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W.J. Elvin III


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LiteratEye #46: Who Discovered the Americas? Egyptians, Irish, Chinese and Your Uncle Bob

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-sixth 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 #46: Who Discovered the Americas? Egyptians, Irish, Chinese and Your Uncle Bob
By W.J. Elvin III
January 8, 2010

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“Nowhere, alas, does bullshit and bang-me-arse archaeology flourish so well these days as in America where foolish fantasies pour from the press every month and sell like hotcakes.”

-Noted archaeologist and detective novelist Glyn Daniel, quoted in the book, Fantastic Archaeology.

Do you get lured off down a rabbit hole by claims of lost civilizations, fantastic explorations, bizarre archaeological discoveries and all that? Welcome to the club.

My membership dues have included books I’ve bought, bang-me-arse fabrications or not, about visits to the Americas by Chinese, Welsh, Scot, Irish, Basque, Libyan, Egyptian, Norse and other travelers in the days before Columbus.

There’s no shortage of fascinating tales. Take, for instance, the one about the Roman-Jewish settlement in the Tucson area, dating back a thousand years or so. Has to be a hoax, but if so how did it fool several respectable investigators? (more…)

Satirists Hack Two World Leaders’ Web Sites

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III as seen on The Slatest, January 5, 2009:


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In Spain and Iran, Hackers Target Leaders’ Web Sites

Hackers targeted the Web sites of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in unrelated””and equally entertaining””Internet attacks Tuesday. According to tech blogger Austin Heap, Iranian hackers “had their way with Ahmadinejad’s web servers” this morning, and posted a text file on the president’s official site imploring God to get rid of Ahmadinejad this year since he’s already taken care of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. “Please, please, don’t forget my favorite politician”” Ahmadinejad and my favorite dictator””Khamenei in the year 2010. Thank you.” The site went down under mysterious circumstances several hours later. Also Tuesday, hackers attacked the official European Union Web site of Spanish Prime Minister and temporary EU President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, posting an image of Rowan Atkinson’s character Mr. Bean. According to Reuters, “the supposed resemblance of the bumbling slapstick character “¦ to Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been a running joke in Spain for years.” Zapatero’s site has since been restored.

Read the original stories in AustinHeap and Foreign Policy

image: AustinHeap

LiteratEye #45: How to Keep That New Year’s Resolution? Take It Along to a Desert Island

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the forty-fifth 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 #45: How to Keep That New Year’s Resolution? Take It Along to a Desert Island
By W.J. Elvin III
January 1, 2010

viewoftown-copia-200Happy New Year to all, especially to those who’ve signed on as friends at the Art of the Prank site on Facebook – it’s intriguing to see some of the people you’re writing to, or to try to guess who might be behind that weird picture.

So, have you made a resolution never to do that again, whatever that was? Good luck. Probably the only way to keep your resolution is to go live on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe.

But then, Robinson Crusoe is a literary character, he never really existed. As mentioned in LiteratEye #22, the story is based largely on the adventures of Alexander Selkirk, marooned on the island then known as Aguas Buenas, off the coast of Chile.

It is now officially Robinson Crusoe Island.

Daniel Defoe took a lot of heat for deception because he presented the book as a true memoir, the work of Crusoe.

Even to this day he takes heat for it, as evidenced in Nicholson Baker’s comments in the Columbia Journalism Review: “Robinson Crusoe is Defoe’s most famous hoax. We describe it as a novel, of course, but it wasn’t born that way. On its 1719 title page, the book was billed as the strange, surprising adventures of a mariner who lived all alone for eight-and-twenty years on an uninhabited island, ‘Written by H I M S E L F’-and people at first took this claim for truth and bought thousands of copies.”

Baker passes along a quote from early Defoe biographer William Minto: “He was a great, a truly great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived.” (more…)

Kennedy Photo Hoax

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III as seen on The Slatest:


TMZ Duped by Kennedy Photo Hoax, December 28, 2009

Early Monday morning, celebrity gossip site TMZ published a photo it claimed could have “changed world history.” The photo, according to the Web site and the experts it marshaled, showed former President John F. Kennedy surrounded by naked women on a yacht.

