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Famous pranks, hoaxes, and fakes that you should know about (50 Photos)
A crop circle in Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, England? Space aliens, perhaps?
Nope. This man made a crop circle in a field using string and a plank of wood in Britain in 1991.
Falcon Heene, 6, sits in front of his family home on Oct. 15, 2009 in Ft. Collins, Colo., after a widely televised hoax in which his siblings had erroneously reported that he was riding aboard an experimental balloon built by his father, Richard Heene. Falcon was found hiding in the attic of his home. Media helicopters, military aircraft and the FAA all assisted in tracking down the wayward balloon, the flight of which was broadcast live across the nation. Right photo: In this image rendered from video and released by KMGH-TV in Denver, a hot-air balloon is seen over Colorado, near Fort Collins. Larimer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Eloise Campanella says the device, which is shaped like a flying saucer, has the potential to rise to 10,000 feet.
This TV Guide cover photo of Oprah Winfrey was created by splicing Winfrey’s head onto Ann-Margret’s body. The composite was created without permission from Winfrey or Ann-Margret, and was detected by the designer of Ann-Margret’s dress.
This portrait of Abraham Lincoln is a composite of Lincoln’s head and Southern politician John Calhoun’s body.
This grainy photo, supposedly of the Loch Ness monster, allegedly was taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, and is known as the Surgeon’s Photograph. It was published in The Daily Mail in 1934. Extensive investigation has shown the photo to be staged, but many still believe Nessie exists.
Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old Edinburgh University masters student and Middle East activist, poses in the lobby of his hotel, on June 13, 2011, in Istanbul. The US student based in Scotland apologized for writing the fake ”Gay Girl in Damascus” blog, saying he feared the hoax could harm the efforts of real-life opponents of the Syrian regime. The Arraf character became a media sensation with her reports on the movement against President Bashar Al-Assad, posting as “an out Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on.”
A website, falsely identifying itself as ”BBC News” with links connecting it to the real ”BBC News,” reports the death of pop singer Britney Spears on June 13, 2001 in London, England.
The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which parts of a skull and jawbone, alleged to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England, were presented as the remains of a previously unknown early human. It was exposed in 1953 (shown here) as a forgery composed of the lower jawbone of an orangutan combined with the cranium of a modern human.
The Redbook cover at left features a heavily retouched image of Faith Hill. Redbook’s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison said, ‘The retouching we did on Faith Hill’s photo for the July cover of Redbook is completely in line with industry standards.’
People looking at phony astral figure used to fool customers during a seance.
Pedestrians walk through an “e-lane” on April 2, 2012, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter used April Fool’s Day to have a little fun with what he says is a real problem: distracted walking. City officials painted lines and oblivious stick-figure pictures on one stretch of John F. Kennedy Boulevard near City Hall as a jab at pedestrians who keep their eyes on their cellphone screens and not their surroundings.
Josef Stalin routinely had his enemies air-brushed out of photographs. In this image, a commissar was removed from the original after falling out of favor with Stalin.
An April Fools’ edition of the BBC program “Panorama” purports to show “spaghetti harvesting” in Ticino, Switzerland, on April 1, 1957.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, it brought along a flurry of photo hoaxes. The Atlantic magazine set up a live blog to distinguish genuine photos from hoaxes. Notable hoaxes included an image of an enormous supercell storm cloud hovering over the Statue of Liberty, a still from the disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” showing an enormous wave crashing into the statue and a photo composite of a shark fin in a flooded street.
Woman holding a painting by Jim Moran, who was considered “America’s No. 1 prankster” in the 1930s and ’40s. Moran submitted a painting the Los Angeles Art Association, claiming it was by an obscure artist named Naromji (Moran’s name spelled backward, with a “ji” added). He titled the painting “Three Out of Five,” which referred to a brand of hair restorer because, as Moran said, abstract painting made him want to “tear his hair.”
Air Force helicopters have flown in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and some sharks can attack their prey by leaping out of the water. However, a great white shark has never attacked a helicopter in San Francisco Bay. This image was was made by pasting an image of a breaching shark, taken by South African photographer Charles Maxwell, into a picture of a USAF helicopter hovering in front of the Golden Gate Bridge taken by Lance Cheung.
This digital composite of Olympic ice skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan appeared on the cover of New York Newsday. The picture showed the rivals practicing together, shortly after an attack on Kerrigan by an associate of Harding’s husband. The caption reveals the fake: “Tonya Harding, left, and Nancy Kerrigan, appear to skate together in this New York Newsday composite illustration. Tomorrow, they’ll really take to the ice together.”
New York Daily News front page dated Oct. 31, 1938. Orson Welles adapted H.G. Wells’ ”War of the Worlds” for radio and played the principal role. A dramatic description of the landing of a weird ”machine from Mars” started a panic.
Portrait of American journalist Clifford Irving (right) and author Richard Suskind in 1972. The pair collaborated on a hoax ”autobiography” of reclusive American businessman Howard Hughes.
Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins, took a photo that appeared to be of fairies. The public, including Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, loved them. It was decades before the two admitted the images were photos of cardboard cutouts of drawings, and they continued to maintain they had actually seen fairies.
A photograph by Liu Weiqiang of the Daqing Evening News won an award for ‘one of the 10 most impressive news photos of 2006.’ This photograph was later revealed to be a composite of two separate photographs, one of antelopes and one of a train.
This famous campaign photograph showing Herbert Hoover with his hand on the shoulder of his running mate, Charles Curtis, was manipulated. One of Hoover’s press directors, Edward Anthony, explained in his autobiography, that two separate pictures were used and the hand was painted in by an artist.
