You know what they always say, don’t always believe what you see on the internet. Well, sometimes people break this rule and believe exactly what they see on the internet without any kind of proof. Sometimes these hoaxes are proven wrong in minutes, while others fuel arguments on news waves and the internet for days. These hoaxes have multiplied in recent years due to the massive growth of the internet, making it a breeding ground for pranksters. It can sometimes be hard to spot a hoax, and these are 10 examples that really had people going for a little while.
10. Shark Attacks Helicopter
This was a picture that first came about in 2001 and made its rounds around the internet by way of email threads and was later discussed in various forums, communities and even made it into some books about marketing and critical thinking. The picture seemingly depicts a great white shark jumping out of the water and attacking an individual who is climbing a ladder attached to a military helicopter. The picture was often accompanied by text saying “And You Think You’re Having a Bad Day At Work” and a supposed claim that it was chosen as the National Geographic Photo of the Year. Of course, the picture was soon revealed to be a hoax and it was really just a Photoshop of two completely separate pictures combined into one.
9. Free Money From Bill Gates
This hoax made rounds on the place where most hoaxes take off nowadays, social media. In 2013 on Facebook, a post was made that claimed that everyone who shared that post would receive a cool $5,000 from Bill Gates, who is the co-founder of Microsoft. Of course, a lot of people on Facebook aren’t the smartest and don’t do research and thus the picture got shared thousands upon thousands of times and had everyone wondering if it was legit and waiting for their check. Of course, it turned out not to be, but people should have known that right from the beginning.
8. Brittany Ozarowski
This is one of the lowest hoaxes anybody could ever pull off. In 2013, 21-year-old Brittany Ozarowski hit up local businesses, neighbors and family members, and even created a Facebook and website claiming she had cancer and needed money for her treatments. People, seeing as they had no reason not to believe her, began donating to the young lady’s cause. Soon enough, she had received thousands of dollars from people all over the world. However, it was soon revealed that not only was Ozarowski lying about having cancer and using the money for cancer treatments, it turns out that she was actually using all the money donated to her to fuel her heroin addiction.
7. Steorn Unlimited Energy
This is a super strange one and we have no idea why the company who perpetrated it would even try. In August of 2006, technology development company Steorn claimed that they had developed a technology that could provide free, clean and constant energy. This claim meant that the product was in violation of the law of conservation of energy. This was, of course, a huge claim, and had the scientific community very curious. After the company’s only two demos of the product failed to work, they still challenged scientists to investigate their claim. They did, and found the product didn’t work at all and everything was just a big lie.
6. The Blair Witch Project
This was one of the first examples of a film using word of mouth and claiming the footage was “real” in order to drum up some media attention and entice movie-goers to come check out their film. In reality, the footage wasn’t actual discovered footage, but just made to look that way. In retrospect, this worked out pretty well as The Blair Witch Project brought in around $250 Million at the box office and only cost about $22,000 to make. While this is not a “hoax” in the same vein as some of the others on this list, it definitely belongs here, as the marketing and promotion of the film led the public to believe that it was real discovered footage of missing campers and not just meant to look that way.
5. Charge Your iPhone With an Onion
This one is another barnburner. In 2008, a video was circulating on YouTube that seemingly showed an individual charging an iPod with nothing more than a Gatorade soaked onion. You read that right, an onion. But the craziest part of this whole thing is that the video went mega viral with over 10 million views and likely led thousands and thousands of people to try it out. Of course, it doesn’t work at all and people were left wondering why they even tried it in the first place.
This is one of the oldest examples on this list, as it dates back to 2001 when a site called ManBeef.com began spreading by way of email forwarding. ManBeef.com was said to be a website that sold human meat and gave people cooking and meal tips. At its peak, it was getting around 500,000 hits a day. Of course, the site itself was a giant hoax, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from falling for it and becoming outraged, even creating petitions to have the site banned because it was immoral.
This entry focuses around the web-based series lonelygirl15 that ran from 2006-2008. The series was about a girl named Bree who was very bubbly and had a certain trait in her blood that made her the target of a dangerous cult called The Order. The series got massively popular on YouTube and many people thought it was a legitimate vlog about her real life and the struggles with the cult. Well, in late 2006 it was revealed that the entire thing was a giant hoax. This, however, didn’t stop fans from tuning in and actually allowed the creators of the channels to introduce new characters and other wacky stories for the next few years.
2. The Body of Bigfoot
There have been dozens and dozens of proposed sightings, captures and numerous other hoaxes surrounding the legend of Bigfoot, but for this entry, we will be focusing on one of the biggest and one of the most recent. In 2008, Rick Dyer claimed he had discovered and killed Bigfoot. The difference between this claim was that he offered up photographic “evidence” of a large ape-like creature in an ice chest. While some were still obviously skeptical, others saw this as their chance to claim Bigfoot was real. The photo was shared a ton of times and was taken as fact by many. However, the hoax was eventually revealed and thus, the legend of Bigfoot continues. Also, Dyer had another Bigfoot hoax in 2012, and we think it’s about time people stop believing him.
1. Balloon Boy
And coming in as the biggest hoax that fooled the internet is none other than Balloon Boy. On October 15th, 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene of Colorado allowed a gas balloon filled with helium to float away into the atmosphere and claimed their son was trapped inside. Mass media picked the story up and it became headline news all day long across the globe and throughout the internet. When the balloon finally landed, the son was nowhere to be found and was actually discovered hiding in the attic of his home. The hoax was revealed when Wolf Blitzer asked the son about why he was hiding, at which point he turned to his father and said “you guys said that we did this for the show,” which meant the whole thing was just an elaborate publicity stunt.