Urban Legends

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Controversy Rages Over “New” Book

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Guest Post By John Leonard

In the year 1882, famed naturalist and cryptozoologist Angus Willoughby created the definitive guide to the unusual in nature. Willoughby’s World of Wonder, A Field Guide to Strange Beasts & Curious Creatures became a classic text in the fields of cryptozoology and xenomorphology, studied in universities worldwide for almost half a century.

At least, that’s what it says on the back cover.

The truth behind this unusual book, however, is a matter of some debate. (more…)

Here’s Why New York City Parks Close at Dusk

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, Urban Legends

Reminding us about the good old days, artist Joseph Reginella just placed statues around New York commemorating Mayor Ed Koch’s (1978-1989) strategy for ridding the city of taggers by releasing wild wolves in the subway yards. According to Joseph, they’ve since multiplied and are roaming the city’s nether regions. H/T Felipe.


Sculptures of wolves mauling tourist appear in New York City parks
by Rusty Blazenhoff
BoingBoing
October 10, 2019

This is weird.

A series of identical monuments depicting a tourist being mauled by a pack of wolves have surreptitiously been installed in different New York City parks with plaques that read:

Dedicated to the many tourists that go missing every year in New York City.

And a reminder as to why the parks close at dusk.

Erected by the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation and the NYC Fellowship.

A brilliant prankster with mad sculpting skills is taking credit.

Watch the video:

Here’s Mayor Koch pontificating on his brilliant idea:

Read the full story here.

Citroën’s WWII Subterfuge Remembered

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends, You Decide

True or not, this is an inspiring bit of sabotage.


Citroën Sabotaged Wartime Nazi Truck Production in a Simple and Brilliant Way
by Jason Torchinsky
Jalopnik.com
July 24, 2019

Citroen

In case you forgot to change the batteries in your calendar, you may not be aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of Citroën. We’ve been shooting a Jason Drives special mini-series for this centenary, and while doing some research I happened to stumble upon a fascinating bit of wartime Citroën lore. It involves screwing with Nazis in a genuinely clever and subtle way that nevertheless had big repercussions. I’ll explain.

So, when France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, major French factories like Citroën were forced to produce equipment for the Nazis. Citroën president Pierre-Jules Boulanger knew he couldn’t just refuse to produce anything, but he also knew there’s no way in hell he’s going to just roll over and build trucks for a bunch of filthy Nazis. Pierre had a plan.

John Reynolds’ book Citroën 2CV describes Boulanger’s sabotage efforts. Of course, he instructed workers to set a nice, leisurely pace when building trucks (likely Citroën T45 trucks) for the Wermacht, but that’s fairly obvious. What was brilliant was Boulanger’s idea to move the little notch on the trucks’ oil dipsticks that indicated the proper level of oil down just a bit lower.

By moving the notch down, the trucks would not have enough oil, but German mechanics would have no idea, because, hey, the little notch on the dipstick says its just fine. Then, after the truck has been used for a while and is out deployed somewhere crucial, whammo, the engine seizes up, and you’ve got a lot of angry, stranded, vulnerable Nazis, balling up their little fists and redly barking curses in German.

It’s such a fantastic act of sabotage: it’s extremely cheap to implement, it’s subtle, there’s no way to see something amiss is happening as the trucks are being built, and it delivers its blow away from the site of the sabotage and when it will cause the most inconvenience and trouble.

I suppose it could be apocryphal, but this is one of those cases where I’m going to choose to believe.

That’s some mighty good sabotaging, Pierre.

New Doc About the Church of the SubGenius Screens at SXSW

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, Urban Legends

One reviewer’s opinion…


SXSW Film Review: ‘J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius’
This diverting enough documentary focuses on the parodic religious “cult” that reached peak hipster awareness in the 1980s.
by Dennis Harvey
Variety
March 21, 2019

Like 8mm films of 1960s “happenings” or videos of 1970s performance art, “J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius” chronicles a cultural footnote that perhaps should be filed under the heading You Had to Be There. The satirical-absurdist “religion” founded by some Texans actually caught fire among hipsters in the 1980s, influencing some of that era’s more interesting work in various media while providing a pre-Burning Man, pre-internet “secret club” to cerebral misfits of all stripes.

Sandy K. Boone’s documentary is likely to be lost on the not-previously converted, as what seemed the height of snark in the Reagan Era hasn’t dated all that well — nor is its appeal apparent as excerpted and recalled here. But those who remember the gospel of “slack” will make this diverting-enough documentary an in-demand work at genre festivals, as a streaming item and in other forums.

