How to fool court-ordered monitoring equipment

It only works for some of us.
(This Lego pirate is a clue.)

Because of offenses involving drugs, driving and a weapon, Christopher Lowcock had to wear a court-ordered monitoring device on his leg so authorities could monitor his movements. Before it was attached, Mr. Lowcock wrapped his leg in bandages. Why? He was attempting to fool the security firm into tagging his prosthetic leg.

He was successful.

When managers became suspicious and checked up on him, he likely showed them his leg and said something along the lines of: "See, here it is, right around my ankle!"

His subterfuge was eventually discovered, and the employees who tagged and checked up on his fake leg were fired.
- G4S staff sacked for tagging offender's false leg - Man tricked security firm employees by wrapping prosthetic limb in bandage, allowing him to remove it and flout court curfew, The Guardian>>
- Hector Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lego>>

This terrorism expert was a great storyteller

 William Hillar as a Green Beret

William Hillar was a U. S. Army special forces veteran and terrorism expert. He taught classes for the FBI, the U. S. Army and others.

In his lectures, he would somtimes recount a horrifying story: his own daughter was kidnapped and forced to become a sex slave, then tortured before being hacked to death and thrown into the ocean. Her murder was the basis for the 2008 movie "Taken."

Mr Hillar had a PhD from the University of Oregon. He was also experienced in "tactical counter-terrorism, explosive ordnance, emergency medicine, and psychological warfare.”

He was also a liar:
“William G. Hillar claimed that he had earned praise as a hero, but the truth is that he deserves condemnation as a liar,” said US Attorney Rod Rosenstein... “He did not serve in the US Army, did not receive military training in counter-terrorism and psychological warfare, and did not lose his daughter to sex traffickers.”
Mr. Hillar, whose daughter is alive and well, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and must pay $171,000 in restitution. He had fraudulently posed as an expert for 12 years.

His story began to be fall apart after a veteran emailed other members of the Special Forces, wondering if anyone had heard of him since there were very few colonels during the period when Mr. Hillar said he had served.

 John Wayne as a Green Beret figure
from Sideshow Collectables. In the 1968 
movie "The Green Berets, Mr. Wayne played 
the part of Colonel Mike Kirby.

- How a Special Ops impersonator duped the FBI for a decade, The Christian Science Monitor>>
- Green Beret impersonator gets 21 months, Army Times>>
- Evolution of John Wayne as a Green Beret…Sideshow Collectables>>

Retail pranksters fight the power with stickers

Urine Ear Drops

Tricksters are everywhere. Some might call these accidental, but it's more likely that bored employees are spicing up store shelves by deliberately placing price stickers in inappropriate places. 

 Cooking Your Dog -
Tasty, Healthy and Safe Recipes

 My Dick,
starring Patrick Stewart and Gregory Peck

Jelly Ass

Winnie the Pooh -
A Tigger Inside & Out

See 10 more amusing prank placements at: 15 products made unintentionally offensive by careless sticker placements, HappyPlace>>

Naked prank during Hurricane Irene

Irrational exuberance and nudity 
are displayed during a storm broadcast

This just cracks me up more than it should. A reporter in Virginia Beach, Virginia is trying to convey the dangers of Hurricane Irene during a live broadcast, and background revelers are playing the fool during the storm, as if to say: "We'll show you who's boss, big bad storm! We'll get stupid and naked! And while we're at it, as a bonus, we've messed with the mainstream media reporter at The Weather Channel! Woohoo!"

Weather Channel Streaker / Flasher / Mooner Prank
(Push 3 after the video starts to get 
to the naked cheeks and dangly bits)

Thanx for the find to Boing Boing: Hurricane Irene: Dude streaks through Weather Channel live shot, Boing Boing (video, pic, NSFW)>>

Black street kid does a card trick for 3 white boys

Closeup of "The Card Trick", 
a painting by John George Brown

This American painting from the late 19th century shows poor shoeshine boys or bootblacks entertained by a magician who has obviously found their card. Is this true? Could this have happened? Did black and white boys mix freely on the street in the 1880s, or was this the artist's illusion about race relations and poverty? Was the artist trying to hide the effects of racism, or envision a world without racism? (It's definitely the dream of any magician - black or white - to have such rapt attention paid to a card trick.)

The Card Trick, 1880–89
John George Brown (1831–1913)
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
(Click to greatly enlarge)

I don't know about the racial implications, but Mr. Brown's painting might have been inspired by Horatio Alger's serialized 1867 story Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks, which told of the rise of a virtuous 14-year-old street kid to become a respectable citizen. Maybe this painting suggests that the dishonest swindling skills these children needed to survive on the street, such as pickpocketing, could be channeled into more socially acceptable skills, such as sleight-of-hand magic. (And that black and white children could teach the adults how to get along.)

Here's an excerpt (a quick 1,600 words) from Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick, where city boy Dick and his friend Frank encounter the country boy victim of a swindling con-man, and Dick uses his skills to confront the swindler in return. Note that Dick does the right and honest thing, and contrast it with what a real kid living on the streets might do. This saccharine honesty made Horatio Alger's books the target of much future parody.

Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York - Horatio Alger
...At length they descended, and were going down the granite steps on the outside of the building, when they were addressed by a young man, whose appearance is worth describing.

He was tall, and rather loosely put together, with small eyes and rather a prominent nose. His clothing had evidently not been furnished by a city tailor. He wore a blue coat with brass buttons, and pantaloons of rather scanty dimensions, which were several inches too short to cover his lower limbs. He held in his hand a piece of paper, and his countenance wore a look of mingled bewilderment and anxiety.

"Be they a-payin' out money inside there?" he asked, indicating the interior by a motion of his hand.

"I guess so," said Dick. "Are you a-goin' in for some?"

"Wal, yes. I've got an order here for sixty dollars, -- made a kind of speculation this morning."

"How was it?" asked Frank.

"Wal, you see I brought down some money to put in the bank, fifty dollars it was, and I hadn't justly made up my mind what bank to put it into, when a chap came up in a terrible hurry, and said it was very unfortunate, but the bank wasn't open, and he must have some money right off. He was obliged to go out of the city by the next train. I asked him how much he wanted. He said fifty dollars. I told him I'd got that, and he offered me a check on the bank for sixty, and I let him have it. I thought that was a pretty easy way to earn ten dollars, so I counted out the money and he went off. He told me I'd hear a bell ring when they began to pay out money. But I've waited most two hours, and I hain't heard it yet. I'd ought to be goin', for I told dad I'd be home to-night. Do you think I can get the money now?"

A deadly prank with a stop sign

The result of the prank was likely not what they expected.

Two teenagers decided it would be funny to cover a stop sign in plastic wrap. They even bragged about it on their Facebook page.

Then at four in the afternoon on a road in Circleville, Ohio, an 80-year-old woman named Jeanne Shea drove through the intersection without stopping. Another car smashed into her. The passenger, her 85-year-old sister Mary Spangler, was killed, and Ms. Shea may have to have her leg amputated.

The young men, Derek W. Greenlee, 18, and Seth R. Stonerock, 19, were found after people read their Facebook posts and reported them to the police. They were further implicated by a Walmart surveillance video that showed them buying plastic wrap.

The news stories don't adequately explain why they did the prank, or what they imagined the consequences were going to be.

They were charged with manslaughter.

- Stop-sign prank turns deadly, is traced to pair via Facebook; The Columbus Dispatch>>
- Teens Who Allegedly Put Cellophane On Stop Sign Charged In Fatal Wreck,>>

He forged documents to do good

Forger Adolfo Kaminsky in his photo lab in 1947
During the war, he felt his studio was like
"a production line at a fate factory."

Deception is not only for entertainment or conning people out of money. It also saves lives:
Kaminsky forged his first passport at the tender age of 18. By the time he turned 20, he was working for secret agents; at 42, he was aiding revolutionaries. He has had too many aliases to remember. In fact, there were times when he'd change his name and address every three months. Though police around the world wanted to arrest him, they never tracked him down...

Adolfo Kaminsky was a forger and counterfeiter for purely humanitarian reasons. During World War II, he produced amazingly authentic-looking blank passports that saved many Jews from certain death. Later, he provided left-wing underground organizations with stacks of fake identifications papers. His family was kept completely in the dark about these activities...

Adolfo Kaminsky had originally wanted to be an artist. "In 1944, when I forged my first passport," he says with a faltering voice, "I had no idea this would be the beginning of a long career as a forger."
Read more: The Hidden Life of the Humanitarian Forger, Spiegel Online International>>
- Photo of Kaminsky at Spiegel Online>>

There is definitely something up his sleeve - how gambling cheats use hidden cameras

Minute 16 Mini Spy Camera from the 1950s,
(2 3/4" long, 1 3/4" high, 1" deep)

As camera technology improves, gambling cheats will use it to deceive casinos:
After a few hands, the cutter left the floor and entered a bathroom stall, where he most likely passed the camera to a confederate in an adjoining stall. The runner carried the camera to a gaming analyst in a nearby hotel room, where the analyst transferred the video to a computer, watching it in slow motion to determine the order of the cards. Not quite half an hour had passed since the cut. Baccarat play averages less than six cards a minute, so there were still at least 160 cards left to play through. Back at the table, other members of the gang were delaying the action, glancing at their cellphones and waiting for the analyst to send them the card order...
Read more: Spy vs. Spy: Casinos Can't See The Cameras Hidden Up Gamblers' Sleeves, PopSci>>
- Found via Cory Doctorow's post "Microcameras versus casinos" at Boing Boing>>

An ex-spy's reading list

Robert Baer lives in Colorado

Robert Baer is a former spy who wrote Sleeping with the Devil and See No Evil, which was the basis for the movie Syriana. In an interview in The Browser, he names five interesting books that illuminate the spy trade:
What made you join the CIA?

