The Quick 10: 10 Completely Fake News Stories

You have to love the Weekly World News. With ludicrous stories exposing things like how Adolf Hitler was cloned and has joined Al Qaeda and that the Garden of Eden was recently discovered in Colorado, how could you not love it? But you expect those stories from the WWN. You don't expect them from reputable newspapers. However, yesterday marked the anniversary of an article in The New York Sun (which was once on par with The New York Times) that rivaled even the most ridiculous articles ever published in the WWN. Check out the Great Moon Hoax and nine other journalistic no-nos.

1. The Great Moon Hoax. According to The Sun, there's life on the moon. Not just any life "“ beavers, unicorns, bat people (yes, bat people), goats and bison. It was 1835, so when the story claimed that a high-powered telescope was showing "scientists" these amazing creatures, people were inclined to believe it. And you have to hand it to the writers "“ the descriptions are pretty detailed:

The face, which was of a yellowish color, was an improvement upon that of the large orangutan... so much so that but for their long wings they would look as well on a parade ground as some of the old cockney militia. The hair of the head was a darker color than that of the body, closely curled but apparently not woolly, and arranged in two circles over the temples of the forehead. Their feet could only be seen as they were alternately lifted in walking; but from what we could see of them in so transient a view they appeared thin and very protuberant at the heel...We could perceive that their wings possessed great expansion and were similar in structure of those of the bat, being a semitransparent membrane expanded in curvilinear divisions by means of straight radii, united at the back by dorsal integuments. But what astonished us most was the circumstance of this membrane being continued from the shoulders to the legs, united all the way down, though gradually decreasing in width. The wings seemed completely under the command of volition, for those of the creatures whom we saw bathing in the water spread them instantly to their full width, waved them as ducks do theirs to shake off the water, and then as instantly closed them again in a compact form.

Although it eventually came out that the story was a total lie, people seemed to be more amused than mad and the Sun managed to keep its increased circulation.

2. The Bathtub Hoax. Being trivia buffs as I imagine many of you are, I bet you've heard the story that the bathtub wasn't popular in the United States until Millard Fillmore had one installed in the White house in 1850. It seems to be a "fact" people enjoy because it keeps surfacing despite the fact that it's not true. The original source, a column by Baltimorean writer H.L. Mencken, was a complete fabrication.

3. The Balloon-Hoax. This hoax of 1844 was perpetrated by no less than Edgar Allan Poe. It's believed he was probably inspired by the Great Moon Hoax, which was printed in the same newspaper nine years earlier. Poe reported that "Mr. Monck Mason's flying machine" had crossed the Atlantic in a mere three days. You can read the whole account here. The Sun sort of printed a retraction a few days later, though to have been written by Poe himself:

"The mails from the South last Saturday night not having brought a confirmation of the arrival of the Balloon from England, the particulars of which from our correspondent we detailed in our Extra, we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous. The description of the Balloon and the voyage was written with a minuteness and scientific ability calculated to obtain credit everywhere, and was read with great pleasure and satisfaction. We by no means think such a project impossible."

4. The New York Zoo Hoax. Apparently completely false stories were popular in the 1800s, because that's when this story takes place as well. The New York Herald claimed that lions, tigers and bears were roaming the city and eating citizens at an alarming rate "“ nearly 50 dead and up to 200 injured. The end of the story said something along the lines of, "Haha, just kidding," but by the time they had read that far in the article, people were so panicked they skimmed right over it. Or perhaps they became distracted by looking out the window for stray beasts.

5. The Hitler Diaries. In this case, the publishing news magazine was the victim of the hoax, not the perpetrator. In 1983, Stern, a West German news magazine, paid the equivalent of millions of dollars to purchase 60 books said to be Hitler's journals. As soon as they started to publish excerpts of the diaries, experts immediately declared them false. To add insult to injury, they weren't even good forgeries.
6. Lucian Yahoo Dragoman. In an age of Pilot Inspektors and Audio Sciences, Lucian Yahoo really doesn't sound like that crazy of a name. A Romanian newspaper reported that little Lucian Yahoo was born in December 2004 to parents who met online and wanted to honor that medium by naming their son after one of its most used search engines. The problem? Little Lucian didn't exist. The reporter completely made the story up.

7. The Great Wall of China Hoax. Psst. Want to buy a historic landmark, cheap? Have I got a deal for you"¦ at least, that's what American newspapers reported back in 1899. Four newspaper reporters from Denver agreed to write independent stories about the Great Wall being torn down to make way for a road. It would have ended there, but other newspapers picked up the story and word quickly spread across the United States.

8. "Jimmy's World." Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke actually won a Pulitzer for her invention, an eight-year-old boy hooked on heroin. When the story hit the presses in 1980, Jimmy's story resonated with the citizens of D.C. and a search was done to try to find and help the poor kid. He was never found. This in combination with the discovery that Cooke had lied about a degree from Vassar and used a large number of anonymous sources led to the discovery that Jimmy probably didn't exist. Her Pulitzer was revoked and she resigned from the Post.

9. Allegra Coleman. Allegra, a supposed Hollywood It Girl, was invented for Esquire in the mid-90s. Writer Martha Sherrill made her up as sort of a commentary on celebrity puff pieces"¦ the problem is that most readers couldn't distinguish the made-up celebrity fluff from the real celebrity fluff and the joke was sort of lost. But it launched Ali Larter's career "“ the then-unknown model was chosen to portray Allegra for the photo shoot; agents immediately started calling Esquire wanting to represent the girl on the cover whether her name was Allegra or Ali.
10. David Manning. Anyone who declares a Rob Schneider movie brilliant has to be fake, right? In 2000, Sony invented Manning, supposedly a movie critic for a small-town Connecticut newspaper, to give rave reviews for movies like The Animal and Hollow Man. When a Newsweek reporter exposed that the critic was entirely made up, Sony had to pay a $1.5 million fine. "It was an incredibly foolish decision," one Sony exec said.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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