Here's a look at recent hoaxes, scams and even (shock!) a real story circulating via email and Facebook. They include a golden oldie about not pumping gas on April 15, a rant about aircraft carriers gathering in Norfolk, Va., a run down of Easter's pagan traditions, and more.
Mars is invading. Or so claims a resurrected hoax that claims that the Red Planet will soon appear as large as the Moon in the night sky. It's a tweaked version of an earlier hoax from 2003, when Mars really was at its closest approach to Earth in thousands of years ... but remained a fuzzy red dot in the night sky. Read Space.com's new debunking or check out Nuketown's original one.
It was a big summer for Harry Potter. The seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, as was the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After reading the first and seeing the second, I was reminded of a hoax I've had sitting on my hard drive for a few years, just waiting to be debunked.
It's entitled "Magic Vs Jesus" and it claims that not only is are the Harry Potter books inherently Satantic, they are also causing a mass conversion to Satanism among today's youth. And it's got the quotes to back them up.
Unfortunately for the e-mail's author, the quotes it so feverishly believes in were taken from a fictional article in the satirical webzine The Onion.
Here's the original e-mail:
Subject: Fw: Magic Vs Jesus
"Jesus died because He was weak and stupid"; this is a quote from
6-year-old Jessica Lehman of Easley, SC, after reading the HARRY POTTER BOOKS!
"Hermione is my favorite, because she's smart and has a kitty,"
The following is an email sent for the American Family Association:
This is the most evil thing I have laid my eyes on in 10 years ... and no
one seems to understand its threat. The Harry Potter books are THE
NUMBER ONE selling children's books in the nation today. Just look at any Barnes
An e-mail claims that Mars will soon be looming so large in our skies that it will rival the moon. The truth is that while Mars did get very close to Earth a few years ago, that merely turned it into a slightly brighter red star in the sky. If it actually did get as close as the email claims, the Earth would be wracked by high tides and thrown out of its orbit.
Here's the email.
Two Moons on 27th, August 2007*
*27th August; the day the Whole World is waiting for .....
An old virus hoax stumbles back to virtual life with a debunking bait-and-switch that points to a real threat, then repeats the same tired warning.
Date Captured: 8/6/07
Subject: Serious Virus Threat per CNN Report Be cautious of this. Here is a link to the snopes page: http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/postcard.asp
PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR CONTACT LIST!!
Snopes.com debunks the rumor that Willie Nelson quipped "It's a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach. I'd be dead by now" after his tour bus was raided for drugs, and in the wake of hundreds being sickened by E. coli-contaminated spinich.
Neil Armstrong long maintained that when he uttered his famous phrase "One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind", there was an 'a' in there between 'for' and 'Man'. Austrialian programmer Peter Shann Ford analyzed NASA's recording of the phrase, and says Armstrong was right. It'd be nice to if other researchers confirmed the existance of the missing "a", which has dogged Armstrong for years (as this account on Snopes.com shows).
The "Virtual Card for You" e-mail hoax has mutated yet again, promising hard drive devastation in a slightly different form: that of an Olypmic torch that "burns" your hard drive. While it earns bonus points for imagry, "Invitation" remains just as false as its predecessors.
Here's the text of the email:
Date Captured: 8/17/2006
Be considerate & send this warning to whomever you know. PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND ALL CONTACTS!:
An e-mail claiming to showcase photos of a hanged/hanging and/or captured Osama din Laden is a hoax. The e-mail originated as an attempt to get people to download a trojan horse virus on to their computer, but it later morphed into a scare mail warning people about the alleged apocalyptic dangers of opening the e-mail. The virus itself has been neutralized, and the dangers were never as bad as what the hoax e-mail claims.
The "WTC Survivor" virus hoax that first surfaced after 9/11 is back in circulation, almost unchanged since its initial release.