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10 Internet Lies That Won't Die

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Alison Jackson/Snopes

It takes a certain combination to make an internet hoax/myth/meme take flight. It must be just credible enough to be possible, usually paired with a small “Wow! Cool!” factor. Below are 10 popular untruths that have misled thousands. If any readers can contribute additional information about the truth behind these myths, we welcome the enlightenment.

1. The Proof is in the Canoodle

They say: The photo at the top of this post was secretly captured, taken around the time of her famous “Happy Birthday” song, proving the famous, illicit intimacy of Marilyn Monroe and JFK. 

The Truth: The photo is part of the eerie portfolio of artist Alison Jackson. She is famous for her staged photos of impersonators who bear stunning resemblances to celebrities. To be truly unsettled, seek out her pictures of the British royal family taking a bubble bath together

2. PIN Panic

Pinterest

They say: "If a thief forces you to take money from an ATM, punch your PIN in reverse. If your PIN is 1234, you punch 4321. The moment you punch in the reverse, the money will come out but will be stuck in the machine and the machine will immediately alert the police without the thief’s knowledge. Every ATM has this feature. Can't believe I never knew this!!" 

The Truth: There have been attempts to implement safety codes like this in ATMs, all unsuccessfully. In 2004, the Kansas state legislature introduced a bill that would require this exact scenario, but it never passed. The Federal Trade Commission analyzed the potential of a panic code, and concluded that it just wouldn’t work. The commission believed a panic code would not deter crime (by the time the police got there the thief would be long gone) and might pose a deeper danger to the victim. Plus, few banks support the idea, not wanting the installation cost or liability of such a feature. Not to mention that the system would be useless to consumers with palindromic PINs.

3. Nature Embraces a Dead Boy’s Bike

Pinterest

They say: A boy left his bike chained to a tree when he went away to war in 1914. He never returned, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike. Incredible that this bike has been there for 98 years now!

The Truth: Santa has a hearing problem. No, that’s probably not the true story, although Berke Breathed’s children’s book based on the famous bike is much more interesting than the accepted theory. The bike was donated to a boy, Don Puz, after his family suffered a house fire. He wasn’t fond of the bike, with its solid rubber tires and tricycle-like build.  So, he left it in the forest of Washington State’s Vashon Island in 1954. The tree grew around it, possibly with anonymous help over the years.

4. The Tragic Lucky Life of Anna Mae

Instapunk

They say: Here is the story of a woman who was personally touched by nearly every national tragedy of the 20th century and beyond. The Titanic, the Hindenburg, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and all points of sadness in between. Poor Anna Mae Dickinson.  

The Truth: The only record of this article is from the New York Intelligencer, which doesn’t seem to exist. There was no one with the surname Dickinson listed as a passenger aboard the Titanic, nor was anyone named “Alfred” (Anna Mae’s tragic uncle) among the Hindenburg casualties, to debunk just two of the claims made in the original piece. As for the photo, that is real. It’s Grandma Moses, an American folk artist who did not start her career until very late in life. Her work was extremely popular in the 1950s.  

5. The Grandmother of All Tumors

Pinterest

They say: “This is a picture of 46 year old Jane Todd Crawford. In 1809, she rode 60 miles on horseback to see Dr. Ephraim McDowell who removed a 7.5 lb ovarian tumor through a 9" incision in 25 minutes (without anesthesia and antiseptic). Twenty-five days after the surgery she got back on the horse, rode home, and lived another 33 years."

The Truth: The story itself is true, and was recorded by Doctor McDowell himself in a report, "Three cases of extirpation of diseased ovaria," in the journal The Eclectic Repertory and Analytical Review, Medical and Philosophical. The problem is the date. Photography didn’t exist in 1809. Some supposedly reliable sources claim this is Crawford, and the surgery happened in 1851. But the historical plaque marking her grave disagrees, saying she died in 1842. What’s more, Dr. McDowell died in 1830. This photo is more likely the face of another woman said to have had a tumor scooped out of her body through a 9 inch incision, without anesthesia, singing hymns to keep herself calm. The poor woman pictured is unidentified.

6. Get Over It

They say: Ian McKellen wears an awesome shirt in public.

The Truth: Ian McKellen wears a different awesome shirt in public. (Although if McKellen doesn’t own the shirt on the left, someone needs to give him one.) 

7. Baby’s First Step 

They say: Behold, the precious miracle of life! 

The Truth: Babies can make their mothers' stomachs jump and bulge when they flail about in the later months of gestation. But even a very thin mother has too thick of an abdominal wall, uterus, and belly fat to allow such detail to show through. 