It was a combination of a prank and a sense of adventure. I had this very odd life where I got to travel around a lot and went to strange places at strange times. The whole idea just sort of got into my blood. I knew nothing about the CIA or espionage, but it seemed like an adventure itself and I never expected to get in.

What are some of the commonly held misconceptions about being a spy?

It’s ultimately very dull work. You’re lucky if it is interspersed with serious accomplishment or danger. It is generally waiting for things to happen. And you run into the same kind of mediocrity that you encounter anywhere else in life.
(The books he likes are Black Mass by John Gray, Travels into Bokhara by Alexander Burnes, The Insurrection in Mesopotamia by Aylmer Haldane, The Tartar Steppe by Dinno Buzzati and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré.)

Read more:  Robert Baer on Being a Spy, The Browser>>
- 'Someone was always out to get you', 2005 interview (photo by Dan Tuffs) in The Telegraph>>

32 years later, dead man found living in Vegas

Arthur Jones was not quite dead.

From a story in the Chicago Tribune in 1979:
At 4 A.M. Friday, May 11, Mrs. Joanne Jones could wait no longer. Frightened and unable to sleep, she called police to report her husband, wealthy businessman Arthur G. Jones, missing.

"Please find him," she pleaded. "Art never missed dinner at home, never was gone overnight."

Weeks later, there still is no trace of Jones, 40, or his late-model Buick, despite an intensive police investigation. Mrs. Jones has told a visitor to the couple's large home in suburban Highland Park, "I don't know what to think. I don't have any answers."

Neither do the police...
(Detective) Verbeke's investigation has uncovered some unexpected leads, however, including Jones' involvement with professional bookmakers.

"He had a reputation as a gambler," Verbeke said, adding that Jones, a former member of the Chicago Board of Trade, may have run up extensive gambling debts before his disappearance on May 10.

Questioning of business associates also revealed, police said, that Jones had worked with Carl Gaimari, 34, another commodities trader who was shot to death by two masked men in his suburban Inverness home on April 30, 10 days before Jones disappeared.
Eventually, Arthur Jones was declared dead.

Now, on to the financial problems of Clifton Goodenough, who...
...realized in 1995 that something was wrong with his taxes: he was told he owed taxes on income he never knew he earned.

“Things would show up on my Social Security, $18,000 to $20,000 on income and the taxes weren’t paid,” recalls Goodenough. “They were earnings associated with casinos.”

Sick of trying to explain his ordeal to investigators and with no leads, Goodenough gave up. But along the way, he learned from the IRS that his Social Security number was also being used by one Joseph Sandelli. In October 2009 his wife found a phone number for a person with that name living in Las Vegas. Goodenough called Jones.

“I thought he’d be as angry as me about the confusion, but he was just deflecting. He would say, ‘Well there must be some kind of mix up but I’ll change my Social Security number,’” said Goodenough. “I told him I was born at Lake Forest Hospital and he said, ‘Oh, so was I.’ It was always me giving him the answer and him agreeing, like a good con man. It didn’t really dawn on me until he offered to change his Social.”

He wondered why a man in his 70s would offer to change his Social Security number when he was so close to retiring, especially if he had nothing to do with the mix up...
So Mr. Goodenough sent documents concerning the problem to his senator, John McCain. His office began an investigation, and thirty-two years after he disappeared, authorities found the 72-year-old dead man:
Jones was living in Las Vegas under the alias of Joseph Sandelli and is believed to have used that name since his disappearance from Highland Park, Ill., in 1979.

Jones was declared legally deceased in 1986 and his wife and children collected Social Security benefits as a result. Investigators say Jones obtained a false Illinois driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security number he claims to have purchased in 1979 for $800 in Chicago. He allegedly used the documents to get a Nevada driver's license in 1988.

Stein said besides getting probation, Jones is expected to have to pay restitution, which will be determined by the courts. However, he said Jones could end up paying between $46,000 and $75,000 for Social Security fraud.
Mr. Jones had worked as a sports book writer at casinos, getting employment under his real name after disclosing old arrests. What about him using an alias? Well, an alias is not that uncommon in Las Vegas. And Mr. Jones had experience using aliases: he had arrests in...
"...1979 to 1980 under the name Richard Lage and arrests in California from 1980-1986 as Richard Sanders."
Authorities suspect that Mr. Jones disappeared because of gambling debts and "possible organized crime affiliations."

- ‘Dead’ man hiding in Las Vegas for decades makes deal, lawyer says, Las Vegas Sun>>
- Mysterious disappearance of Chicago broker, Chicago Tribune, 1979>>
- How Arthur Jones, on the lam for 32 years, met his undoing, Las Vegas Sun>>
-Why an arrest record didn’t deny identity theft suspect a work card, Las Vegas Sun>>

She creates illusions out of sand

 Soon, you will recognize this part of the circus.

Kseniya Simonova transforms a mixture of volcanic sand and salt as she creates animations live in front of her audiences, who can see both the creator of the illusion and the illusion as it is created.

Circus, by Kseniya Simonova

Her story about love and war won the TV competition Ukraine's Got Talent.

