All About Pranks

This blog has submissions from many known and not so known pranksters, artists, performers, activists and writers. It provides a continuing and growing exploration into the art of the prank; the role of the prankster as artist, activist and social observer; and the contribution of the prank to society.

Blog Posts

In Search of Ethical Artificial Intelligence

by
Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Spin, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

In a noble effort to assure the ethical use of AI in legal matters, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe is catching up with Joey Skaggs’ visionary 1995 Solomon Project hoax. h/t Miso.


“Council of Europe adopts first European Ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence in judicial systems”
by Newsroom staff
Council of Europe
April 12, 2018

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe has adopted the first European text setting out ethical principles relating to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in judicial systems.

The Charter provides a framework of principles that can guide policy makers, legislators and justice professionals when they grapple with the rapid development of AI in national judicial processes.

The CEPEJ’s view as set out in the Charter is that the application of AI in the field of justice can contribute to improve the efficiency and quality and must be implemented in a responsible manner which complies with the fundamental rights guaranteed in particular in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Personal Data. For the CEPEJ, it is essential to ensure that AI remains a tool in the service of the general interest and that its use respects individual rights.

The CEPEJ has identified the following core principles to be respected in the field of AI and justice:

  • Principle of respect of fundamental rights: ensuring that the design and implementation of artificial intelligence tools and services are compatible with fundamental rights;
  • Principle of non-discrimination: specifically preventing the development or intensification of any discrimination between individuals or groups of individuals;
  • Principle of quality and security: with regard to the processing of judicial decisions and data, using certified sources and intangible data with models conceived in a multi-disciplinary manner, in a secure technological environment;
  • Principle of transparency, impartiality and fairness: making data processing methods accessible and understandable, authorising external audits;
  • Principle “under user control”: precluding a prescriptive approach and ensuring that users are informed actors and in control of their choices.

For the CEPEJ, compliance with these principles must be ensured in the processing of judicial decisions and data by algorithms and in the use made of them. Read more.

Reality: Now Faker Than Ever

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

In a brilliant and dizzying end-of-year rant, Max Read takes stock of how much of our digital world is constructed from weapons-grade fraud, deception, nonsense, hokum, and miscellaneous bullshit.


“How Much of the Internet is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually”
by Max Read
New York Intelligencer
December 26, 2018

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. The internet has always played host in its dark corners to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes, but that darkness now pervades its every aspect: Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head. Read more.

Deep Fakes: Down the Horrifying Rabbit Hole

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, The Future of Pranks

On the topic of our tenuous collective relationship with the concept formerly known as “truth,” this examination of “deep fakes,” high-tech simulated video recordings of people you recognize doing things they’ve never actually done, may be the most frightening and portentous emerging story of 2018. And that’s saying a mouthful.


“You thought fake news was bad? Deep fakes are where truth goes to die”
by Oscar Schwartz
November 12, 2018
The Guardian

Fake videos can now be created using a machine learning technique called a “generative adversarial network”, or a GAN. A graduate student, Ian Goodfellow, invented GANs in 2014 as a way to algorithmically generate new types of data out of existing data sets. For instance, a GAN can look at thousands of photos of Barack Obama, and then produce a new photo that approximates those photos without being an exact copy of any one of them, as if it has come up with an entirely new portrait of the former president not yet taken. GANs might also be used to generate new audio from existing audio, or new text from existing text – it is a multi-use technology.

The use of this machine learning technique was mostly limited to the AI research community until late 2017, when a Reddit user who went by the moniker “Deepfakes” – a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake” – started posting digitally altered pornographic videos. He was building GANs using TensorFlow, Google’s free open source machine learning software, to superimpose celebrities’ faces on the bodies of women in pornographic movies.

A number of media outlets reported on the porn videos, which became known as “deep fakes”. In response, Reddit banned them for violating the site’s content policy against involuntary pornography. By this stage, however, the creator of the videos had released FakeApp, an easy-to-use platform for making forged media. The free software effectively democratized the power of GANs. Suddenly, anyone with access to the internet and pictures of a person’s face could generate their own deep fake. Read more.

The Best Defense Against a Bad Guy With a Bot

by
Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, The World of the Prank

During the 2016 US election cycle, artificial intelligence was wildly successful at spreading lies and propaganda. These researchers suggest weaponizing better bots and aiming them in the opposite direction.