8. The Spaceman Who Went to Church

Wikimedia Commons 

They say: This Spanish cathedral, the New Cathedral, in Salamanca, was built in the 1700s with a spaceman carved into its ancient masonry, probably because ancient space travelers visited earth in the past.

The Truth: There is a spaceman carved into the stonework of this 16th century church, but it was put there in 1992 when the building was undergoing restoration. It is the habit of stonemasons, in this case one Jeronimo Garcia, to “sign” their work with depictions of modernity. 

9. To Toro or Not To Toro

Snopes

They say: Bullfighter Álvaro Múnera is shown here, faced with the bull he was supposed to kill for sport. But he had a sudden epiphany that bullfighting was cruel, and stopped in the middle of the fight.  

The Truth: Álvaro Múnera was a real bullfighter, and he did come to see bullfighting as cruel. His career as a torero was ended when he was just 18, after a bull gored him and injured his spinal cord. But the photo is not Múnera, it’s Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara. And he’s not slumped in defeat; Vara is in desplante, which is the opposite of defeat or sadness; it's actually showboating by placing yourself in a vulnerable position right in front of the bull, to show you aren’t afraid of him. If the above myth was true, Múnera would have picked a terrible time to give up bullfighting, as it would be very unlikely that the bull had decided to give up peoplefighting at the same time. 

10. The Universe Corrects Time Travel with a Fatal Car Crash

Cool Interesting Stuff

They say: In 1950, a man dressed in Victorian costume was hit by a car and killed. At the morgue his pockets were found to contain a bill for horse and carriage care, $70 in Victorian era banknotes, and similar tokens of the previous century. His business card identified him as “Rudolph Fentz.” They were able to trace the widow of a Rudolph Fentz, Jr., who claimed her father-in-law went out for a walk one night in 1876 and never returned. 

The Truth: Despite being reported as a real live unsolved mystery throughout the 1970s and '80s, the story can be traced back to science-fiction writer Jack Finney, in a story published in the 1950s called “I’m Scared.” However, some true believers still hold out hope, claiming that a newspaper story detailing the Fentz “myth” was published months before Finney’s story, and that researchers have found true evidence of a live Fentz existing in the 1800s. However, the evidence for this has not been forthcoming.

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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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Fake It Until You Make It: 10 Artificial Ruins
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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The love of ruins, sometimes called ruinophilia, has for centuries inspired the creation of clever fakes—a host of sham facades and hollowed-out castle shells found on grand English, European, and even American estates. The popularity of constructing artificial ruins was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries, but architects occasionally still incorporate them today.

Why build a structure that is already crumbling? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the popularity of counterfeit ruins was influenced by two factors—a classical education that enforced the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and the extended tour of Europe (known as The Grand Tour) that well-to-do young men and women took after completing their education. Travelers might start in London or France and roam as far as the Middle East, but the trip almost always included Italy and a chance to admire Roman ruins. More than a few wealthy travelers returned home longing to duplicate those ruins, either to complement a romantic landscape, to demonstrate wealth, or to provide a pretense of family history for the newly rich.

Here are a few romantic ruins constructed between the 18th and 21st centuries.

1. SHAM CASTLE // BATHAMPTON, ENGLAND

Sham Castle (shown above) is aptly named—it’s only a façade. The "castle," overlooking the English city of Bath, was created in 1762 to improve the view for Ralph Allen, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as to provide jobs for local stonemasons. From a distance it looks like a castle ruin, but it's merely a wall that has two three-story circular turrets and a two-story square tower at either end. The castle is not the only folly (as such purely decorative architecture is often called) that Allen built. He also constructed a sham bridge on Serpentine Lake in what is now Prior Park Landscape Garden—the bridge can't be crossed, but provides a nice focal point for the lake. Today, Sham Castle is part of a private golf course.

2. WIMPOLE FOLLY // CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND

Building a structure that looks as if it's crumbling does not preclude having to perform regular maintenance. The four-story Gothic tower known as Wimpole Folly in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, was built 1768-72 for Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke and owner of the Wimpole Estate. Owned by Britain’s National Trust, the ruin threatened to truly crumble a few years ago, so restoration efforts were needed. The last restoration was so well done it won the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. The Wimpole Estate is now open to the public for walks and hikes.

3. CAPEL MANOR FOLLY // ENFIELD, ENGLAND

Capel Manor at Bulls Cross, Enfield, England has been the site of several grand homes since the estate’s first recorded mention in the 13th century, so visitors might be tempted to believe that the manor house's ruins date back at least a few centuries. But that sense of history is an illusion: The faux 15th-century house was built in 2010 to add visual appeal to the manor gardens, which have been open to the public since the 1920s.

