April Fools: Some of the biggest paranormal hoaxs..... (possibly)

Posted by Atticus on Friday, April 1, 2011

So April is here again and as usual, the fun/claims/tricks/hoaxes begins.
There has been many things within the paranormal world over the past fortnight that one could consider a hoax.

Ian lawman is said to bury himself in a small casket 7ft underground in Tutbury Castle. Not quite sure what this is meant to achieve but no doubt I will be speaking about that in the next update.

We also has a case of a house being haunted in Coventry. Its ok now though because Psychic hero Derek Acorah came to the recue.  The spirit was apparently an angry man called Jimmy.
Darn it Derek, there goes our string theory!

Anyway, on with the update. Rather than bore you with the origins and history of April Fools. RiPA takes a look back into the past at some of the greatest hoaxes ever:

Sneaker Pimps Crop Circle (July 1997)

In July 1997 a crop circle resembling the logo of a popular band, the Sneaker Pimps, appeared in Warwickshire, England. This band was playing in the nearby Phoenix music festival. No one ever took credit for the formation. Cerealogists Andy Thomas and Mike Leigh have suggested that "the thought patterns of those at the festival had somehow coalesced to create it in ways which experiments had shown possible." An alternative (more plausible) explanation is that it was created either by a fan, or by a public-relations agent trying to publicize the band. 

The BMW Crop Circle (February 1993)

A crop circle appeared in a field of rye located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa during the first week of February 1993.

The South African media speculated excitedly about whether it was the work of a UFO. Many newspapers and TV and radio shows discussed it, fanning interest in the incident. Popular curiosity grew until February 14, when a small detail was pointed out that had previously escaped almost everyone's notice: the circle formed a BMW logo.

The circle turned out to be the work of the Hunt Lascaris ad agency, working on behalf of BMW. TV commercials soon followed, showing aerial views of the circle accompanied by the tag-line, "Perhaps there is intelligent life out there after all." Hunt Lascaris estimated that it received over $1 million worth of free publicity from the stunt.

Operation Blackbird (July 1990) 
Colin Andrews confers with military personnel during Operation Blackbird
By the summer of 1990 the phenomenon of crop circles was attracting large amounts of media attention. A group of researchers, who described themselves as 'cerealogists,' set out to solve the mystery of the circles' formation once and for all. They camped out on a hillside in Wiltshire with an array of heat, light and sound detectors, in the hope of recording the creation of a crop circle.

On the second night, July 25, the Operation appeared to meet with success. The monitoring equipment recorded flashing orange lights in the adjacent field. The next morning the lead researcher excitedly told the waiting media that two large circles with parallel lines running through them had formed during the night...

The Third Eye of T. Lobsang Rampa (1956) 
The Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, was first published in 1956. It purported to be his autobiographical account of growing up in Tibet and studying Tibetan Buddhism.

Rampa claimed he had been born into a wealthy Tibetan family and had studied in Lhasa to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead. This operation had bestowed upon him amazing psychic powers. 

The Disappearance of David Lang (Circulated since the 1950s) 

David Lang was said to be a farmer who lived near Gallatin, Tennessee. On September 23, 1880 he supposedly vanished into thin air while walking through a field near his home. His wife, children, and two men who were passing by in a buggy all witnessed his disappearance. At least, this is what a popular tale that has circulated since the 1950s claims.

Rudolph Fentz, the Accidental Time Traveler (circa 1953) 

The story of Rudolph Fentz was for many decades considered to be an unsolved mystery, as well as a case of possible time travel. According to the story, in June 1950 a man suddenly appeared in the center of New York City’s Times Square, as if from out of the blue. He was wearing old-fashioned clothes and sported the kind of mutton-chop sideburns that had gone out of fashion decades ago. Glancing about himself, a look first of astonishment and then of panic flashed across his face. He began to sprint forwards, and was then struck down and killed by a car. 

King Tut’s Curse (Began in April 1923)
In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse supposedly promised death to all who violated his tomb. 