“Bots spread a lot of fakery during the 2016 election. But they can also debunk it.”
by Daniel Funke
November 20, 2018
Poynter

Aside from their role in amplifying the reach of misinformation, bots also play a critical role in getting it off the ground in the first place. According to the study, bots were likely to amplify false tweets right after they were posted, before they went viral. Then users shared them because it looked like a lot of people already had.

“People tend to put greater trust in messages that appear to originate from many people,” said co-author Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of South Florida, in the press release. “Bots prey upon this trust by making messages seem so popular that real people are tricked into spreading their messages for them.”

The study suggests Twitter curb the number of automated accounts on social media to cut down on the amplification of misinformation. The company has made some progress toward this end, suspending more than 70 million accounts in May and June alone. More recently, the company took down a bot network that pushed pro-Saudi views about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and started letting users report potential fake accounts.

Nonetheless, bots are still wrecking havoc on Twitter — and some aren’t used for spreading misinformation at all. So what should fact-checkers do to combat their role in spreading misinformation?

Tai Nalon has spent the better part of the past year trying to answer that question — and her answer is to beat the bots at their own game.

“I think artificial intelligence is the only way to tackle misinformation, and we have to build bots to tackle misinformation,” said the director of Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking project. “(Journalists) have to reach the people where they are reading the news. Now in Brazil, they are reading on social media and on WhatsApp. So why not be there and automate processes using the same tools the bad guys use?” Read more.

Barney Rosset Documentary Seeks Support

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

Recently, a team of seasoned and passionate documentary filmmakers launched a Kickstarter project to fund Barney’s Wall, a tribute to the iconoclastic Evergreen Review publisher, First Amendment crusader, and countercultural titan Barney Rosset.

Now, they need a bit more help to cover permissions, attorney fees, and other expenses associating with bringing such a project to fruit. (We can certainly sympathize.)

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here before January 4th, 2019.

And if you aren’t familiar with Rosset, check out his obituary. He’s an essential figure in the development of 20th Century creative rebellion, and it’s a rousing read in its own right.

“Colleagues said he had ‘a whim of steel’. ‘He does everything by impulse and then figures out afterward whether he’s made a smart move or was just kidding.'”

Give A Holiday Gift Guaranteed To Bring Smiles (And Get A Special $5 Holiday Discount)!

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Instructionals, Pranksters, Satire, The Prank as Art, What Makes a Good Prank?, Why Do a Prank?

LAUGH YOUR WAY THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS WITH ART OF THE PRANK

AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY FROM THE MOVIE SHOP

BUY THE DVD $19.99
BUY THE BLU-RAY $24.99

Watch the promo video

***************************************

Take $5.00 off with coupon code:
CHEERS
at checkout (time limited)

FREE SHIPPING IN THE U.S.

***************************************

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:

“Art of the Prank was hysterical, sometimes shocking and ridiculous, but mostly inspiring and thought provoking.”
– Dircksey

“Really fascinating… incredible”
– Film Colossus

“If you don’t know who Joey Skaggs is, know this: he is a f*cking national treasure! One of the best pranksters in history. We see him provide comical and sometimes biting commentary on our society in Art of the Prank, all carried out with deadpan precision.”
– Fandor

“For those who still believe in Santa Claus this film is a must-see!”
– Joey Skaggs


Shooting Fish in a Barrel for Profit

posted by
Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

This pathetic story oozes with irony.
h/t Felipe & Eli


‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America
by Eli Saslow
Washington Post
November 17, 2018

Christopher Blair, 46, sits at his desk at home in Maine and checks his Facebook page, America’s Last Line of Defense. He launched the political-satire portal with other liberal bloggers during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

NORTH WATERBORO, Maine — The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed. He logged onto his website and began to invent his first news story of the day.

“BREAKING,” he wrote, pecking out each letter with his index fingers as he considered the possibilities. Maybe he would announce that Hillary Clinton had died during a secret overseas mission to smuggle more refugees into America. Maybe he would award President Trump the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage in denying climate change.

A new message popped onto Blair’s screen from a friend who helped with his website. “What viral insanity should we spread this morning?” the friend asked. (more…)

BP or not BP?

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

Ethical curating vs. patronage by “benevolent guardians and gatekeepers”


Anti-BP Protesters Sip Oily Champagne in Satirical Performance at the British Museum
by Jasmine Weber
Hyperallergic
November 6, 2018

Performers dressed as BP employees sipped oil-contaminated champagne, and protesters displayed facts about BP’s exploitation of Iraqi resources.

