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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

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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

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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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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

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Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

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