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12 Ridiculous Hoaxes People Actually Believed

Okay, seriously, how did we fall for these in the first place?
IMAGE THE PIXELMAN PIXABAY
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Okay, seriously, how did we fall for these in the first place?

If you’ve fallen for an internet hoax, you’re not alone. While some are playful jokes or even thought-out marketing ploys, others can be incredibly dangerous. According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, submissions to the Internet Crime Complaint Center increased 69.4 percent between 2019 and 2020. Internet hoaxes are notorious because they often involve scamming people out of money, installing viruses on their computers, or worse.

But others may just leave you questioning what you can or should believe. Viral hoaxes are meant to leave you questioning reality—and wanting to come back for more. Falling for one doesn’t make you stupid or gullible, especially as hoaxes get more and more sophisticated. And whether or not a hoax has been debunked or not, there are still some people out there who are firm believers in them and some other crazy conspiracy theories. Take a look at these 12 internet hoaxes and ask yourself if you would fall for them today.

NASA’s Warning of Six Days of Darkness

Photo by HBO.

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This is an old hoax that made its rounds again in December 2020. In an article at the time, NASA supposedly confirmed that Earth will go dark for six days. It did sound legit—with “quotes” from a NASA director about how people should prepare (the quoted NASA director actually resigned in 2017). NASA confirmed that the article was a hoax, and one that has been popping up over the past decade.

The Broom Challenge

Photo by ETSY.

Another one with “NASA’s” backing, the broom challenge made headlines when a tweet circulated that a broom could stand on its own for one day due to the gravitational pull from Earth. Despite tons of videos and national attention from news outlets and celebrities, the reality is that NASA isn’t behind this one. It’s just another internet hoax. You can actually stand a broom up at any time, if the broom’s center of gravity is just right.

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No, You Cannot Buy Human Meat Online

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Back in 2001, a website debuted called ManBeef.com, which advertised recipes and tips on preparing meals…out of human meat. Thankfully, this detailed cannibal site was a hoax. The site took on a life of its own as word-of-mouth about it spread. The creators of the site made an announcement stating that they didn’t allow customers to actually purchase meat products, just souvenirs. Aside from being illegal, this is definitely one of the most disgusting pranks in recent history.

Hotelicopter: An April Fools’ Day Video

Photo by UNSPLASH.

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If you thought that you could enjoy a luxury hotel while on a helicopter ride, you definitely fell for the hotelicopter hoax in 2009. Here's how the story goes: a company supposedly spent five years converting the world’s largest helicopter—a modified Soviet Mil V-12—into the first flying hotel. The video and website were actually a viral marketing campaign by a hotel search site. Despite a lot of interest, there was never a takeoff from JFK Airport.

Sorry, But There’s No New Season of "Friends" On the Way

Photo by HBO.

Long before Friends fans got their long-awaited reunion on HBO Max, rumors spread all over the internet about a potential new season of the show. The most believable hoax surfaced in 2017, when a Facebook post (supposedly from David Schwimmer, A.K.A. Ross) made the rounds announcing that the cast was reuniting to shoot a new season. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that the Facebook account was newly created and spelled Schwimmer’s name wrong. Oops.

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Facebook Cash Giveaways

Photo by SHUTTERSTOCK.

Speaking of Facebook, it’s safe to say that most things that sound too good to be true on the social media platform (and for that matter, the rest of the internet) most likely are. There is no such thing as a Facebook Rewards program or cash giveaway, despite semi-believable messages to the contrary. The “Facebook executive” you would contact is actually a scam, and unfortunately more people continue falling for this hoax.

Half Cat, Full-On Hoax

Photo by Unsplash.

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In 2013, an image supposedly from Google Street View circulated on the internet, claiming that a “half-cat” was walking around in Canada. The image showed a cat with only two legs. Someone even launched a Kickstarter campaign for a book that showcased photos and research of this “phenomenon.” But the cat's owners disproved these images when they published normal images of their cats.

Please Don’t Repost Social Media “Permissions”

Photo by Pexels.

Internet hoaxes from the major social media networks are famous for promising to protect your photos, your friends list, activity, and more. All you need to do is share a post and you’re safe, right? Not so fast. But people still fall for it, including some high-profile names like former United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who even shared the post in 2019. Yikes.

Don’t Try To Charge Any Device with Gatorade and an Onion

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

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A video started making the rounds in 2008, purporting that an onion soaked in Gatorade can charge an iPod. News stations caught wind of the viral video and even tried the experiment out themselves. Not only did the iPod fail to charge, but viewers were left with a soggy, smelly mess. Stick to USB-C charging cables, people.

Gmail Isn’t Going To Send You Boxes of Your Emails

Photo by SHUTTERSTOCK.

Back in 2007, Google announced Gmail Paper, which would print out hard copies of your emails. This was supposed to be a way to poke fun at late adopters of the digital era. But what readers eventually found was a page where Google admitted that the page was all a joke. No trees were harmed in the making of this hoax.

Is That a Shark Swimming Down a Highway?

Photo by Chris Clor | Getty Images.

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Leave it to Sharknado, because that’s the only place you’re really going to see a shark cutting right through the asphalt. When Hurricane Laura tore through Texas and Louisiana in 2020, a photo of a shark swimming down the freeway went viral again. But the photo is nothing more than a hoax that has been circulating since 2011, which is nothing more than a doctored image.

Hercules Was Just a Photoshopped Dog

Photo by Heart Radio.

When a photo appeared of a woman walking her horse alongside a man with a dog named Hercules, the collective internet freaked out. The internet hoax claimed that Hercules weighed 282 pounds and was as tall as a horse. A lot of people fell for it since the photo was believable, although it’s hard to imagine that a man could handle such a huge dog on a basic leash.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.

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* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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