In reaction to the disruptive 1960s being “flipped on its head” in the “too-square-again” present day, two Lone Star State fans of nerd-brainiac rock god Captain Beefheart started creating anonymous quasi-cult screeds for their own entertainment in 1979. Dubbing themselves Reverend Ian Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond, they rebelled against their staid Heartland backgrounds, embraced the tenor of extremist religious literature, and ridiculed the American Dream with a mock religion whose deity was J.R. “Bob” Dobbs — a clip art image of 1950s sitcom dad-like hyper-normality whose lore was deliberately contradictory and absurdist.

Read the rest of this article here.

When Urban Legends Become Dangerous

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Urban Legends

Whether or not the Momo Challenge exists, just the thought of it is perceived as dangerous. Read more about it on Snopes.com.


Viral Momo Hoax Makes Schools Across the Country Ban YouTube
by Kelly Weill
March 4, 2019

Kim Kardashian fell for a hoax last week, now schools are falling for it too.

Momo—the stringy-haired, bird-faced puppet lady taunting children—is an overhyped hoax, but no one seems to have told schools, which are banning YouTube in response.

In the so-called “Momo Challenge,” the creepy figure allegedly tells children to complete increasingly dangerous stunts, such as leaving a stove on, supposedly ending with suicide. But the videos are an urban legend, and YouTube says it has no evidence of the trend on its site aside from some obviously staged hoax videos.

Nevertheless, Florida’s Palm Beach County School District blocked YouTube for its 193,000 students last week, out of fear that children would see Momo. Stockton, California’s Lincoln Unified School District went on a similar digital lockdown Thursday. The same day, Arkansas’ Jacksonville North Pulaski School District blocked YouTube searches for “Momo” on school computers.

Palm Beach County sent a district-wide email to the principals of a hundred-plus schools on Friday, announcing a temporary YouTube ban on school computers, WPTV first reported. The email reportedly claimed students had seen Momo appear while they watched educational videos.

A modern urban legend, the Momo panic has spread through unconfirmed rumors like these. (more…)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Debunked

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, Urban Legends

Snopes sheds light on the origins of another beloved Christmas myth: “The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer… was developed for commercial purposes by a Montgomery Ward copywriter at the specific request of his employer…”


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Snopes.com

Was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer created to bring comfort to a girl whose mother was dying of cancer?

CLAIM
The character ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ was created by a father to bring comfort to his daughter as her mother was dying of cancer.

WHAT’S TRUE
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by a man whose wife was dying of cancer.

WHAT’S FALSE
The story of Rudolph was created by a father to bring comfort to his daughter as her mother lay dying of cancer.

ORIGIN
To most of us, the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, immortalized in song and a popular holiday television special, has always been an essential part of our Christmas folklore, but Rudolph is in fact a mid-twentieth century invention whose creation can be traced to a specific time and person

Read the whole story here.

New Joey Skaggs Article and a Sneak Preview of ART OF THE PRANK Movie on HuffPost

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Filed under: Art of the Prank - the movie, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, Urban Legends

Roach Vitamins Hailed as Miracle Drug. Bon Appétit!
by Joey Skaggs
HuffPost
October 10, 2017

Joey Skaggs as Dr. Josef Gregor in his Metamorphosis Roach Cure hoax, 1981

Here’s a snippet:

As an artist, I discovered in the 1960s that I could use the mass media as a vehicle to make social and political commentary on a broad scale. So, for the last 50+ years, I've used the media as my medium as a painter uses a canvas. From my earliest performance pieces (a.k.a. media hoaxes), the Hippie Bus Tour to Queens, followed by the Cathouse for Dogs and the Celebrity Sperm Bank, I found that by creating plausible, but totally fictitious stories, played out in real life, I could hook the media into reporting them as fact.

The key to success has always been a salacious, sensational or ironic hook with a great visual that is just irresistible to reporters on tight deadlines…

Read the whole story here.

Facebook Fights the Fakers

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Prank News, Urban Legends

From duplicitous “satire” to malicious BS, Facebook helps people spread untrue stories. With a new step in the sustained controversy over its algorithms and curatorial practices, the big blue giant is now taking measures to cut some of the crap.


“Facebook to roll out tech for combating fake stories in its trending topics”
by Sarah Perez
Techcrunch
September 14, 2016

aotp_facebookFollowing the controversial firing of the editorial team who managed the Trending Topics that appear next to Facebook”™s News Feed, the company is now actively working on technology that will help prevent fake news stories from showing up in the Trending section. Similar systems have been rolled out to News Feed in recent months, and now that same technology is making its way to Trending, said Facebook”™s News Feed head, Adam Mosseri, at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this morning.