4. ROMAN RUIN // SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Roman Ruin was built as a garden ornament for the 1441-room Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, one of the most important monuments in Austria. The ruin was once called The Ruins of Carthage, after the ancient North African city defeated by Roman military force. But despite the illusion of antiquity, the ruins were created almost 2000 years after Carthage fell in 146 B.C.E. The ruin’s rectangular pool, framed by an intricate semi-circle arch, was designed in 1778 by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, who modeled it on the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, which he had seen an engraving of.

5. THE RUINEBERG // POTSDAM, GERMANY

One of the earliest examples of artificial ruins in Germany was the complex of structures known as The Ruinenberg. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, had a summer palace in Potsdam, near Berlin, that was said to rival Versailles. In 1748 Frederick commissioned a large fountain for the palace complete with artificial ruins. The waterworks part of his plan proved too difficult and was soon abandoned, but not before designer Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff constructed the ruins. The complex includes Roman pillars, a round temple, and the wall of a Roman theatre. Since 1927 the site has belonged to the Prussian Gardens and Palaces Foundation, Berlin-Brandenburg.

6. PARC MONCEAU // PARIS, FRANCE

Elegant Parc Monceau is located in the fashionable 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysees and Palais de l’Elysée. In 1778, the Duke of Chartres decided to build a mansion on land previously used for hunting. He loved English architecture and gardens, including the notion of nostalgic ruins, so he hired the architect Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to create an extravagant park complete with a Roman temple, antique statues, a Chinese bridge, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a minaret, a small Egyptian pyramid, and some fake gravestones. The most notable feature of the park is a pond surrounded by Corinthian columns, now known as Colonnade de Carmontelle.

7. HAGLEY PARK CASTLE // WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND

The ruins of the medieval castle at Hagley Park in Worcestershire are definitely fake, but they were built with debris from the real ruin of a neighboring abbey. The folly was commissioned by Sir George Lyttelton in 1747 and designed by Sanderson Miller, an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. The castle has a round tower at each corner, but by design only one is complete and decorated inside with a coat of arms. The grounds, which also feature a temple portico inspired by an ancient Greek temple, some urns, and obelisks, are now privately owned and not open to the public.

8. TATA CASTLE RUINS // TATA, HUNGARY

French architect Charles de Moreau (1758-1841) was a scholar of classical Roman architecture known for his ability to counterfeit impressive ruins. Nicholas I, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, hired him to work on Tata Castle and to create the ruins of a Romanesque church for the palace’s English Garden. Even though the ruin Moreau created was fake, he built it with the stones of a real ruin, the remnants of the early-12th-century Benedictine and later Dominican abbey of Vértesszőlős. A third-century ancient Roman tombstone and relief were placed nearby.

9. BELVEDERE CASTLE // MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the mid-1800s, and their plan for creating romantic vistas included the construction of a folly known as Belvedere Castle. The Gothic-Romanesque style hybrid, overlooking Central Park’s Great Lawn, was completed in 1869. Although the folly was designed as a hollow shell and meant to be a ruin, it eventually served a practical purpose, housing a weather bureau and exhibit space. The castle also provides a beautiful backdrop for Shakespeare in the Park productions, evoking the royal homes that play prominent roles in the Bard’s works.

10. FOLLY WALL IN BARKING TOWN SQUARE // LONDON

In a borough known for its real historic buildings, the ancient wall found in London’s Barking Town Square might look centuries old. It’s not, and ironically, the wall is part of the square’s renovation efforts. The wall was built by bricklaying students at Barking College using old bricks and crumbling stone items found at salvage yards. Known as the "Secret Garden," named after the children’s book about a walled garden, the wall was designed to screen a nearby supermarket and was unveiled in 2007.

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11 Delicious Facts About Good Burger
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Paramount Pictures

It takes just 14 words—“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—to make a ‘90s kid swoon with nostalgia. Good Burger, the beloved Nickelodeon comedy about a couple of daft teens who try to save their fast food joint from corporate greed, was born out of a Kenan Thompson/Kel Mitchell sketch on All That in the mid-'90s. A year later, due to its popularity, it found itself being turned into its own live-action movie, with Brian Robbins at the helm. Today—20 years after its original release—it’s a silly cult hit that’s indelibly a part of Generation Y. Revisit the classic with these facts about Good Burger.