Between 8-10 million Ukrainians were killed during World War 2.

Kseniya Simonova performing on Ukraine's Got Talent

- Kseniya Simonova, Wikipedia>>
- Kseniya Simonova, English website>>

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."

"...what people may be assumed to 'know,' is a great mystery."

A quote from the book To Jerusalem and Back, by Saul Bellow, written in 1976:
What is “known” in civilized countries, what people may be assumed to “know,” is a great mystery. Recently, a survivor of Auschwitz who now lives in Chicago had occasion to testify before a grand jury and was asked by the jury foreman, “Why were you sent to this prison camp? What crime did you commit?” “No crime, there was no trial." “That can't be a truthful answer,” said the foreman. “When people go to jail it's because of something they've done. You must have had a criminal record in the old country.” When I read Sartre on the Jewish question, I am less surprised by the remoteness of this grand juror’s mind. I am, if anything, surprised at myself and at my own assumptions. A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
- "To Jerusalem and Back" by Saul Bellow, Amazon>>
- Holocaust Survivor Shows Tattoo: Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm. (Photo Credit: BAZ RATNER/Reuters/Corbis) Remembering the Holocaust Photo Gallery,>>

A faudulent breast cancer charity

Mindy and David gave only to themselves.

Sometimes, an official document can tell us what we need to know about a fraud. Take the case of the married couple David and Mindy Winston, and their three adult children, Joshua, Rachael and Rebecca. Read the state's complaint:
This is a case of outright fraud on the public. Defendants, led by the Winstons, swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from New Yorkers on the false pretense that the monies raised will help a charitable organization detect, treat, and fight breast cancer. No charity exists, however, and Defendants' entire enterprise is a sham. All of the funds raised for breast cancer causes are used instead to finance vacations and shopping sprees, expensive restaurants, and other personal expenses, in flagrant violation of New York State law.

Defendants employ a variety of devices to conduct their fraud.

First, using the twin vehicles of CBCC, a sham not-for-profit corporation controlled by the Winstons, and Resource Center, a rogue for-profit fundraising firm owned by the Winstons. Defendants induce compassionate New Yorkers to donate to CBCC by falsely stating that donations will be used to fight breast cancer.

Second, Defendants further induce donations by sending fake pledge invoices to New Yorkers, purporting to "remind" them of pledges they have never made.

Third, after obtaining credit and debit card numbers via solicitations and other means, Defendants have caused repeated, unauthorized charges to victims' credit and debit card accounts, continuing even after victims demand a stop to the practice and reversal of charges.
Of course, the document states that none of their fake charities is tax exempt. And finally:
None of the hundreds of thousands of dollars Defendants have collected since 2008 has been used to support the fight against breast cancer or any other charitable cause.
Both David and Mindy pleaded guilty to felonies.

- Couple pleads guilty in LI breast cancer scam,>>
- (Opens PDF directly) Complaint, New York State Attorney General's Office>>
- David and Mindy Winston plead guilty to running fake charity, Your Jewish News>>

The illusion of two objects sinking

A banana

A VW sedan

But really, are the objects sinking, or are the surfaces rising?

The banana is from Brock Davis:
- Brock Davis on Photodonuts>>
- His site - It Is The World That Made You Small>>

The VW sedan is Hasta las Narices 2004, (which in English translates as "to be up to the nostrils" or "I've had it up to here") by Ivan Puig>>

Wartime lies of Libya

 Truth is reflected in many ways during a war...

...and more so in Libya:
Truth was first a casualty in Libya well before this war began, and the war has not improved matters at all, on any side...
Information, or rather truthful information, is often difficult to come by in any war zone. Disinformation is a powerful tool that can be used to mislead the enemy, hide tactics, instigate fear or win public support. There is also the fog of war, the confusion in communications and the chaos of the battlefield that can obscure any objective understanding.

But in Libya, with so many competing factions and overlapping agendas — Qaddafi loyalists, competing tribes, western guerrillas, eastern rebels, NATO allies — all of that is true, to an exceptional degree.
READ: Waves of Disinformation and Confusion Swamp the Truth in Libya, The New York Times>> 
- Cropped photo taken by Moises Saman

Two powerful secrets of deception

With these secrets you can 
beat the devil at his own game.

There are two basic principles of magical deception applicable to all types of deception and not just to those used by magicians.

Con-artists of all types use these secrets extensively. They are: 1) the importance of the inconsequential, and 2) the simple way.

The first rule says that if the magician/deceiver doesn’t treat something as being important, then the one being deceived/victim will not treat it as important. This makes it easy to hide what must be hidden by paying less attention to it.

The second rule is that deceiving somebody in the simplest way is best, because it doesn’t matter how they’re deceived, as long as they are deceived.

These secrets - which can be used in far more than card tricks - are from the well-regarded magic book Expert Card Technique: Close-up Table Magic by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue, published in 1940.

The Importance of The Inconsequential

Remember always that that which the performer appears to feel is of great importance will also be so regarded by the audience. Conversely, that which he treats as inconsequential will be given scant attention.