The Cottingley Fairies (1917-1920)

In 1920 a series of photos of fairies captured the attention of the world. The photos had been taken by two young girls, the cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, while playing in the garden of Elsie's Cottingley village home. Photographic experts examined the pictures and declared them genuine. Spiritualists promoted them as proof of the existence of supernatural creatures, and despite criticism by skeptics, the pictures became among the most widely recognized photos in the world. It was only decades later, in the late 1970s, that the photos were definitively debunked. 

The Materialization of John Newbegin (December 19, 1874) 

On December 19, 1874 the New York Sun published a long letter on its front page which it said had been sent from a businessman who lived in the small community of Pocock Island, located seventeen miles off the coast of Maine. In his letter this businessman related an unusual tale about a spirit that had materialized during a seance, but which had then refused to unmaterialize and had resumed his former life as a fisherman.

The Witch Trial at Mount Holly (1730) 

On October 22, 1730 an article appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette describing a witch trial that had recently been held in Mount Holly near Burlington, New Jersey.

According to the article, over 300 people had gathered to witness the trial of two people, a man and a woman, who had been accused of witchcraft. The charges included "making their neighbours sheep dance in an uncommon manner, and with causing hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great terror and amazement of the King's good and peaceable subjects in this province."

The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth (Early 1660s) 

The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth was a case of suspected poltergeist activity. In the early 1660s John Mompesson of Wiltshire began to hear strange noises in his home. There was the sound of a drum beating, as well as scratching and panting noises. Objects seemed to move of their own accord in the house, and sometimes a strange sulphureous smell lingered in the air.

Mompesson believed that a man he had helped send to jail, a drummer named William Drury, had, through some form of witchcraft, caused a malevolent spirit to invade his home. The case attracted interest throughout England, and many people came to witness the spirit for themselves. However, when the King sent two representatives to investigate the haunting, they found no evidence of supernatural activity.

Skeptics, of which there were many, dismissed the entire thing as a hoax. They suggested that Mompesson himself may have been behind it, either to profit from those who came to see the spirit, or to decrease the value of the house (which was rented). Another possible culprit was Mompesson's servants, who seemed quite pleased at the travails of their master, and who often taunted him by pointing out that he could never fire them because no one else would agree to work for him under such conditions.

Michel de Notredame (1503-1566)

Better known as Nostradamus, rose to prominence as an astrologer in sixteenth-century France. He was supported by the patronage of Queen Catherine de Médici, for whom he wrote numerous verses implying the downfall of her rival, Elizabeth I of England. Obviously, these predictions did not come true. His most popular work was The Prophecies, first published in 1555, which has remained in print to this day.

Nostradamus himself cannot properly be regarded as a hoaxer since astrology in his time was a highly respected practice. He believed in the legitimacy of his art. The real deception lies in the uses to which his work has been put since his death.

Nostradamus wrote his prophecies in an ancient form of French worded so ambiguously that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything a reader desired. As a result, his followers have been able to credit him with predicting a wide range of calamities including the great London fire of 1666, the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Iranian revolution of 1979, and the events of September 11, 2001. However, Nostradamus's supposed predictions are only ever noted after the fact. There has never been an instance in which a verse by Nostradamus has been used to accurately predict an event before it occurred.

The work of Nostradamus has also been a theme in a large number of outright hoaxes—instances in which verses were falsely attributed to him. For instance, during World War II the Nazis spread propaganda claiming that Nostradamus had prophesied the success of Hitler. The Allied countries retaliated by spreading propaganda claiming Nostradamus had foreseen Germany's defeat. After 9/11 interest in Nostradamus surged thanks to some verses of his, circulated by email, in which he seemed to predict the tragedy. However, the verses had not actually been written by him. They were the work of an anonymous hoaxer. 

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud first came to the attention of the public in 1355, when it was exhibited at the Church of St. Mary in Lirey, France. It had been given to the church by a French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, who probably acquired it in Constantinople. Its supporters claim that this fourteen-foot piece of cloth bearing the image of a naked man was the funeral shroud of Christ. They argue that only supernatural means could have created such an image. Skeptics dismiss the shroud as a medieval forgery, arguing that: 1) there was a flourishing trade in false relics during the middle ages; 2) a medieval forger could definitely have created such an image (researchers have offered a variety of theories to explain how it might have been done); and 3) the man's body is oddly proportioned (his head is too large), which suggests the image is a painting