What is a hoax? It is often used alongside phrases such as "conspiracy theory" or "urban legend," but a hoax is a purposeful deception meant to fool several people.
This can manifest itself in several ways: some hoaxes are harmless, little more than jokes... but others can carry serious real-world ramifications.
This podcast will dive into a select number of infamous hoaxes, exploring not only the people involved, but the consequences that followed.
Episode 01 - The Persian Princess
In March of 2000, an American archaeologist named Oscar White Muscarella was shown four photographs of a Middle Eastern mummy. Muscarella was intrigued by the photos, but required more proof before he could decide whether the mummy was legitimate or not.
Seven months later, a man from Karachi was detained after police stumbled upon a suspicious video. The video showed this man - Ali Akbar - trying to showcase a mummy he was selling on the black market.
Over the next several months, this mummy - which was found in the home of Aqbar's business partner - would find itself at the center of an international conflict. You see, this mummy could potentially redefine what we knew of human history, and the surrounding nations (Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan) all wanted a share of the profits.
However, the mummy itself would harbor some deep and dark secrets, which would unveil themselves as scientists tried to decipher not only who the remains belonged to, but who they were...
Episode 02 - Sidd Finch
In March of 1985, Sports Illustrated published an article titled "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch." It was a story centered around a 28-year old pitching prospect named Hayden Siddhartha Finch, who had traversed the globe as an aspiring monk, with only a few items in his possession (a French horn, a rug for meditation, and a bowl for soup).
During his travels, though, this Sidd Finch had discovered what he called "the art of the pitch." After a chance encounter with a minor league baseball manager, this phenom - who could allegedly throw over 160 miles-per-hour - was preparing to take his talents to the big leagues.
However, the seventh definition of the word "finch" was "a small lie"... and the author of the article, George Plimpton, was well aware of that. In fact, he had cooked up the entire story in anticipation of that year's April Fool's cover date...
Episode 03 - Jimmy's World
On the morning of September 28th, 1980, readers of the Washington Post were greeted by one of the most horrifying stories imaginable. Titled "Jimmy's World," the article - written by Janet Cooke - showed the subtitle of "8-Year-Old Heroin Addict Lives for a Fix."
Over the next six months, the article would make waves throughout the nation. Politicians and legislators - both local and national - responded with shock and terror to the claims made within the article. Many believe it contributed heavily to the public support of the War on Drugs.
However, the author of the story was an ambitious young woman that had been working at the Washington Post for less than a year, who viewed this story as her ticket to bigger and better things. Her roommate said about her: "She always looked to the future, and she didn't care about the people she left behind."
Episode 04 - The Hack Crash
On April 23rd, 2013, the Associated Press tweeted out the following: "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured." The tweet, which went up at approximately 1:07 PM Eastern Standard Time, had an immediate impact on the economy.
Over the next few minutes, the stock market would plunge dramatically, losing close to $136 billion. Many credit this to the then-recently implemented Twitter feeds on the Bloomberg LP financial trading terminals, which included the tweets of select journalistic entities in their convoluted algorithms.
As many tried to figure out the root of this issue - such as who had perpetrated it, along with "how" and "why" - many point to it as a cautionary tale of social media... how one tweet nearly cost the US economy $136 billion.
Episode 05 - Church Of Bleach
In March of 2015, a man named Louis Daniel Smith was convicted to 51 months in a federal prison for selling a product named MMS through his organization, Project GreenLife.
MMS, an abbreviation for Miracle Mineral Solution - also known as Miracle Mineral Supplement or CD Protocol - is a 28% sodium chlorite solution used primarily in water treatment and hydraulic fracking. However, since the mid-2000s, it has been sold as a health supplement by Daniel Smith and others like him.
Throughout that time, a religious group named the Genesis II Church Of Health And Healing has promoted the usage of MMS over more standard medical treatments. They have touted it as a "sacrament," which can triumph over various forms of cancer, AIDS, malaria, Alzheimer's, and even Autism.
However, others have a name for the product that these groups and individuals are promoting: bleach.
Episode 06 - Kevin Hart
On February 1st, 2008, a high school football player from Fernley, Nevada - named Kevin Hart - held a pep rally in his school's gymnasium. Kevin was the area's first high-profile athlete, and he had been making waves in the region for his physical talents.
The pep rally, organized by his coaches and school administrators, was centered around Kevin... and a big decision he was making. You see, Kevin was being courted by a number of the nation's biggest schools and universities.
Except... he wasn't. The entire thing, including the disastrous school assembly, was part of an intricate lie that dated back to over a year beforehand.
Episode 07 - New Berlin
New Berlin is a small town in southeastern Wisconsin - just about 15 miles west of Milwaukee. It is often regarded as a conservative-minded “small town,” where reputation carries a lot of weight.
On November 12th, 2008, two students found a bomb threat written on the wall of a boy's bathroom. What followed was two days of increased tensions - until an email sent to school officials made the bomb threat much more explicit.
Immediately, school was cancelled. Police from the area began trying to track down the culprit... unaware that their search would lead them to one of Wisconsin's biggest scandals.
Episode 08 - Steev Mike
In 2001, a musician named Andrew W.K. was unveiled upon the world. He embodied all that was good and positive about rock'n'roll culture, embracing his nickname as the "King of Partying."
However, not everything in his career has been festive. In 2004, following a disastrous performance in New Jersey, an entity named "Steev Mike" posted a message on Andrew's website, claiming that the musician was a fraud.
In the years since, rumors have followed Andrew, claiming that he is simply an actor playing a role. People have questioned whether or not this is true, or whether or not this is all just a huge performance piece from the philosophical party animal...
Episode 09 - Operation Mincemeat
In September of 1939 - just weeks after the beginning of World War Two - a memo began circulating throughout British Intelligence. Titled the "Trout Memo," it detailed multiple plans to fool the Germans by using tactics similar to fly-fishing.
These tactics were used sporadically over the next few years, as the Nazi regime continued to expand its control over Europe. But following a plane crash in September of 1942, the seed of an idea was planted.
Two British intelligence officers - Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montago - began thinking up an intricate hoax which, they hoped, would ultimately win the war. To do so, they would need to create an entire identity from the ground up... and they would need a corpse to play the part...
Episode 10 - The Wolfs
Between 2004 and 2006, a married couple took the Florida real estate market by storm.
Victor and Natalia Wolf, who had immigrated to the U.S. a few years earlier from Russia and Germany, had a plan to reinvigorate the central Florida coast. In particular, they set their sights on a town called Citrus Springs, hoping to build a thriving community.
Through a number of companies and subsidiaries, the Wolfs built a company worth tens of millions of dollars. But almost as soon as their ascent began, it came to light that the Wolfs were not who they claimed to be. Over a decade later, their identities - and whereabouts - remain a mystery...