It is for this reason that, when you false count a number of cards, you should never look at them during the count. Instead avail yourself of the opportunity to gaze about you at the audience, making of the count a routine matter; the impression you give is that it is merely a formality and since those present have no reason to suspect chicanery they accept the count at face value. On the other hand, if the conjurer watches the cards closely, or shows nervousness, or counts each card as though it were breakable, he will give to the count an importance which the onlookers similarly attach to it.

Again, if you have anything to hide, place it in the most open position available...

Mr. Bert Allerton makes great use of this principle; whenever, in his table work, he has something he wishes to hide, he places it in the most (apparently) dangerous position; he knows that if a spectator suspects that he is trying to withhold an object, the spectator will want to see it desperately; if, on the other hand, it is placed directly before him, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he will regard it with indifference.

The same principle applies to all tricks in which you have gambled that a spectator will follow a certain set course of action; if you watch him like a hawk and attempt to guide him, he will fight you and ruin your trick...

Finally, never place too much importance in your sleights, lest you telegraph to the onlookers that the sleight is about to take place…

Learn the technique of your sleights perfectly, create a misdirection to cover them and, when they must be made, divest them of all importance in your own mind and you will avoid the danger of forewarning your spectators.

The rule, subject to the exception to which all rules are subject, is to treat as unimportant that which you really wish to conceal.

The Simple Way

The very best method of performing a given trick is the easiest method, and it is the method which should be used. The complication of a trick for complication's sake, a strange malady sometimes noted amongst conjurers, should be rigidly eschewed…

Remember always that it is not what you do, but what the spectator believes that you do which is important. One of the very finest of all card workers has, time and again, performed tricks which have appeared to be absolutely miraculous, by the simple expedient of looking at a chosen card carelessly held by the spectator. If you have the good fortune to be in the position where you can sight a chosen card, it would be foolish not to make the most of it.

The only demand that need be made of a method is that it shall deceive the onlookers; bluff, audacity, swindles and barefaced deceptions are all fair grist in the conjurer's mill. If it is effective, and it is simple in the bargain—so much the better.
Expert Card Technique: Close-up Table Magic, Amazon>>

"Did that camera just poop on our car?"

The bird house that's a fake speed camera.

A retired man in a small English town wanted to slow down speeding motorists. His solution? He made a birdhouse that imitates the look of a camera that catches speeding motorists, and suspended it near his road. Ian Magee, 63, said the fake took him a week to make, and the hardest part was finding the right shade of paint.

Speeding has been reduced, but local authorities say the fake camera might violate planning rules and need to be taken down.

Nature might have the final say, however. Mr. Magee thinks Pipistrelle bats might be starting to nest in the box. They are a protected species and, once they nest, cannot be removed.

 The speed camera in action.

An actual speed camera in the UK.

- ‘Speed camera’ is a ‘bird box’, West Somerset Free Press>>
- Pensioner ordered to take down fake speed camera from outside his home.... although he claims it's a bird box! Daily Mail>>

How to beat a drug test with peanut butter

It's the brand that's extra-extra crunchy.

Joanna Dize, age 33, took the pain medication Oxycodone. She wanted to deceive a urine analysis test because she had also taken the illegal drug cocaine. So to get a sample of clean urine that also contained traces of the Oxycodone she took, she gave her 11-year-old son a peanut butter sandwich containing crushed Oxycodone and used his urine for the test.

She was caught and charged with multiple crimes, and her three children were placed with Family Services.

Lewes Woman Charged with Tainting Son’s Sandwich with Oxycodone, WGMD>>

This Japanese woman, she floats

Natsumi Hayashi takes a drink.

Natsumu Hayuashi lives in Tokyo and takes photos of herself levitating.

For me, when one element of a photo is "real" yet deceptive, I take more notice of the rest of the photo.

Natsumi Hayashi about to touch.

Natsumi Hayashi waits for a train. 

Natsumi Hayashi  floats by a boy.

Natsumi Hayashi vacuums her home.

Yowayowa camera woman diary>>

Solving the problem of fake online reviews

 "This post on Deceptology is really awesome! 
I give it FIVE stars!  My family and I love it! 
I would read here again!"

Since many consumers use online reviews to find good deals, many reviews on site like Amazon, TripAdvisor and Yelp are fake - created by people who are paid to write glowing reviews. A team of researchers at Cornell published a paper on an algorithm they developed that detects these deceptions:
The Cornell researchers tackled what they call deceptive opinion spam by commissioning freelance writers on Mechanical Turk, an Amazon-owned marketplace for workers, to produce 400 positive but fake reviews of Chicago hotels. Then they mixed in 400 positive TripAdvisor reviews that they believed were genuine, and asked three human judges to tell them apart. They could not.

“We evolved over 60,000 years by talking to each other face to face,” said Jeffrey T. Hancock, a Cornell professor of communication and information science who worked on the project. “Now we’re communicating in these virtual ways. It feels like it is much harder to pick up clues about deception.”