The social network came under attack earlier this year for allegedly suppressing conservative news from appearing in the Trending Topics section. While it was later discovered that this was largely due to individual judgement, not institutional bias, the company took the heavy-handed measure of letting the entire team of Trending Topics news curators go.

Explained Mosseri, Facebook made this decision because “we wanted to be clear – in the wake of a lot of feedback – about our role and the role of people in the Trending product.”

That being said, the remaining product, which is now entirely driven by algorithms, has become much worse, many say. It has even allowed fake news stories to show up as trending topics – something a human-powered editorial team would likely catch.Read more.


Late-night Devil Worship at the CERN?

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Urban Legends

Someone filmed a fake human sacrifice at CERN laboratory
by Amar Toor
August 19, 2016

Officials at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have launched an internal investigation after someone filmed a fake human sacrifice ritual at its Geneva headquarters, home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In the video, posted online this week, a group of people wearing dark robes stand in front of a Hindu statue before “stabbing” a woman, purportedly as some sort of ritual. It was filmed from afar, and the person who shot it pretended to freak out and ran away after the stabbing.

A CERN spokesperson tells the AFP that the prank video was shot without permission on its Geneva campus, and that the people who orchestrated it had badge access to the site. The spokesperson did not identify the people responsible for it, describing the investigation as an “internal matter.” Read the rest of the story here.

Can Snopes Keep Up with the BS?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation, Urban Legends

Our friends Barbara and David Mikkelson have been separating facts from fakes since 1995, when the internet looked like it might be a fad. Their immensely popular and credible argument-settling website Snopes.com has held steady against a rising tide of digital lies. But in the era of Reddit, Twitter, and Trump, David admits that he sometimes feels a tad overwhelmed.


“Can mythbusters like Snopes.com keep up in a post-truth era?”
by Rory Carroll
The Guardian
August 1, 2016

davidmikkelsonThe most scenic way to find truth on the internet is to drive north of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Highway, blue ocean foaming to the left, sunlit hills cresting to the right, until Malibu Canyon Road, where you take a sharp right and wind for a few miles through the oak-lined knolls and dips of Calabasas, past gated estates that are home to the likes of Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Mel Gibson, and keep going until you reach an odd-looking wood-and-brick house with a US flag on the porch: the home of David Mikkelson.

It feels like a good jumping off point for a hike, or a pony trek. But really it is the ideal place to explore fibs like whether Hillary Clinton stole $200,000 in White House furnishings, or whether Donald Trump called Republicans the “dumbest group of voters”, or whether Black Lives Matter protesters chanted for dead cops, or whether Nicolas Cage died in a motorcycle accident, or whether chewing gum takes seven years to pass through the digestive system, or whether hair grows back thicker after being shaved, or, if you really, really must know, whether Richard Gere had an emergency “gerbilectomy” at Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Mikkelson owns and runs Snopes.com, a hugely popular fact-checking site which debunks urban legends, old wives”™ tales, fake news, shoddy journalism and political spin. It started as a hobby in the internet”™s Pleistocene epoch two decades ago and evolved into a professional site that millions now rely on as a lie-detector. Every day its team of writers and editors interrogate claims ricocheting around the internet to determine if they are false, true or somewhere in the middle – a cleaning of the Augean stables for the digital era.

“There are more and more people piling on to the internet and the number of entities pumping out material keeps growing,” says Mikkelson, who turns out to be a wry, soft-spoken sleuth. “I”™m not sure I”™d call it a post-truth age but “¦ there”™s been an opening of the sluice-gate and everything is pouring through. The bilge keeps coming faster than you can pump.” Read more.


Ricky & Doris: An Unconventional Friendship in New York City. With Puppets!

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Filed under: Urban Legends

My long-time friend and former neighbor, activist Doris Diether, is featured in this short film by photographer and filmmaker David Friedman. He made this wonderful homage to the friendship between Doris and artist RicKy Syers for AARP.


Doris Diether with her RicKy Syers puppet, photo by Victor Shoup
Pulling her own strings, 2013, Victor Shoup

Ricky Syers is an off-beat 50 year old street performer who found his calling as a puppeteer after a lifetime of manual labor. While performing in New York City”™s Washington Square Park, he met Doris Diether, an 86 year old community activist. They became friends and he made a marionette that looks just like her. Now she”™s joined his act and the two of them can often be seen performing together.

via Colossal


The Amazing Story of Mingering Mike

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The mystery of Mingering Mike: the soul legend who never existed
by Jon Ronson
The Guardian
11 February 2015

When a “˜crate-digger”™ found a massive vinyl collection at a flea market, he couldn”™t understand how a soul star who”™d released over 100 records could just disappear. But the truth turned out to be even stranger. Jon Ronson goes in search of Mingering Mike

Intensely shy ... Mingering Mike at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photograph: Jocelyn Augustino for the Guardian

Intensely shy … Mingering Mike at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photograph: Jocelyn Augustino for the Guardian


This story begins with a record collector unearthing something extraordinary at a flea market one dawn in 2003. His name is Dori Hadar. He worked as a criminal investigator for a law firm in Washington DC and he”™d been up all night with a client at the jail next door.