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Alas, the picture is not what it seemed. The photograph ran as part of a Playboy photo spread in 1967, four years after JFK was assassinated. TMZ conceded its error Monday afternoon, once a tipster alerted them to the fact. The 1967 photograph accompanied a story titled “Playboy’s Charter Yacht Party: How to Have a Ball on the Briny with an Able-Bodies Complement of Ship’s Belles.” The photo fakery may sour TMZ‘s brand, which had garnered credit for being the first to accurately report the deaths of Michael Jackson and, more recently, actress Brittany Murphy.

LiteratEye #44: Disinformation: Did Jewish Author J.D. Salinger Really Marry a Nazi Official after World War II?

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the forty-fourth 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 #44: Disinformation: Did Jewish Author J.D. Salinger Really Marry a Nazi Official after World War II?
By W.J. Elvin III
December 18, 2009

200px-JD_SalingerJ.D. Salinger, the quirky author of The Catcher in the Rye fame, slammed a door in the world’s face many long years ago. But he pops up now and then, mostly in the form of legal representatives, to whomp up on anyone invading his privacy.

Salinger is very much in the news these days due to his efforts to block publication of a “copycat” book.

There is another story, though, that hasn’t caught the attention of literary pundits in the U.S. – yet. It relates to an allegation in his daughter’s highly publicized “tell all” biography, Dream Catcher: A Memoir.

Just a bit of background: The Catcher in the Rye, as readers from Melbourne to Murmansk certainly know without it being said, is one of the most influential books of the last century.

Most survivors of the education mill of the ’60s and ’70s have probably read the book, either because it was required or because it was forbidden. Having sold 35 million copies, sales figures still run to 250,000 copies a year.

The book was denounced as a corrupter of youth. And, given certain sinister associations, maybe the tight-sphincter set was on to something in fearing its impact.

Among obsessive Catcher fans were John Hinckley, who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan, and Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon.

But that’s another story, and so, back to the “Salinger married a Nazi” allegation. (more…)

LiteratEye #43: Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Here’s the forty-third 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 #43: Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?
By W.J. Elvin III
December 11, 2009

santa_record_broken-200Sure, some of us are nostalgic for ancient pagan winter rites like getting all painted up in blue for a sun worshipping cavort around a circle of huge boulders. Or those jolly pre-Christian customs like decorating trees with the intestines and various organs of one”™s enemies. But let”™s face it, the old-fashioned ways of celebrating year”™s end are pretty much out of favor with the mainstream.

All that old-fashioned revelry has been transposed into kinder, gentler Christmas. In fact — regardless of your position as participant, observer of some other tradition, or just as bystander — you probably see the reality of two Christmases operating side by side. There”™s the Christian religious celebration and then there”™s the giving and getting commercial holiday frenzy.

Well, we”™ll leave the religious rigmarole for someone else to tackle. Let”™s look at the evolution of the commercial frenzy. (more…)

Prostitutes to Protest with Free Sex

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Filed under: Creative Activism

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III”


Prostitutes protest with free sex
The Copenhagen Post Online
04 December 2009

As a response to the city council”™s efforts to curb prostitution during COP15, sex workers offer free service

kommune against climate sex_200A group of prostitutes has decided to offer free sex to delegates taking part in UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in protest against the city”™s attempt to dissuade conference participants from visiting brothels.

The city council has contacted 160 hotels asking them not to arrange prostitutes for guests, reports Avisen.dk.

In collaboration with The Nest International – an anti-trafficking organisation – and tourist organisation Wonderful Copenhagen, postcards with the slogan “˜Be sustainable – don”™t buy sex”™ have been distributed to hotels as part of the campaign.

“˜As mayor I have a duty over which image of Copenhagen will be shown during the summit and I think it”™s deplorable that you can buy a woman for sex,”™ said Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard, who is hosting her own climate conference for mayors.