Faux BP employees chat nonchalantly before anti-oil protesters (all images by Kristian Buus and courtesy of BP or not BP?)

On November 6, activist theatre group BP or not BP? gathered at the British Museum, just outside of the I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria exhibition, which opens November 8. The protest actors dressed as corporate BP employees and were accompanied by additional protesters. The action occurred in parallel to the exhibition’s private viewing for journalists.

The British Museum’s latest exhibition of ancient Assyrian objects from Iraq provided the perfect platform for BP or not BP?’s 33rd performance within the museum, where they chanted slogans like, “British Museum, we’ll keep coming back, no BP logos on your stolen artifacts!” (Just last week, the sale of an Assyrian relief at Christie’s raised similar concerns about the pillaging of Iraqi artifacts.) (more…)

Cockroaches on the Menu!

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Fact or Fiction?, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, You Decide

Roaches are yummy and good for you too! Joey Skaggs’ Metamorphosis: Miracle Roach Hormone Cure hoax remembered…


The Right Chemistry: Cockroach milk a ‘superfood’?
by Joe Schwarcz
Montreal Gazette via The London Free Press
October 12, 2018

It’s not a prank, but any suggestion that the crystals represent a viable alternative to dairy milk for people is a very, very big stretch.

Back in 1981, entomologist Josef Gregor called a press conference to announce a remarkable discovery. He had bred a novel species of cockroach from which he managed to extract a hormone that, when incorporated into a pill, exhibited amazing properties. It cured conditions ranging from acne and allergies to asthma and arthritis! “Roach hormone hailed as miracle drug” crowed headlines. Some 175 newspapers went on to feature testimonials attesting to the wonders of the hormone pills.

Subsequently, Gregor was invited to appear on various television programs where he described that cockroaches were impervious to radiation and that in addition to its curative properties for a plethora of ailments, his pills would offer protection against radiation exposure. It all sounded great, but there was one tiny little problem. There was no Josef Gregor, and there was no cockroach hormone! Gregor was actually Joey Skaggs, a teacher at New York’s School of Visual Arts, who relished pulling off hoaxes to show how the media could be duped into reporting nonsensical stories because of a failure to fact-check. And that was decades before the current wave of publicity about “fake news!”

Watch the video

Recalling the “cockroach hormone” episode, I figured a prankster must have been at work when the headline, “Scientists Think Cockroach Milk Could Be the Next Superfood,” recently scooted across the internet. Obviously, fact-checking was in order. While the headline was typical click-bait, it was actually spawned by legitimate research.

In 2016, a paper in the Journal of the International Union of Crystallography reported some intriguing research about the unique “Pacific Beetle” cockroach (Diploptera punctate). Why unique? Because it is viviparous, meaning the females give birth to live offspring. The term derives from the Latin “vivus” for “alive,” and “parere,” meaning “to bring forth” or “to bear.”

Read the rest of this article here.

The Prank as an Art Form

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

A good prank attempts to shed light on issues to change perceptions or awareness by jolting sensibilities. MutualArt pays homage to Joey Skaggs’ April Fools’ Day Parade. In 2017, it became real with Trump’s Golden Throne.


A Look Behind Some of the Biggest Pranks in Art History
by Adam Heardman
MutualArt
October 8, 2018

Pretty-much-anonymous street artist Banksy was back in the headlines this weekend thanks to his self-shredding picture. We take a look at other classic art-world pranks that have confounded and delighted through history.

.

As a street artist and activist, Banksy’s career has consisted almost exclusively of anti-establishment pranks and stunts. On Friday evening, at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction, the hammer fell on a print of his Balloon Girl image at a price of $1.1 million. Seconds later, an alarm sounded through the room and the print began feeding through the bottom of its own frame, inside which was a hidden shredder, leaving half of the work in ribbons.

Promptly, the piece’s value doubled. Commodification appears to move as quickly as protest in the contemporary market-place.

Speculation already abounds as to how far Banksy collaborated with Sotheby’s in setting up the stunt. It certainly seems far-fetched that the auction house’s handlers wouldn’t have noticed the machinery in the frame.

But the impact of the prank has been huge, bringing Banksy his biggest burst of media-attention since Dismaland closed. His market-value has increased. Haters have been won over. The search for his true identity is back on. All in all, it’s been a successful prank.

As a space in which publicity, politics, and aesthetics can meet, ‘the prank’ is an established mode within the art world. Here are some of the more prominent and successful examples from art history.