“It”™s a miserable place to be, the DC jail,” Hadar tells me. “It”™s stuffy and muggy and everything”™s old and decaying.”

“Do you remember what your client had been accused of?” I ask.

Hadar shakes his head. “It”™s basically drugs, guns and murders. Mainly.”

Hadar finally left the jail at 5am, just as a nearby flea market was setting up. He was a regular there – a “crate-digger” – for ever rifling through boxes of secondhand soul and funk albums, hunting for rarities. “It”™s very competitive, the crate-digger world,” Hadar says. “People guard their boxes, they don”™t want you to see, they pull the records out really fast.”

But Hadar had never been at the flea market at 5am before, and was thrilled to find no other crate-digger in sight. “And suddenly this enormous collection turned up. There must have been 15 boxes of albums.”

“As a crate-digger, that must be “¦”

“It”™s the dream.”

All artworks courtesy the artist/Smithsonian American Art Museum

All artworks courtesy the artist/Smithsonian American Art Museum


Hadar was a true soul aficionado, with an encyclopaedic knowledge and 10,000 records at home. Which is why he was so amazed to discover 38 albums by a soul singer he had never heard of. His name was Mingering Mike. Hadar stared at the record covers. He read the liner notes. There was Mingering Mike”™s 1968″™s debut, Sit”™tin by the Window. The cover art was a painting of a young man in a green T-shirt, good-looking, serious. The comedian Jack Benny had written the liner notes, calling him “a bright and intelligent young man with a great, exciting future awaiting him”.

So it transpired. There were greatest hits collections and a Bruce Lee concept album and movie soundtracks – including one for an action film called Stake Out. And there were live albums, like 1972″™s Live from Paris, The Mingering Mike Review: “˜Their biggest show ever,”™ read the liner notes. “˜What a night that was.”™

Most of the song titles were upbeat and optimistic, like There”™s Nothing Wrong With You Baby and Play It Cool, Don”™t Be No Fool, Get Your Thing Together and Go Back to School. But other records had darker themes, like The Drug Store and Mama Takes Dope. Some were still wrapped in their original cellophane, price tags intact.

Hadar pulled out a few discs to see what condition they were in. Which was when he discovered to his enormous surprise that they weren”™t vinyl. They were black-painted cardboard, with fake labels and hand-drawn grooves.

What had begun to dawn on Hadar was now totally apparent: Mingering Mike did not exist. He was somebody”™s hugely detailed fantasy.

Read the whole story here.


Mingering Mike’s prodigious album collection is on exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2nd floor South, 8th and F Streets, N.W., February 27, 2015 – August 2, 2015


VICE Falls for Dream Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, Urban Legends

thisman.org
thisman.org

If you’ve ever seen this man in your dreams, you’re not alone. Famed prankster Andrea Natella’s long-lived dreamy hoax just caught VICE sleeping.

Read VICE’s mea culpa: Ugh, We Just Got Hoaxed: The Real Story About the “˜This Man”™ Dream Face, January 15, 2015

Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries Exhibition

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, The History of Pranks, Urban Legends

From Marty Elvin:

The Milton S. Eisenhower Library of Johns Hopkins University presents:


Fakes, Lies & Forgeries

Fakes, Lies & Forgeries
George Peabody Library Exhibition Hall
17 East Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore, Maryland
October 5, 2014–February 1, 2015

In 2011, Johns Hopkins University acquired the world”™s most comprehensive collection of rare books and manuscripts on the history of forgery in the West, some 1,700 items in all spanning the ancient world to the 20th century. This exhibition of 70 treasures from the collection explores the phenomenon of forgery as a creative literary form, and addresses particular highlights of this extraordinary gathering of scholarly materials from classical antiquity to the early decades of the 20th century.

Bibliotheca Fictiva

Highlights will include: editions of Jesus”™ posthumous “Letter from Heaven,” eyewitness accounts of the Fall of Troy, the only surviving autograph of the martyr Thomas Beckett, unpublished manuscript verses of Martin Luther expositing “The Lord”™s Prayer, annotated books from Shakespeare”™s personal library, (more…)

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.