1. KEL MITCHELL AUDITIONED FOR ALL THAT WITH HIS CHARACTER FROM GOOD BURGER.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Kel Mitchell explained how he came up with Ed. “I did a ‘dude’ voice, and that’s where Ed [from Good Burger] was kind of born,” he said. “I did that there at the audition. They were just cracking up.”

2. ED’S FIRST APPEARANCE WAS IN THE JOSH SERVER SKETCH, “DREAM REMOTE.”

Essentially, Good Burger was born out of a random character decision made during one little sketch. “It was where [Josh] could have a remote control that could control his entire life,” Mitchell told The A.V. Club. “So, he could fast-forward through his sister nagging, he could make pizza come really quickly. I was the pizza guy. I came to the door, and the pizza guy didn’t really have a voice, so I was like, ‘Mleh, here’s your pizza! That was the first time we saw Ed, and so they created Good Burger.”

3. ED’S LOOK WAS INSPIRED BY MILLI VANILLI.

When prepping for Ed’s debut on All That, Kel Mitchell spotted what would become the character’s signature look. “I remember I went to the hair room, and I saw these braids. It was like these early Brandy ’90s Milli Vanilli braids. I put those on, and it came to life,” he told The A.V. Club.

4. THOUSANDS OF POUNDS OF MEAT STUNK UP THE SET.

Nickelodeon

For a movie all about burgers, you better believe the production had a ton of them sitting around on set. "At one point, there was over 1750 pounds of meat on the set," Kenan Thompson told The Morning Call. "Some of it was old meat. It was so nasty. Some of the burgers would stay out there for a long time. I felt sorry for the extras who had to eat them with cold, clammy fries. But on screen, those burgers look good."

5. ELMER’S GLUE WAS USED TO KEEP THE FOOD LOOKING FRESH.

In order to keep the food looking good on screen, the production resorted to old, albeit inedible, tricks. "It was so gross, because when I scoop out ice cream in the movie, it was really vegetable shortening with food coloring,” Mitchell told The Morning Call. “When I poured milk on cereal, we used Elmer's Glue so the flakes wouldn't get soggy."

6. KENAN AND KEL CONTRIBUTED TO THE GOOD BURGER SOUNDTRACK.

Good Burger was their baby, so of course Kenan and Kel took the reins on more than just the creation of the characters, according to a 1997 interview with The Morning Call. Specifically, Kel partnered up with Less Than Jake on the hit song, “We’re All Dudes.” Because of this, the soundtrack actually charted at 101 on the Billboard 200.

7. GOOD BURGER WAS LINDA CARDELLINI’S FEATURE FILM DEBUT.

YouTube

In an interview with The A.V. Club, the Freaks and Geeks star reminisced about her breakout role in the Nickelodeon movie. “That’s my sister’s favorite role that I’ve ever played! It was so much fun. It was my first film, and it was a fantastic part,” Cardellini said. “I got to play crazy! Nobody knew who I was, and I got the part from the table read.”

8. WRITER DAN SCHNEIDER INTENDED TO GIVE UP ACTING WHEN HE WROTE GOOD BURGER, BUT HE PLAYED MR. BAILY IN THE FILM.

On creating Good Burger, writer/producer/actor Dan Schneider explained to The A.V. Club: “I’ve always wanted to write, and after I was doing All That and Kenan & Kel, I got the opportunity to do another TV show—I was still going on auditions. I realized that if I took that show, I was going to have to give up All That and Kenan & Kel. I really didn’t want to do [that] ... I passed on the acting role, and that was really the turning point, I guess, in 1996, when I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to put my acting career on the back burner, and I’m going to be a writer-producer.’ Then I wrote the movie Good Burger.” However, if you watch the movie, you’ll notice Schneider starring as Mr. Baily.

9. THE ORIGINAL TRAILER FEATURED A SCENE THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE MOVIE.

For reasons that remain a mystery, a scene where a Good Burger customer orders “a good shake” from Ed (Mitchell), only to receive an actual bodily shaking from the Good Burger employee, didn’t make the final cut. It did, however, feature for a few seconds in the theatrical trailer.

10. KENAN AND KEL REUNITED FOR A GOOD BURGER SKETCH ON THE TONIGHT SHOW.

In 2015, Kenan and Kel reunited for a Good Burger sketch with Jimmy Fallon. This time, however, Fallon played Ed’s co-worker, while Kenan came in as a construction worker as a surprise. "We've been wanting to get back together," Mitchell told E! News. "It was just about the right project ... it felt like home."

11. THE FIRST LINE IN THE FILM IS THE SAME AS THE LAST LINE.

Appropriately, the line is, “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—just watch the movie.

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