So the team developed an algorithm to distinguish fake from real, which worked about 90 percent of the time. The fakes tended to be a narrative talking about their experience at the hotel using a lot of superlatives, but they were not very good on description. Naturally: They had never been there. Instead, they talked about why they were in Chicago. They also used words like “I” and “me” more frequently, as if to underline their own credibility.
- In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5, The New York Times>>
- Is That Review a Fake? The New York Times>>
- (Opens PDF directly) The paper: Finding Deceptive Opinion Spam by Any Stretch of the Imagination>>

Was Tracy West raped and tortured?

Tracy West accused her ex-boyfriend 
of a crime that could put him in jail forever.
Det. David Del Marto was on the other side of town, working leads on a robbery, when he heard the radio chatter about the attack. He has level blue eyes, a graying mustache and the faultless posture of the Army MP he once was.

He found West, 33, in the emergency room of Simi Valley Hospital and followed her across the street to Safe Harbor, a forensic facility where sexual assault victims are examined and interviewed. Her appearance suggested an attack of concentrated malice. Her face was swollen, her lip gashed, her hair torn out in chunks. A cord, found tied around her neck with a slipknot, had left an angry red line, and there were burns on her stomach and ring finger.

Later, Del Marto would remember how she looked away and pulled herself into a fetal position as she talked. It was the body language he'd seen in dozens of sexual assault cases.

West was unequivocal about who had attacked her. It was Gonzalez, she said. He was her ex-boyfriend, the father of her son.
But detective work by Louis Gonzalez's public defender told another story.

Read the article: Could this be happening? A man's nightmare made real. Louis Gonzalez III stood accused of unspeakable acts: kidnapping, torture, sexual assault. If convicted, he faced life behind bars, Los Angeles Times>>

Bad psychics found by Operation Crystal Ball

 This actress pretends to make you believe.

Some believe all psychics are scammers deceiving gullible victims. Others look at psychics as theater, or spirituality, or maybe as a type of therapy.

But you know it's bad when even other psychics are against you.

Take the case of the Marks family. Usually, a "mark" is a victim of a con game. In this case, the Marks were the ones doing the conning. Multiple members of the Marks family were arrested for pulling a psychic con game.

(For the record, it was Rose, Rosie, Vivian, Michael, Nancy and Ricky Marks, as well as Donnie Eli and Cynthia Miller. But many family of the family members used fake names, so...) 

Police nabbed them during "Operation Crystal Ball," and charged them with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

The psychic con-artists are charged with cheating people out of $40 million since 1991 by using Tarot cards, palm readings, astrology and numerology to convince their victims that money is the root of all evil. They specialized in frightening people by telling their clients:
"...they and their family members or friends would contract terrible diseases, suffer horrible financial hardships, and endure terrible catastrophes, and that loved ones who were already sick would not recover, and that their lives would remain haunted by evil spirits if they did not cleanse their money of those evil spirits."
Two specific cons:

A woman was told to buy a Cartier watch and give it to the psychic to "turn back time" and bring her love. The watch was never returned. (This is almost identical to my earlier Deceptology post about another Florida con artist: Sending demons to hell? Please return the Rolex>>)

Another victim said they were hearing voices due to extreme stress. The cure was that the psychic must speak with Michael the Archangel. The cost for the conversation? $400,000 in gold coins.

Even Florida psychic Joseph LoBrutto III said it's a scam:
"The big red flag is keeping you coming back. It should be just that one reading... And if they say it's a curse or a hex, there's no such thing. Walk out."
- Florida Fortune Telling Family Allegedly Swindled $40 Million from Victims, ABC News>>
- Photo of actress Pauline Frederick and a crystal ball found via Retro Jim's Retro Miscellanea>>
- Link found thanks to the fake psychic sniffing abilities of magician Gregg Tobo>>

A vintage Quaker Oats optical illusion puzzle

How many packages can you count?
(Click to enlarge)

This small Quaker Oats "Quaker Nursery Rhymes" advertising puzzle booklet from 1895 has 25 nursery rhymes inside and an optical illusion puzzle on the front. It's now sold as "advertising ephemera." 

There are 6 or 7 or 13 or 14 packages, 
depending on how you look at it.
(Click to enlarge)

Here's the back.

The telemarketing phone prank

How long will she listen to him 
when all he does is agree with her?

A telemarketer gets pranked when she calls trickster Gerant Johnston, whose only reply to her questions is the word "Yes."

Telemarketer Prank 093

- Gerant Gerant's YouTube channel>>
- GerantGerant>>
- The photo is from an old Pacific Telephone ad: "For your dream bedroom - a color telephone"
- Thanks to Art of the Prank for the link

A ghastly publicity stunt by a mindreading couple

"In the early hours of the morning, however, 
a bulky sack was retrieved from the depths..."

This is from the 1920's book Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, which contains stories about magicians, or, in this account, a publicity-hungry couple who claim to see into the future:
The Cornells and their ghastly publicity stunt
Some artists will go to drastic lengths in order to secure publicity, but the plan of the Cornells, two American thought readers, for roguery and debasement far exceeds any other story I have heard.

