subscriptions among its top ten things not to buy in 2010, citing the popular alternatives.

Which is too bad, because newspapers and news magazines have been a great vehicle for the perpetuation of hoaxes. No doubt our host, Joey Skaggs, is indebted to more than a few for taking the bait. In my own forty years or so in the news business I noticed a fairly cavalier attitude toward great stories that seemed at least a little fishy: “Print first, ask questions later.”

In the good old days, before newspapers got all goody-goody ethical, editors and reporters were among the top pranksters.

The sport got up its steam back in the 1830s. That was when Richard Adams Locke, an English journalist serving as editor of The New York Sun, sprang what is regarded as the greatest newspaper hoax of all time. (more…)

LiteratEye #47: A Tale of Theft & Murder Behind “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-seventh installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #47: A Tale of Theft & Murder Behind “The Hound of the Baskervilles”
By W.J. Elvin III
January 15, 2010

Sherlock Holmes Movie Poster-200Some reviewers say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be rolling over in his grave in response to the new Sherlock Holmes film. Typical is the comment in The New York Times that Robert Downey, Jr.’s version of Sherlock “frequently bears little resemblance to the one Conan Doyle wrote about.”

Well, there are a great many Sherlock Holmes stories that Conan Doyle had nothing to do with other than to provide the basics, and who knows how many actors from the big screen to the small theater have portrayed our hero, each in their own way. So the current situation is nothing new, Sir Arthur has already been given plenty of reason to roll over.

More to the point, who can say how Doyle might have reacted? His famous detective novels give the impression he was as much a man of science as Sherlock, pragmatic, principled, scoffing at fantasy. Not entirely so. He was into fairies, séances and, it has been charged, murder.

Doyle continues to suffer ridicule for falling for fake photos of fairies. It’s said that in the 1920s he spent a million dollars in an effort to prove the existence of the tiny folk.

Probably the strangest story involving Doyle found him accused of plagiarism, conspiracy and murder. (more…)

Get a Whiff of This: Spec “Suicide” Audi Ad

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III about an unauthorized spec commercial for Audi A5:

Suicide: still not the best advertising theme from, by Brian Morrissey, January 8, 2010

audisuicidead-200Oh goody, another suicide ad. What is it about cars that leads people to the suicide theme? You’ll recall that Volkswagen disowned a rogue suicide-bomber spec commercial four years ago. General Motors had no such choice after airing its disastrous suicidal-robot spot in the 2007 Super Bowl. Now comes a presumably unauthorized (or at least deniable) Audi spot showing a man in a parking garage trying to kill himself by attaching a hose to his tailpipe. Wouldn’t you know it, to his profound dismay, the diesel-powered Audi won’t produce enough toxic exhaust to do the job. Bummer. The on-screen copy reads, “Clean diesel technology. Good for the environment. Good for you.” We’re left with a cheery shot of the man closing the car window on his neck. My question: Has the suicide motif ever been used successfully in a commercial? It just seems like a bad direction to go in when you’re looking to check the “edgy” box.

Related links:

  • Audi denies link to internet suicide ad
  • A “real” suicide car ad from Citroen, directed by Brian Baderman.
  • Controversial “Polo, Small But Tough” VW suicide bomber ad