How to Check Out a Hoax

Ryan Dube
Truth or Deception?

Many investigators of phenomena such as ghosts, ufos, hauntings, paranormal creatures and many unusual events often find themselves in a situation where they need to know how to check out a hoax. This article will provide a set of guidelines you can use to determine whether or not a claim or a story you are examining is a hoax.

Learning How to Check Out a Hoax

As a paranormal investigator or researcher, it is your responsibility to discern between deception and truth. The word "hoax" refers to those stories, videos or pictures where there is intentional deception or fraud. For example, it's up to you, as the unbiased observer, to separate the story that a homeowner may tell you about a haunting from your own efforts to determine what's really causing the phenomenon. However, there are times when the storyteller is a con artist, an attention-seeker or a sociopath. As a paranormal investigator, you need to remain vigilant against these types of people.

Identifying a Hoax Before It Grows Legs

The field of the paranormal is filled with tricksters. On YouTube, over half of the "ghost videos" are fabricated or spoofed videos meant to poke fun at people who believe in ghosts. Unfortunately these "hoaxes" are mixed in with a gold mine of video that homeowners have shot featuring authentic paranormal phenomena. There is no faster method to become disenchanted with a field of research than coming across one or two of these ridiculous hoaxes.

Elements of a story, video or phenomenon that will help you to immediately flag it as a potential hoax include:

  • Is the "evidence" in a format to be distributed to a large group of people, such as an email distribution or a website?
  • Does it fail to provide legitimate and verifiable confirmation sources?
  • Is the language used either very emotional or highly technical?
  • Is the source anonymous, or is it impossible to verify the source's expertise?

Identifying a Hoaxer

While identifying a fabricated story may be easy, identifying a hoaxer isn't. Hoaxers are essentially con artists who are attempting to sell a particular audience on a paranormal story. The following are common characteristics of such con artists.

  • Chameleon: The con artist adapts quickly, using the same lingo and basic core beliefs as the crowd and incorporates those into the hoax.
  • Charismatic: A clever con artist can come across as extremely professional, successful and charismatic.
  • Techno-babble: They often use poorly understood science to peddle certain "technology" or research. They use meaningless phrases like "ectoplasmic anomaly", or "micro-cosmic harmonic stabilization", which sound no different than highly technical phrases from a scientific journal to a layman.
  • Nasty Skeptic: If you ask a hoaxer for evidence, the con artist will act slighted and attempt to make people feel that questioning the source of information will cause the information to stop.
  • Too Good To Be True: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Aliens do not offer secret free-energy technology. Ghosts do not shoot dishes across the room while flickering the lights and shooting ectoplasm from the walls. And, when Bigfoot is captured, he likely will not be stored in an ice cooler available to the highest bidder. Using common sense can go a long way when you research paranormal claims.

Examples of Famous Hoaxes

The following are examples of paranormal hoaxes that took place over the past few years.

The Elevator Ghost Hoax

In early 2008, a creepy video surfaced on YouTube and throughout the Internet, showing security camera footage of a ghostly, stooped figure of an old woman haunting an office building in Singapore. It quickly became well known as the "Raffles Place Ghost." Later in the year, the GMP Group admitted they fabricated the video, at a cost of $100,000, in order to "highlight the dangers of working late". Many thousands of people had fallen for the hoaxed video.

The Aleshenka Creature

In August of 1996, a mentally ill elderly woman named Tamara Vasilievna Prosvirina claimed that she'd discovered a small creature in Kaolinovy, a small village in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Locals claimed that the creature was extraterrestrial in origin. For years, UFOlogists and cryptozoologists believed that the creature was not of this world. However, in 2004, scientists from the Moscow Institute of General Genetics, used genetic testing to prove that the creature was nothing more than a prematurely born female baby with severe deformities.

Planet Serpo and the Human-Alien Exchange Program

In 2005, a story about a human-alien exchange program surfaced on the Internet. An anonymous person, claiming to be a government insider, used free Internet email accounts to send poorly written military journal entries written by military officers who allegedly visited the alien planet. In 2006, investigators at RealityUncovered, using email-tracing evidence, revealed that the anonymous hoaxer was former U.S. Air Force Sergeant Richard Doty, famous for his part in a number of past UFO hoaxes that he distributed to UFO researchers Bill Moore and Linda Moulton Howe during the 1980s.

Bigfoot Found

During the summer of 2008, Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer claimed that they'd discovered the body of Bigfoot in the backwoods of northern Georgia. The hoax built up steam throughout the national and international media as the two men claimed they had the corpse frozen in a chest freezer. Self-proclaimed cryptozoologist Tom Biscardi picked up the story and pushed it into the national news by promoting several large media events. The two men sold the body to a research group called Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. for $50,000.00. After thawing the creature, the hoax was revealed when they discovered that it was nothing more than a rubber gorilla costume.


For additional information about how to check out a hoax, review the following articles:

How to Check Out a Hoax