5 Hoaxes That Fooled the World

From aliens to dog brothels, missing kids and spaghetti trees, there have been some outrageous hoaxes throughout history, and here are five of the best! You won’t believe the lengths some people have gone to pull of their prank and trick the world!




NY Times’ coverage of the hoax

The Story:

On October 30, 1938, a radio bulletin announced that aliens had invaded. The first two-thirds of the broadcast comprised of a series of news bulletins. Widespread panic ensued.

The Reality:

It was a radio drama, directed and narrated by Orson Welles. The episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds. While a disclaimer was read out at the beginning of the broadcast, many people tuned in too late to hear it.



The Story:

On April 1, 1957, BBC’s Panorama, a popular current affairs show, ran a story about a Swiss family harvesting spaghetti from the family’s spaghetti tree. The BBC was inundated with calls after the show aired, with Brits desperate to know how they could grow their very own spaghetti trees.

The Reality:

This was an elaborate April Fools’ Day gag staged by the BBC. At that time, pasta was a relatively unknown food item in the UK, meaning the broadcaster were able to easily trick many viewers into believing the foodstuff grew from the ground. There were so many calls of interest after the show that the BBC were forced to let the cat out of the bag and tell the nation they’d been fooled.


The happy family during the “spaghetti tree” harvest


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The Story:


The now infamous balloon

In October 2009, a 6-year-old boy named Falcon was reported by his parents to have drifted away inside a helium balloon. According to the media, the boy was travelling at up to 7,000 feet in the homemade balloon (which was built to look like a silver flying saucer).  After more than an hour in the air, the balloon landed more than 80km away, right by Denver International Airport. The area was shut down and authorities swooped. However, when they reached the balloon, the boy was not inside. A search of the surrounding area commenced and fears grew, particularly when someone reported seeing an object fall from the balloon during its flight …

The Reality: 

The event turned out to be a hoax, staged by the boy’s parents who were hoping to land a reality TV show. The boy was found safe and well later that afternoon hiding in his parent’s home, the place he had reportedly been all afternoon. Both parents were charged and sentenced to short stints in jail. They were also ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution.



The Story:

1976, New York – an advertisement was placed in a New York newspaper for a “Cat House for Dogs”; in other words, a dog brothel. Readers could bring their dogs along to enjoy the likes of Fifi, the French Poodle, and Lady, the Tramp. Calls flooded in, both from interested customers and new media desperate to talk to New York’s first dog pimp. The man behind the ad even hosted a special “night at the canine bordello”. Animal Affairs groups were outraged and an investigation was launched. ABC News devoted an entire story to the situation, and subsequently won an Emmy for it.

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The Reality:
This was the work of one of America’s biggest pranksters, Joey Skaggs. He only revealed the truth about his prank after he was subpoenaed. The special “night at the canine bordello” he hosted was actually a staged event, complete with actors and hired dogs. ABC News’ Emmy Award was disqualified (although some still maintain that the dog brothel was a real thing and Skaggs was just trying to cover his back). Read more details on Joey Skaggs’ elaborate hoax here.


The “ad” in New York’s Village Voice




 The Story:

Dr Robert Wilson snapped this photograph of the Loch Ness Monster in 1934. It was the first known picture of Lochy, although the legend had existed for many years before that. It appeared in the Daily Mail and gained worldwide attention. Wilson refused to have his name associated with the pic, and it soon became known as  the “Surgeon’s Photograph” (even though he was a gynaecologist –  but I guess that doesn’t have the same ring to it).

The Reality:

In 1975, it was revealed that the famous photo was a fake. Christian Spurling had built the “monster” out of plasticine and a toy submarine. Spurling was the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail. It was claimed that Wetherell committed the hoax to get revenge on the paper, and roped in Spurling and a few other accomplices, including Robert Kenneth Wilson.




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