Pranksters gonna’ prank. That’s why every year we see strange, new hoaxes. 2016 saw many hoaxes get covered in the news before they were revealed to be fiction. Below are the best nine leg pulls of the year.
“#2 and #5 went way too far.”
9Penn State Clown Riot
On October 3rd a group of a few hundred people searched the streets surrounding Penn State for a gang of clowns bent on terrifying the local populace.
The whole thing was seemingly sparked by rumors, but there was only one problem: there was no evidence of clowns in the area, evil or otherwise. It was just another chapter in the bizarre wave of clown hysteria that overtook America in 2016.
In mid-January, Facebook and Twitter users were in a rage over an advert for the LadyBall, a bright pink, lighter than usual soccer ball designed for female athletes.
It was ultimately revealed that the whole affair was a stunt on the part of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association to draw attention to the double standards and misconceptions that surround female sports leagues.
7Text Your Vote for Hillary
Though the image that spread across social media was officially looking, users were quick to point out that presidential elections aren’t American Idol and that you simply can’t text for your preferred candidate. But despite this obvious point, the image was widely shared. It’s unknown how many people, if any, shared it because they thought it to be real, or if anyone who perpetuated was hoping to mislead others intentionally.
6Harambe Got 15,000 Votes
It’s not certain where this one began, but it tore through Twitter like wildfire. Somewhere someone claimed that the ape Harambe had received several thousand write-in votes, and some alleged “news” sites picked up the story, using pictures Twitter users uploaded of their own ballots as evidence.
But in most states, write-in votes aren’t counted or tallied unless the candidate being voted for filed proper paperwork beforehand, something a dead gorilla would have difficulty doing. If a number of votes exist, there’s no official record of it.
5Kurt Cobain Predicted President Trump
The last one about the election, we promise. In this case, someone made an image macro of the Nirvana frontman and slapped a quote on it about how he felt, in 1993, it would take an outsider like Donald Trump to really fix things. Except for the only source for the quote is the image itself, though people proudly proclaimed it to be true.
4Disney Black Diamond Tapes
This is less hoax and more shoddy journalism, but early in the year, some blogger noticed that people were listing Disney Black Diamond edition VHS cassettes for one-thousand dollars apiece on eBay, and interpreted this to mean that the tapes themselves are very rare and thus very valuable. Other writers latched onto the story, not realizing that the tapes are incredibly common and that those with absurd prices never actually sold.
3National Geographic Photo Of The Year
The above image raced around Twitter with proclamations that it was National Geographic’s photo of the year. The problem is threefold. First, it never appeared in National Geographic.
Second, the named photographer isn’t a National Geographic employee, if they exist at all. And three, enlarging the photo reveals that it’s a combination of preexisting images and not original.
2Taylor Swift, Satanist
This one wasn’t an intentional hoax, nor was it started in 2016. Years prior a satirical BuzzFeed article compared Taylor Swift’s appearance to that of Zeena LeFay, former spokesperson for the Church of Satan, from a television appearance she had made many, many years before.
Though it was accepted as a joke at the time, it inexplicably circulated in 2016 as a legitimate (well, as legitimate as these things can be) conspiracy theory.
The story went that on May 29th the cosmos would align in such a way that the moon would have a green tint. As the claim spread it also mutated, adding a second date, April 20th, and claiming it had been four-hundred and twenty years since the last time the phenomenon occurred.
Despite both the dubious claim of the original and the obvious joke in the updated version, this one made the rounds with people taking it seriously.