Balloon Boy: In 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene allowed a gas balloon filled with helium to float away from their Denver home and then claimed their son Falcon, 6, was inside it. The incident caused a media sensation with Falcon being dubbed “Balloon Boy.” But after more than an hour in the air, the balloon landed with the boy missing. A frantic hunt for Falcon followed, but it was discovered the whole story was a hoax and publicity stunt engineered by the boy’s parents. The couple was sentenced to brief jail time for the ruse.
Alien Autopsy: London-based entrepreneur Ray Santilli released a film in the 1990s which he claimed was a real medical examination and dissection of a body of an alien recovered from the crash of a flying saucer near Roswell, New Mexico on June 2, 1947. Many believed in the bizarre footage when it was broadcast on FOX in America and all over the world but it was later exposed as a fraud. In 2006, Santilli admitted the film was a staged “reconstruction” of a real film he claimed to have viewed in 1992.
The Hitler Diaries: A journalist at Germany’s Stern magazine stumbled upon the forged Hitler Diaries, which was the work of Konrad Kujau, who made his living by selling sketchy Nazi memorabilia to collectors. After his first forgery of one of Hitler’s diaries was deemed authentic, Kujau fabricated the remaining “personal diaries.” In 1983, they were deemed to be fake and Kujau went to prison for the fraud the following year.
The Piltdown Man: In this famous hoax, pieces of a skull and jawbone found in 1912 were believed to be the fossilized remains of an early form of human being. It took years to determine that Piltdown Man was a fraud, but in 1953 it was discovered the remains belonged to an orangutan and the skull to a fully developed adult man. The identity of the hoaxer remains unknown but many suspect Charles Dawson, the man who “discovered” the bones.
9/11 Tourist Guy: This photo of Hungarian tourist Peter Guzli allegedly standing on the roof of the World Trade Center on 9/11 (as a plane is pictured approaching the tower below him) flew all over the web. The picture was reportedly found in debris after the tragedy, but the hoax was soon exposed—the photo of Guzli had actually been taken in 1997 and he had altered it to put the plane in. Guzli later apologized for the cruel fake.
Rosie Ruiz: The runner became notorious in 1980 when she was declared the winning female for the 84th Boston Marathon, only to have her title stripped after it was discovered that she had not run the entire course. Rosie’s time would have been the fastest for a woman in the marathon’s history. But world-class runners smelled a rat when they noticed Rosie wasn’t sweating and her thighs looked flabby. A photographer later said he’d seen her on the subway during the race. She was disqualified.
The Loch Ness Monster Photo: A famous 1934 photo of the head and neck of the alleged Scottish sea monster taken by Dr. Kenneth Wilson was proven to be a fake after another man, Christian Spurling, confessed years later. In 1975, Spurling revealed that the picture of “Nessie” given to the Daily Mail was in fact that of a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached.
Manti Te’o’s Girlfriend: Earlier this year, the Notre Dame football star told the media his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua had died of leukemia. Many news outlets reported the tragedy, but it later was revealed that “Kekua” didn’t even exist and a male acquaintance of Te’o’s, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, had pretended to be the woman after falling in love with the athlete. After the public became skeptical about Te’o’s role in the fraud, in an interview with Kate Couric, the football player insisted he believed Kekua was real.
The Tasaday: In 1971, Philippine government minister Manuel Elizalde thrilled the world by saying he’d discovered a Stone Age tribe called the Tasaday living in isolation on the island of Mindanao. But when anthropologists tried to study the tribe, President Ferdinand Marcos declared the area off-limits. After he was deposed in 1986, journalists discovered the Tasaday living just like modern people and they revealed that Elizalde had pressured them into pretending they were primitives. It turned out Elizalde had also fled the Philippines in 1983 with millions of dollars he’d stolen from a foundation set up for the Tasaday.
Mark Hofmann: Mark Hofmann produced one of the biggest scams inhistory, forging documents related to Mormon history, including a long lostcopy of “The Oath of a Freeman.” Hofmann’s forgery was initially authenticated as a true copy of the rare document, but when his schemes started to unravel and he went into debt, the document collector murdered two people in Salt Lake City, Utah with bombs he had built. In 1988, Hofmann was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in Utah State Prison.