But sex workers interest organisation SIO is outraged by the unfounded claims that sex tourism increases during high-level summits, and a group of prostitutes are offering free sex to counteract the council”™s efforts. (more…)

LiteratEye #42: Stuart Kelly Guides Us On the Madcap Trail of Lost Books

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the forty-second 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 #42: Stuart Kelly Guides Us On the Madcap Trail of Lost Books
By W.J. Elvin III
December 4, 2009

ThomasUrquhart-200The quiet of a library, the reverential hush, is a courtesy to readers. But it might also involve respect for great works of literature and god-like authors. And do those authors, often gilt-edged and wrapped in fine-tooled leather, really rate our awe?

Many were loose cannons, some eccentric and others flat out insane.

Not that you or I would necessarily know their biographies. But Stuart Kelly does, pretty much. And I don’t think he got his insight into their writing from Classic Comics. He seems to have actually read the stuff.

Kelly is author of The Book of Lost Books.

The subtitle of his book is: “An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read.”

I got onto Kelly’s book while digging for dead authors who are still writing, the topic of a recent column. (#40: And Death Shall Have No Dominion)

The fact is, most books produced before the onset of mass production and general literacy are lost, with neglect, political or religious mania and war being among prime causes. (more…)

Peruvian Police Suspended for Faking Mythological Killings

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Urban Legends

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Come out Santa, it’s safe. Looks like it’s ok to let your jelly belly roll:


Peru officer suspended over human fat killers ‘lie’
by Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima
December 2, 2009

PeruPoliceFatScamPeru’s police chief has suspended a top investigator for saying he had caught a gang who were murdering people to sell their fat.

Last month, top organised crime investigator Felix Murga said police had arrested four suspects who confessed to murdering up to 60 people.

He said they were selling their fat for thousands of dollars a litre.

But the macabre tale now appears to be nothing more than a tall story – or a big fat lie. (more…)

Putz or Schmuck?

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Satire

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Sorry to see where the Washington Times is cutting 40 percent of staff, maybe Rev. Moon needs more imaginative promotion of his product:


Berlin’s History Res-Erected: Giant Penis Sparks Bizarre Media War
by Thomas Hüetlin
Spiegel Online International
December 3, 2009

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Four decades ago, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild did its best to squelch the 1968 student movement in Berlin. This year, the German capital has seen the conflict swell once again. And it has resulted in some rather stiff competition.

The shimmering, gold-colored high-rise building that publisher Axel Springer had built in the 1960s is just a stone’s throw from the offices of Berlin’s legendary left-wing Tageszeitung newspaper, more commonly known simply as the “Taz.” But for someone looking from the 17th floor of the Springer building, where the main editorial offices of the influential tabloid newspaper Bild are located, a few trees block the view of the gray building that houses the editorial offices of the Taz, a publication that appears to believe even today that it has the right to dictate what it means to be left-wing in Germany. (more…)

High-Minded Holiday Gifts 2009: Yarn Bombing

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III: Some Yarn…


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From ArsenalPulp.com: Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, is the definitive guidebook to covert textile street art. This full-color DIY book features twenty kick-ass patterns that range from hanging shoes and knitted picture frames to balaclavas and gauntlets, teaching readers how to create fuzzy adornments for lonely street furniture. Along the way, it provides tips on how to be as stealthy as a ninja, demonstrates how to orchestrate a large-scale textile project, and offers revealing information necessary to design your own yarn graffiti tags. The book also includes interviews with members of the international community of textile artists and yarn bombers, and provides resources to help readers join the movement; it’s also chock full of beautiful photographs and easy step-by-step instructions for knit and crochet installations and garments.

Read a review from Craftzine.com here.


Related links:

  • Knitted Graffiti
  • A Really Big Yarn
  • LiteratEye #41 – Making a Killing in the Rare Book Business, Texas-Style

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    Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes

    Here’s the forty-first 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 #41 – Making a Killing in the Rare Book Business, Texas-Style
    By W.J. Elvin III
    November 27, 2009

    scan0002-200Texans of the old-time cowboy mentality regard stunts like putting an unwary dude on the wildest bucking bronco they can find as just another darn good rip-snortin’ down-home prank.