When the Zomahs (who were rival performers) were touring America, their fame spread with lightning rapidity, and they became so famous that imitators experienced the greatest difficulty in obtaining engagements. The Cornells, a couple who had met with moderate success, found their bookings dropping off alarmingly.

Driven to desperation, they concocted a great publicity scheme. Fortunately for the good of the profession, and unfortunately for the couple, the plan misfired.

They had obtained an engagement in a small hall in the Chicago suburbs, and it was here that they decided to put their idea into operation. During the performance, Madame Cornell, who was sitting blindfolded in the centre of the stage, gave a piercing scream, and made as though to fall from her chair.

"What is it? " shouted Cornell, playing the part of the distracted husband with no mean ability. "What do you see?"

"Away! away!" cried the woman, motioning her partner to keep his distance. "I have seen a murder! Two youths flung themselves upon an old man, and battered his face in. I can see them now. They are tying his body in a sack. Yes, they are putting weights in. Now they are on the banks of the river." Here she gave the exact location of the scene she was witnessing. "They have dropped the sack into the water, and are hastening away." And with these last words, Madame Cornell rolled off her chair in a well simulated faint.

Her words created great excitement amongst the audience. The performance was stopped, and several people rushed from the building to the spot she had described in her "vision." Some of them went to fetch policemen, whilst others informed the river authorities.

It was an eerie scene by the river bank. For several hours during the night, the water was dragged, and nothing brought to light. In the early hours of the morning, however, a bulky sack was retrieved from the depths. The police hurriedly opened it, and the crowd gathered round with an air of suppressed excitement. But they drew away when they saw what the sack contained. It was the mutilated body of a man.

The Cornells received more publicity than they needed. It was the wrong sort of publicity. Somebody disclosed the whole despicable plan. The pair had purchased the body from a mortuary, and, having disfigured it beyond recognition, sewed it up in the sack, and dropped the gruesome bundle into the river. It was a well-thought-out plan which, but for the fact that they had to take others into their confidence, might well have succeeded. Happily for us, such people as the Cornells are few and far between in the profession.
The book Sensational Tales of Mystery Men was written by Will Goldston in 1929. Mr. Golston was an English magician, writer, magic dealer and creator of magical illusions. Readers can assume this story is true, inasmuch as Mr. Goldston was a professional liar and seeker of publicity himself.

- A scan of this book and many other magic books is found at The Learned Pig Project>>
- The photo is from a real murder scene - The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders, from TruTV>>

How to counterfeit Babe Ruth baseballs

A box of fake signed baseballs.

Forge a signature, shellac it, bag it with dog food or mothballs, then create bogus paperwork and sell it with a sad story...

The man told the pawnshop a sad story. He was suffering from hard times and hated to do it, but he had to sell his old baseball autographed by the legendary baseball player Babe Ruth. He sold the ball, which had a certificate of authenticity, for $1,500.

But the baseball, the story, and the certificate were all frauds.

The price for an official Major League Baseball, 
brand new, in great condition, is about $12.

The man sold 35 of these bogus balls, with their counterfeit certificates, to pawnshops all over Florida for prices ranging from $500 to $3,000. The scam probably was successful not only because the balls were not in great enough condition to arouse suspicion, but the pawnshops knew that real Babe Ruth autographed baseballs were worth a lot more than they were paying the guy.

They thought they were pulling one over on the seller.

The price for a signed Babe Ruth baseball, 
vintage, in great condition, can be over $10,000.

But this con-artist, who was caught because he had to provide his real driver's license and fingerprint, was nothing compared to an entire ring of crooks caught by the FBI years earlier in an undercover investigation called Operation Bullpen.

A book, Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History, by Kevin Nelson, details the entire affair. Here's an excerpt on how those forgers created their fake Babe Ruth baseballs:
"First you get a ball, any old leather baseball," said Little Ricky. "But you have to be sure there are no identifying markings on it, and no label. So we'd go down to Play It Again Sports and look through this basket of old balls they had and find a few that were right for what we needed. Each one cost maybe five bucks. Then we'd bring them back and wash them with soap and water and turn them over to Greg [Marino], who'd sign them with a fountain pen from that era. But they still looked so fake it was unbelievable. They looked just awful-these old, worn, washed baseballs with Ruth's signature on them. Something more had to be done."

That something more was "dipping," a job often done by John Marino, the utility man of the operation. In Ruth's time people shellacked valuable baseballs as a means of preserving them, mounting them on a trophy-style wooden plaque. The crew did much the same thing, coating the ball, in Greg's colorful phrase, "like a candy apple." Since dipping could get messy, it was "a garage operation" handled by John at their parents' house. One technique was to drive a nail or screw into the seams of the ball, careful not to form too large of a hole. Then, holding the ball by the nail, John dipped it into a gallon can of orange-rust shellac similar in color to what the old-timers used. Once the ball was fully coated it was left to hang-dry with the nail still in it. The nail came out after the ball had dried.