1. Hogarth and Wilson’s Rembrandt RoastRead this here.

2. Joey Skaggs’ Fake ‘Fake Parade’

Prank artist Joey Skaggs

Joey Skaggs is the maybe the most prolific prankster out there. Over the years, the performance artist and writer has staged the thieving of celebrity sperm, “attempted” to “windsurf across the Pacific”, and exposed Western racism by fooling people into thinking that a Chinese businessman was buying dogs to make into soup.

Every April Fools’ Day since 1986, Skaggs has held a Parade with floats, banners, streamers extensive press coverage and pertinent contemporary themes. Except that the Parade doesn’t ever actually take place, existing purely within the press-hype. Fake News.

Until last year, that is. In a neat reversal of his own prank, Skaggs actually did hold a real-life parade on April 1st, 2017 after 31 years of pretending. The march functioned as a protest against Donald Trump’s presidency and was also the largest gathering of Trump-look-alikes in history. The imposters marched to Trump Tower and sat tweeting on golden thrones. Maybe Joey Skaggs’ greatest prank was to make Fake News real.

3. Stromberg’s StickersRead the rest of this article here.

Before Banksy

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

The Hippie Bus Tour To Queens revisited…


Before Banksy: Art pranksters and provocateurs who Banksy’d us first
by Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
ANC news.abs-cbn.com
October 10, 2018

As that cynical adage goes, It’s all been done before. But at least in the art world, each prank takes on a wildly different form

Banky’s latest stunt at a Sotheby’s auction (a self-destructing artwork automated to shred itself after being sold) recalled other art pranksters who played the system with the same wink wink nudge nudge kind of subversion. There’s a joke that’s being played and it’s not on the artist—which means it’s on whoever believes that the numbers on a price tag equate to the value of a work of art. Other pranksters have also poked fun at institutions that house high art (what is high art anyway?), or at spectators of art who don’t know what art is. Here are a few stunning and smug indictments of all of us art heathens.

Harvey Stromberg’s Stickers

In 1971, Harvey Stromberg wad described by the New York Times as a “photographer, or a media manipulator, or a self-made chance factor, or a guerilla artist or a fraud. All of the above. None of the above.” This description set the tone for how he was regarded in the art world.

One prank he famously pulled was a photographic “exhibit” at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) where he made exact-to-scale photographs of utility objects—light switches, alarm buzzers, bricks, and keyholes, among other things. Using double-sided tape, Stromberg stuck these photographs in spaces it was customary to find them. It was described as the “longest-running one-man photo exhibit,” as it took museum personnel all of two years to discover and remove the stickers. The “show” ran hitchless for two years so Stromberg threw in another prank. He decided it was time to officially “open” the exhibit at the MOMA—complete with formal invitations to both guests and media. If MOMA administrators treated the opening nonchalantly, it would encourage other such pranks; if they treated it as a criminal offense, it would cheapen their position as champions of conceptual art.

Joey Skaggs and “The Hippie Bus Tour to Queens”

Joey Skaggs and his East Village “hippie” friends would be gawked at as city curiosities by bridge and tunnel people—so he decided to change the narrative and turn the show around. In 1968, he rented a Greyhound bus and took 60 hippies to Queens where they could take snapshots of, and gawk at, normal people going about their typical, suburban preoccupations. “Look, it’s someone mowing the lawn!,” one can imagine one of the passengers saying, or “Look it’s a man washing his car!” or even “Why’s the plumber taking so long at Mrs. Robinson’s house?”

Read the rest of this article here.

Meet the Man Who Invented the Roach Hormone Miracle Cure!

posted by
Filed under: Art of the Prank - the movie, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

ART OF THE PRANK movie Blu-rays with 38 minutes of never before seen Extras and DVDs are now available!

**Use coupon code “ABRACADABRA” to magically get $5.00 off of each disc purchased.**

Watch a video promo:

Academic Journalism?

posted by
Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

Three academic scholars prove once again that you can’t trust academic journalism, especially when it comes to “grievance studies”. From Vinay Menon in The Star: “They are self-described liberals. They are merely exposing what many others have claimed in recent years, namely that radicals are polluting certain disciplines from the inside. These “social justice warriors,” the argument goes, are sacrificing objective truth for social constructivism. They are blowing up enlightenment values and the scientific method to advance agendas in the culture wars.”

h/t Peter, Linda, Susanne


Universities get schooled on ‘breastaurants’ and ‘fat bodybuilding’
by Vinay Menon
The Star
October 5, 2018

Oh, the humanities.

