The past week in hoaxes looked a lot like any other week: Strangers aren't doling out their lottery winnings online, alive celebrities aren't dead, photos that look fake probably are, and imminent doom is not so imminent after all.
No, Yellowstone is not about to erupt into smithereens
There's been a lot of buzz lately about a long-dormant supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park that could erupt AT ANY MOMENT OMG. Alarmist predictions have been widely shared. There's even a video of buffalo running for the lives from the park! Maybe you've already seen it on Facebook. It has racked up more than 2 million hits.
Widely shared maps show a "kill zone" and ash zones that extend across most of the United States. So people — including people at news organizations like CNN — got pretty riled up about this before asking critical questions like: Hang on, is this for real?
Let's start with the video. Turns out it didn't show bison running for their lives. They were running "for the sake of running," according to Leo Leckie, who shot the video and explained what he captured to the Los Angeles Times. Oh, and by the way, the animals were actually headed into the park, not away from it.
Yes, supervolcanoes are a big deal. And it's kind of fun to be scared of them, mostly because scientists don't believe there's an imminent threat. They're not even convinced that there will ever be another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. (The last one happened more than 640,000 years ago.)
No, this lottery winner isn't giving away his loot on Instagram
Yes, Merle Butler actually won more than $218 million in the lottery. No, he is not giving away his riches to randos on the internet.
An Instagram account that claimed he was trading cash for followers has since been dismantled. It used Butler's name and likeness, and had this bio: "Lottery winner giving back! I'm giving out $1000 to the first 10k followers." Naturally, the followers flooded in.
Remember: When someone you don't know offers to give you money, it's a scam.
Poop emoji slippers are $340, somehow not a hoax
It seemed like such an easy hoax to debunk.
These poop emoji slippers are real and they cost $340. pic.twitter.com/C4mKftHjNA
— Adam Clark Estes (@adamclarkestes) March 25, 2014
They're no longer available for sale (hmmmm) and Moda Operandi hasn't yet responded to my inquiries. Pretty sure I'm left with no choice but to wait until I see an actual human person wearing poop shoes on their feet before I believe.
So who bought these things? I'll buy you a drink just for the chance to see them in-person.
About those photos of real-life fairies...
I'll clap with the best of them when Tinker Bell's life is on the line, but do we really believe there are fairies flitting about the English countryside? (I mean, haven't we been through this before?)
So here's the deal: There's this art professor named John Hyatt who says he took a bunch of landscape photographs and noticed something funny about them. So he enlarged the photos and realized he had captured stills of tiny, actual fairies.
They're being called the Rossendale Fairies since Rossendale is where Hyatt took the photos. And people definitely want to believe they're real. Forty-eight percent of those polled by Perez Hilton said they believe, anyway. The photographer himself swears he's not pranking us:
"Yes, they are real photographs with no Photoshop trickery or anything," He told me in an email. "I merely enlarged a section and its DPI. There is no hoax. It is a Nikon Dx-40 camera... No there was no video but they were moving too fast for that anyway unless I had a specialist camera. They are part of a large body of photography where I was trying to capture fast things, like birds in flight etc."
Hyatt's bio on the Manchester School of Art website says he chairs the Board of Folly, a digital arts group in England that focuses on "web-based work, still and moving digital image, sound, animation and a range of new and emerging media...communicating with and working in partnership with a regional, national and international audience."
That sounds pretty suspicious even if you're inclined to believe in magic. Hyatt didn't respond to my follow-up questions about whether he'd been in touch with any entomologists or other scientists interested in his alleged findings. (There's one theory that Hyatt's fairies are actually small flies called midges.) But he did respond when I asked to publish some of the photos, directing me to Lawrence Matheson, who runs syndication for the Manchester Evening News. Matheson's the one licensing the photos for publication.
Naturally, he insists they're the real deal: "Photograph has not been tampered, I assure you. They are certainly creatures from a world invisible to the human eye."
Elsewhere around the web, this weird book might be a really old hoax. John Hancock totally didn't sign the U.S. Constitution. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is alive. (At what point do stories about celebrity death hoaxes you hadn't previously heard about become hoaxes themselves?) Everything you read about North Korea is a hoax. And I don't even know what to say about this guy.
— Jake Fapper (@elongreen) April 6, 2014
This Colbert news would be the ultimate Kimmel hoax though, right?
— Josh Petri (@joshpetri) April 10, 2014