Another technique was to use what came to be called "the dipper," more commonly known as vice grips. The vice grips allowed them to immerse the ball in the shellac without using a nail.

Still, even after dipping, something vital about these balls was missing, something that had to be there: the smell of antiquity. Tucked away and forgotten in an attic for generations, only to be uncovered in recent times, baseballs this old must have a certain musty smell attached to them. But these balls didn't smell like that; all they smelled of was shellac. "They didn't smell old, and they certainly didn't smell like they'd been sitting around for seventy years since the time of Babe Ruth," Little Ricky continued. "So we'd buy a big bag of mothballs and stick the mothballs in a plastic trash bag with the baseball. We'd let the ball sit in the bag for a few days or whatever and that would make it smell old."

Another way they duplicated the smell of age was to forego the mothballs altogether and stick the baseball in a bag of dog food. After a day or two in the bag they'd pull it out and let it cure in the sun a while. When the process was over it was hard to say exactly what the ball smelled like except that it fooled people and that was all that mattered.

"People didn't know what it smelled like, but it smelled old to them," said Mitchell. "It stinks and it smells old, and that convinced them it was legitimate."

The innocence of people, their longing to believe in the authenticity of the memorabilia they were investing in -- plus their own greed in many cases, the thought that they were getting a steal on an ordinarily super-expensive Babe Ruth-signed baseball -- led some to pay thousands or even tens of thousands for used balls dipped in shellac and aged in Purina.
- Phony Babe Ruth autographs lead to organized fraud charge, St. Petersburg Times>>
- Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History>>
- Three year FBI and IRS investigation reveals nationwide black market dealing in hundreds of millions of dollars in counterfeit sports and celebrity memorabilia, U.S. Department of Justice, United States Attorney, Southern District of California>>
- The photo of the box of forged baseballs is from the blog Bullpen & More, by Kevin Nelson>>

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."

Modern-day children of the Kalahari bushmen

A white man in Africa wrote about the roles his ancestors likely played in history:
The older I grew the more concerned I became over the part my own family must have had in the extermination of the Bushmen. That it was considerable I have no doubt... I knew that with their deep Calvinist addiction to what they thought right, they would have done their duty conscientiously. Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.
From The Lost World of the Kalahari, a book about the Bushman of Africa, by Laurens Van der Post.

- The Lost World of the Kalahari , Amazon>>
- Laurens van der Post, Wikipedia>>
- Photo from Ladies with Bottle>>
- The appeal for the Bushmen of the Kalahari>>
- Bushmen, Wikipedia>>

Sexy Brazilian walks on optical illusion sidewalk

Walking on an illusion in Brazil
(Click to enlarge)

In this street scene, most eyes will be attracted to the sidewalk.

The photo was taken by Star Simpson: "I'm a German/Jamaican woman and studied electrical engineering and computer science, but mostly tinkering, at MIT."

Math in Public: Apollonian Gasket Fences, Optical Illusion Sidewalks. Star Simpson's Blog>>

4 freaky dog photos - which ones are real?

#1 - Is this the strongest dog in the world?

These four photos show likenesses of man's best friend. Can you spot the fakes?

#2 - Is this huge dog really this big?

#3 - Two humans, a horse... and a very big dog?

#4 - What is this? An alien human-dog
hybrid nursing her young?


# 1 - Wendy the Bully Whippet

Wendy is a real living "bully whippet" dog with a genetic mutation. Dog breeders usually try to breed these racing dogs to have one mutated myostatin gene, which makes them run faster. Wendy has two mutated genes, which makes her "double-muscled." Her owner says she's a really sweet dog.

#2 - George is in the Guinness 
Book of World Records

George is a real dog who lives in Arizona with his owners. He stands 43 inches tall and weighs over 245 pounds. Giant George has his own website and YouTube channel. He's considered the world's biggest dog and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Tallest Living Dog and the World's Tallest Dog Ever Recorded.

# 3 - Goodbye, large dog

The photo of the big dog with the horse and owners has never been proven to be of a real dog, and is very likely a fake altered photo that circulates throughout the vast environs of the internets, deceiving the masses wherever it can.

# 4 - This really does exist

The human dog hybrid is real, but it's not alive. It's a photo of a sculpture called The Young Family, by artist Patricia Piccinini. It was exhibited at the Austrian Venice Biennale Pavillion as part of the 2003 exhibition called We Are Family. Strangely, the real photo above looks like a photo-realistic painting.

- Muscular whippet dog from Central Saanich is Internet star - Owner juggling international media attention and even an offer of a role for pet in sci-fi series, Times Colonist>>
- Photos of the muscular canine, Times Colonist>>
- Giant George>>
- Giant George's YouTube Channel>>
- Imagine taking him for walkies! George the Great Dane is 7ft long, weighs 18st and is the world's biggest dog... but he's terrified of chihuahuas, Mail Online>>
- Huge Dog With Horse Photograph, Hoax-Slayer>>
- The Human-Dog Hybrid Hoax, LiveScience>>
- Patricia Piccinini's site>>