    And, in that vein, two high-rolling Texas book dealers in this story thought saddling the suckers with forged or stolen rarities was a real knee-slapper.

    We’ll get to that but first a bit of background.

    Forgery and theft are the two major crime concerns in the rare book business. It’s also a field where, as we shall see, one might just get away with murder.

    While forgery is often encountered on the LiteratEye beat, theft also has elements of deception. When selling a stolen rare book the thief will predictably explain: “I found it in an attic.”

    Book theft has long appealed to the pros because, for one thing, a small easily-concealed rare book may be worth thousands of dollars, and secondly, until recently book thefts were rarely treated as serious crimes. (more…)

    LiteratEye #40: And Death Shall Have No Dominion, Particularly If You’re a Best-Selling Author

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    Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy

    Here’s the fortieth 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 #40: And Death Shall Have No Dominion, Particularly If You’re a Best-Selling Author
    By W.J. Elvin III
    November 20, 2009

    pride, prejudice, zombies200It seems a sad thing that writers who keep on pumping out books after they are dead aren’t around to enjoy the benefits. Maybe there are literary awards passed out in heaven? “Best Book By A Recently-Deceased Author.”

    I got to thinking about that after learning that mystery writer and outdoor expert William G. Tapply, who had become just plain “Bill” over the course of our correspondence last year, died recently. He left several books still to be published.

    What that leads into is the issue of after-death publishing, not the posthumous publication of completed works as in Tapply’s case but works produced under an author’s name but actually involving other writers.

    Sometimes such books are based on partially completed manuscripts, or even derived from ideas jotted on a cocktail napkin. If that.

    The issue takes some odd turns. (more…)

    O’Obama’s Roots

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    Filed under: Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    Joseph Enterprises honors the 44th President with this Special Edition:

    Chia Obama

    chiaobama

    thanks Henry


    And, more on this subject from W.J. Elvin III:

    “˜Lost Tomb of Obama”™ found in Ireland
    by Meghan Sweeney
    IrishCentral.com
    September 2, 2009

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    A mystery revolving around President Barack Obama”™s Irish roots was solved when a tomb containing the remains of Obama”™s Irish ancestor was discovered in the Irish medieval city of Kilkenny.

    After a painstaking search, film maker Gabriel Murray, who is in the process of making a documentary on Obama’s Irish roots, finally found “Obama”™s Lost Tomb” inside the 13th century St. Canice”™s Cathedral. Read the whole story here.


    LiteratEye #35: Ghost Story: The Riddle of Who Wrote What

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    Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy

    Here’s the thirty fifth 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 #35: Ghost Story: The Riddle of Who Wrote What
    By W.J. Elvin III
    October 16, 2009

    seance-200It may come as a surprise to some that Sean Connery, in his recent book, Being A Scot, provides a truly enlightening cultural history lesson.

    The book, issued by Phoenix Illustrated and as yet available only as an expensive import here in the States, surveys Scottish creativity, inventiveness and history. And, since it”™s autobiographical in its own quirky way, there”™s the necessarily egocentric focus on Connery.

    Of particular interest to armchair detectives of the LiteratEye squad is the invitation to help solve a literary mystery.

    Connery presents a gloom-and-doom quote, written two hundred years ago but obviously appropriate in the present day. Sorry if it”™s a bit windy and profound, it”™s Sir Sean”™s puzzle, not mine:

    “A democracy is always temporary, and therefore cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It will only exist until the voters discover that they can reward themselves with the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury. A democracy therefore always collapses over loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a great dictatorship. The average age of the world”™s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

    Connery says the quote traces to the voluminous works of a fellow Scot, the historian Alexander Fraser Tytler. It was given new life in a speech by President Ronald Reagan (who, ironically, sparked massive raids on the public treasury to compensate for the economic crimes and disasters resulting from his deregulation debacles).

    What Connery wants to know is just where in Tytler”™s work does the quote appear? A search of Tytler archives in the U.S. and Scotland failed to turn up the exact source. (more…)