Antiviral is an occasional column in which we run down the worst hoaxes, pranks, Photoshops and straight-out lies blowing up on the internet.
Oh, internet. You slay me.
No, this is not a photo of frozen cars parked near Lake Michigan
With subfreezing wind chill in almost every state this week, dramatic winter photos have been all over social media. And polar-vortex fervor is getting in the way of good old-fashioned skepticism. WGN-TV anchor Robert Jordan, whose tweet is embedded above, was one of the many people who tweeted that image, saying it was taken in Chicago.
In reality, this photo has been making the rounds for a while. It looks a lot like a series of frozen cars photographer Jean-Pierre Scherrer shot in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2005. Reached by email, Scherrer told me he didn't take the photo but he believes it's from the same 2005 storm that he photographed.
"If I'm not mistaken, the image you show was shot on January 25 of 2005, at the Versoix Harbour (about 15 miles from Geneva, Switzerland, on the North shore of the lake)!" Scherrer wrote. "We were quite a few photographers on the lakeside! I took a very similar one."
Check out that photo, courtesy of Scherrer:
Another photographer who was at Lake Geneva the day after Scherrer captured similar images. Fabrice Brun confirmed via email that he and another photographer captured these shots on January, 26 2005.
No, a mega-blizzard is not expected to dump three feet of snow on the East Coast
Winter has been so brutal this year that just about anything sounds possible at this point. Maybe that's why so many people are sharing a weather model that shows snowfall totals up to 30 inches along the East Coast between Feb. 8 and Feb. 10. This thing is all over Facebook and Twitter:
But meteorologists say that while it could snow next weekend, it's too early to know. From the Capital Weather Gang over at the Washington Post:
"IGNORE posts on your FB wall that offer specifics (including talk of a blizzard and incredible amounts) and show model simulations this far out. THEY HAVE NO CREDIBILITY. We cannot forecast individual storms reliably beyond 5-7 days...it's even challenging within 1-3 days at times."
The Star-Ledger in New Jersey also wrote about the bogus forecast, calling the image that's going around "completely meaningless." Here's how the newspaper explained it: "Simply put, a model run is not an officially sanctioned forecast. There are several trusted models around the globe, each of which issues its best guess at what the weather will be. None of them are reliable beyond seven days."
No, the clown from 'It' was not captured on Google Street View
Now that you've seen this, you're going to have nightmares forever anyway. So maybe it's moot to note that this widely shared image of a clown peering at the street from inside a storm drain is not a real Google Street View image. And it's totally possible that the many people who retweeted this image did so just because it's scary, not because they actually believed it was legit.
Either way, what's the real story? Credit for this work of Photoshop terror goes to John Mulroy, who apparently made it as part of a call for submissions to the website Cracked.com back in June. Cracked asked readers to submit images that reflected what Google Street View would look like in a fictional universe, and Mulroy was a runner-up. Thanks for giving us a reason to leave the hall light on every night forever, man.
No, Chinese web traffic did not end up in a little house in Wyoming
The web was already peppered with misleading headlines like "Web mystery: China Internet traffic winds up in Wyoming," and "Why Did China's Internet Traffic Get Misdirected to Wyoming?" by the time The Atlantic's Megan Garber explained in clear terms what was really going on: "The traffic went to sites whose IP addresses are registered to a shell company that lists the home as its address."
Long story short: Just because a company lists an address in Wyoming doesn't mean web traffic to sites registered by that company is actually going to Wyoming. (See also: Delaware.)
For the record, it turned out the house at the focal point of the story isn't even the current address for the company in question. As the Washington Post put it in one heavily updated blog post: "this story is much more complicated than it might initially seem."
And about those "disease-ridden cannibal rats" on the ghost ship...
If they ever existed in the first place, they're probably already dead. And the ship has maybe sunk by now. I mean, seriously, you guys. [Editor's note: The story of the abandoned Soviet ghost-ship full of cannibal rats is true according to the testimony of a Belgian scrap sailor. We see no reason to discount the testimony and expertise of any scrap sailors, Belgian or otherwise, and as such Gawker stands by Ken Layne's report on the existence of the aforementioned Soviet ghost-ship full of cannibal rats. The skepticism expressed above about the existence of the Soviet ghost-ship full of cannibal rats are the views of the author alone.]