Fake news grabbed academia by the tweedy lapels this week, after three scholars confessed to a brazen hoax. Over the last year, Helen Pluckrose, Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay wrote bogus papers, which they submitted to peer-reviewed journals in various fields they now lump together as “grievance studies.”

James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian (Mike Nayna)

In one “study,” published in a journal of “feminist geography,” they analyzed “rape culture” in three Portland dog parks: “How do human companions manage, contribute, and respond to violence in dogs?”

In another, using a contrived thesis inspired by Frankenstein and Lacanian psychoanalysis, they argued artificial intelligence is a threat to humanity due to the underlying “masculinist and imperialist” programming.

They advocated for introducing a new category — “fat bodybuilding” — to the muscle-biased sport. They called for “queer astrology” to be included in astronomy. They offered a “feminist rewrite” of a chapter from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. They searched for postmodern answers to ridiculous queries such as: why do straight men enjoy eating at “breastaurants” such as Hooters? (more…)

“Hippie Bus Tour to Queens” Remembered 50 Years Later

posted by
Filed under: All About Pranks, Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Pranksters, Satire

Fifty years ago, artist/activist Joey Skaggs took sixty hippies on a sight-seeing bus tour to suburban Queens. He called this satirical performance his “cultural exchange tour”.

Read his story here on Artsy.net

Here’s a preview…


When Pranks Become Works of Art
Artsy.net
September 19, 2018

Fifty years ago, on a beautiful Sunday morning—September 22, 1968—I stood welcoming my guests onto a rented Greyhound sightseeing bus on the corner of St. Mark’s and 2nd Avenue in New York City. While the rock band the Group Image loaded their equipment into the luggage area on the side of the bus, writer Paul Krassner quipped hilariously about our upcoming odyssey. The 60-seat Greyhound bus was soon to be completely filled with long-haired, beaded, camera-toting hippies—some friends, some total strangers. The plan was to visit the borough of Queens in an ironic reversal, mocking the tour buses that relentlessly came to Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side to gawk at the hippies. It was my cultural exchange tour. We were excited. We felt like pirates on a galleon. After Howard Smith wrote up my plan in his weekly Village Voice column, artist Yayoi Kusama asked if she could come paint polka dots on a troupe of naked dancers when we stopped at a local head shop on Queens Boulevard, where the Group Image would play.

I was young, but already known for my provocative art. In 1966, on Easter Sunday, I had dragged a decayed skeleton of Jesus Christ on a 10-foot-tall cross to Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side, to protest man’s inhumanity to man. I took the sculpture out again on Easter in 1967, this time to a Central Park “Be In.” This notoriety may have led to a visit by a neatly dressed, middle-aged black man who rang the buzzer of my loft on East 2nd Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue. He said he had come to buy a ticket for his daughter to ride on my bus to Queens. It seemed highly unlikely, so I told him I wasn’t charging for the sightseeing tour. It was completely free.

He reached in his pocket, pulled out a $5 bill, and insisted that I take it. I told him I didn’t want it, but he literally forced it on me. He then pulled out a badge and said I was busted for illegally operating a tour guide business without a license.

Read the rest of this article here.

Alan Abel, RIP

by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

Better check the coffin!


Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94
by Margalit Fox
The New York Times
Sept. 17, 2018

Credit Larry Stoddard/Associated Press

Alan Abel, a professional hoaxer who for more than half a century gleefully hoodwinked the American public — not least of all by making himself the subject of an earnest news obituary in The New York Times in 1980 — apparently actually did die, on Friday, at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 94.

His daughter, Jenny Abel, said the cause was complications of cancer and heart failure.

Mr. Abel’s putative 1980 death, orchestrated with his characteristic military precision and involving a dozen accomplices, had been confirmed to The Times by several rigorously rehearsed confederates. One masqueraded as the grieving widow. Another posed as an undertaker, answering fact-checking calls from the newspaper on a dedicated phone line that Mr. Abel had installed, complete with its own directory-information business listing.

After the obituary was published, Mr. Abel, symbolically rising from the grave, held a gleeful news conference, and a much-abashed Times ran a retraction.

This time around, Mr. Abel’s death was additionally confirmed by the Regional Hospice and Palliative Care in Connecticut, which said it had tended to him in his last days, and Carpino Funeral Home in Southbury, which said it was overseeing the arrangements.

Read the rest of this article here.