6. George Turklebaum, R.I.P.
The press committed its share of boo-boos in 2001, one of the earliest and most amusing being the repetition, sans fact-checking, of a tabloid item concerning one George Turklebaum, a New York City proofreader supposedly discovered slumped at his desk by fellow employees five days after he had passed away from a heart attack. "George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn't say anything," his boss allegedly told reporters. The truth was that Mr. Turklebaum never existed in the first place.
7. Britney Spears Dies in Car Crash
If you believe what you read on the Internet, pop star Britney Spears died twice in 2001 first in mid-June, when two radio DJs started a rumor (which then took off by email) that Spears and her beau, Justin Timberlake, had been in a fatal car crash, then again in October, when a hacker posted the same story on a Web page disguised to look like CNN. The DJs who started the whole thing were ultimately sacked. The hacker claimed he was only "conducting research."
8. Premature Rapture
This irreverent tale of a woman who mistakes a bearded guy pulling up next to her in a pick-up for the Second Coming of Jesus wasn't supposed to fool anyone, but when it began circulating by email it caught a few people with their B.S. detectors down in early 2001. Its author, who is still scratching his head over the sudden popularity of his satire, never expected to reach such a wide or gullible audience.
9. Snake Swallows Man!
This set of photos purporting to show a human male being swallowed whole by a huge snake was already well-traveled at the dawn of 2001, but new texts kept popping up to "explain" what was happening in the pictures and where, hence the phenomenal circulation of this dubious presentation during the first half of the year. Was it real, or staged? Have a look and the photos and the stories and decide for yourself.
10. The Piano Teacher
Another terrorism story, but this one didn't take place in 2001. It's the inspirational tale (or "glurge," as this genre is becoming known in Internet parlance) of a talentless piano student who overcame all the odds and logical inconsistencies to become an overnight prodigy in order that his deaf mother, now dead, might finally hear him play "in heaven." Just in case there was still a dry eye after that, it turned out that Robby the child prodigy grew up to serve his country in Operation Desert Storm and survived, only to be killed several years later in the terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahomah City, "where he was reportedly... playing the piano."
1. Bonsai Kitten
Probably the most controversial Website of 2001, the repugnant BonsaiKitten.com spawned protests, petitions and even an FBI investigation. Why all the fuss? The site, "Dedicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets," appears to advocate confining kittens in small glass jars to change the shape of their bodies as they grow.
A slick commercial Website "catering to the sophisticated human meat consumer." Along with recipes and member services for modern-day cannibals, the site purports to offer easy online ordering and discreet home delivery of the choicest cuts of human meat. You may, however, have better luck purchasing the ManBeef.com logo apparel, given that the FDA has yet to approve the sale of human flesh for food.
The Urban Legends Top 25