An employee poses with “A Mermaid” at Christie’s Auction house in London, June 7, 2010. The late-18th-century creation of part monkey, part fish and paper-mache, was a hoax meant to be a mummified mermaid skeleton.
A photograph, at left, by Adnan Hajj, a Lebanese photographer, shows thick black smoke in Beirut after an Israeli air raid. The Reuters news agency initially published the image at right on their web site, but withdrew it when it became evident that it had been manipulated to show more and darker smoke. Hajj said he was only trying to clean up the photo and not alter the image.
Left photo: Jennifer Wilbanks is shown in an undated photo taken from a missing placard in front of the family home in Duluth, Ga., on April 28, 2005. Wilbanks, who fabricated a story about being kidnapped after she disappeared on the eve of her lavish wedding, prompting a massive search effort, was indicted May 25, 2005 on two charges of lying to police. Right photo: A billboard stands next to the road May 5, 2005 showing the changed status of Jennifer Wilbanks in Duluth, Ga.
Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England, is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole. Hubert C. Provand and Indre Shira took this photo in 1936. They claim it is an image of a ghost descending the staircase, but the more likely explanation is that it is a smear on the camera lens. You could probably say that about a great majority of ghost apparition photos out there.
A photo of Sarah Palin was widely distributed across the Internet shortly after Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate for his 2008 campaign. The photo was revealed to be a composite of Palin’s head pasted onto somebody else’s body.
The Amalgamated Flying Saucer Club of America, headquartered in Los Angeles, released this photo taken by a member reportedly showing a flying saucer estimated at 70 feet in diameter. Photographed on June 16, 1963.
Locals look into a crater, believed to have been caused by a meteorite, in a field near Mazsalaca, about 106 miles from Riga, Latvia, on Oct. 26, 2009. By November, scientists said a closer analysis revealed it was a hoax.
During Hurricane Irene in August 2011, a photo showing a shark swimming down a flooded Puerto Rican street began circulating online, and was picked up by several news outlets, including a Miami television station. The image of the shark most likely came from a 2005 photo from Africa Geographic that was available online.
In the undoctored photo on the right, Bo Gu, and early Chinese Communist Party leader is at the far left and Mao Zedong is at the far right. Mao later had Bo Gu removed.
The doctored photo is on the left, and the original is on the right. Adolf Hitler had Joseph Goebbels (second from the right) removed from the original image.
This National Geographic magazine cover has the Great Pyramid of Giza digitally moved to fit the vertical format. Tom Kennedy, who became the director of photography at National Geographic after the cover was manipulated, said that ‘We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn’t repeat that mistake today.’
This trick picture went viral online without a caption. At some point an unknown prankster added a caption to the image, claiming it showed Snowball, a monster cat born of a mother abandoned near a Canadian nuclear lab. That’s a good joke, but it’s as fake as the image.
John Kerry, then a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and not yet a politician, prepares to speak at a peace rally in New York in 1971. The image was used in a photo composite during the 2004 presidential primaries.
Jane Fonda protests the Vietnam War and President Nixon at a rally near the Republican National Convention in 1972. The image was used in a photo composite during the 2004 Presidential primaries.
This photo composite makes it look like John Kerry and Jane Fonda once shared a stage at a rally. The two were photographed at two different events. The doctored image surfaced during the 2004 presidential primaries.
Hoping to illustrate its diverse enrollment, the University of Wisconsin at Madison digitally inserted a black student in a crowd of white football fans for the cover of its brochure. The original photograph is on the left.
A 2005 Newsweek cover featured a photo of Martha Stewart’s head pasted onto the body of another person.
A digitally altered image of illustrator Clement Hurd appears in newer editions of ‘Goodnight Moon,’ written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Hurd. The publisher, HarperCollins, altered the original photograph, at right, to remove a cigarette from Hurd’s hand.
A photograph of Katie Couric was digitally altered from the original, at right, to give Couric a trimmer waistline and a thinner face. This image appeared in CBS’ in-house magazine Watch! CBS spokesman, Gil Schwartz, said ‘the doctored image was the work of a CBS photo department employee who got a little zealous.’
Sepah News, a service owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, released these images. The on at right shows three missiles being launched in Iran. The one at left was apparently altered to add a fourth missile, according to defense analyst Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation Program for the London-based Institute For Strategic Studies.
The Cardiff Giant, famous hoax of the 1860s, is still an attraction at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
This is the original, unaltered photo of, from left, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan walking toward the East Room of the White House on the first day of the Middle East peace talks in 2010.
Egypt’s state-run newspaper, Al-Ahram, published an altered version of that photo showing Egyptian President Mubarak leading the group walking to take part in peace talks.
The original image is on the left and the altered version is at right. Al-Ahram’s editor-in chief, Osama Saraya, said that this “expressionist photo is … a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other.”
While British Petroleum was dealing wth the massive Deep Horizon gulf coast oil spill, it posted on the Web a doctored photo of their command center. Three blank screens were altered. BP spokesman Scott Dean said that there was no diabolical plot to photographically beef up the company’s command center. Rather, he said, a BP photographer with completely benign intentions just slipped the images in.
The original photo of Elizabeth, the queen mother, and Canada Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, taken in Banff, Alberta, included King George VI at the far right. King George VI was removed when it was used on an election poster for King, possibly to portray him as more powerful.
Iranian defense officials released the photo at bottom purporting to show a stealth fighter jet soaring over snow-capped Mount Damavand. Earlier, aviation experts had claimed that the jet shown in the hangar in their press photo at right was not genuine. The jet in the photo sits at the same angle — and with the same reflections — as in one of the photographs from the hangar. The shot of the is a stock image. Thus, the flight image was revealed to be a composite.