Alien McHoaxes, McSkepticism, and More

May 9, 2011

Wow! An alien corpse on ice! Discovered “in the frozen wastes of Siberia”—at a “known UFO hotspot,” no less—the damaged but preserved creature (partially buried in snow) surfaced in a short video posted on Youtube. In just a few days the clip drew nearly three-quarters of a million viewers, according to an online British news source (; April 20, 2011).

The reporter says, “Cynics claim the video is a fake using a carefully staged model for the alien’s body,” while credulous viewers gush that only “masters at models/puppets” could have faked the ET, and that “If it is fake they are geniuses.” One critical-thinking-challenged opiner even tried to switch the burden of proof (which is always on the claimant), saying of the Siberian alien, “Unless proven otherwise, this is in fact plausible.”

Actually, the humanoid appears to be a rather talentless rendering of a typical “grey”—i.e., a little, big-eyed, big-headed type—that became common after 1961 when Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted by such creatures. The Hills (whose psychiatrist concluded they had experienced a “shared dream”) thus sparked the modern wave of “alien abductions” and led to this type of creature becoming standard in the popular imagination. (See my “Alien Time Line” chart in my book Tracking the Man-Beasts—Prometheus Books, 2011.) That the Siberian entity follows the standardized alien image in pop culture is itself grounds for suspicion. That is magnified by its location at a “UFO hotspot.” There is as yet no reason to take it seriously.

In the old days, one encountered such paranormal specimens (albeit of much better quality) in carnivals. In my Secrets of the Sideshows (2005), I present a collection of “gaffed” (carny talk for faked) oddities, typically billed as “real”—i.e., real taxidermy art or real products of papier mâché, latex, or polymer clay. For example a “Sasquatch safely frozen in ice” was a rubber fake (the notorious Minnesota Iceman that fooled two famous cryptozoologists). In my own collection are other examples like “jackalopes” (jackrabbits with antelope antlers) and “Jenny Hannivers” (gaffed mermaids, such as those made by altering a devilfish). My friend, carny gaff-artist Doug Higley, has made a career of producing a variety of “real entities” for sideshows: Step right up and see chupacabras, Fejee mermaids, an iguana boy, and more, including aliens.

Speaking of Higley: Once when I was escorted by legendary sideshow showman Bobby Reynolds into one of his midway exhibits—”Alien Bodies Direct from Roswell”—I gestured toward a deformed little extraterrestrial with accompanying “wreckage” and said, in a low voice, “that looks like Doug Higley’s work.” Bobby whispered back, “Yes, I got that from Doug.” Small wonder Higley is known as the “Phantom of the Midway”; since the artist’s existence is unknown, his is a phantom presence. Of his whimsies he says, “Each is designed to work the brain—crinkle the brow and crack a smile, and yes, in some cases even educate and inform.”

However, the era of sideshows has all but passed. For a time television was perhaps the main venue for paranormal hoaxes—for example, the infamous “Alien Autopsy” film. First airing on the Fox Network on August 28, 1995, it purportedly showed the dissection of an alien body from a crashed flying saucer retrieved near Roswell, New Mexico, in mid-1947. Instead, it proved to show a modelmaker’s fake with supermarket scraps for viscera. (See Tracking the Man-Beasts, 2011, pp. 187-191.)

Today, bogus paranormalities, whimsical sightings, and dubious oddities of all sorts are easily and instantly spread via the Internet, creating virtual realities and allowing one to surf the Nonsense. Thus the McClaim and McHoax are born and, quite often met by debunkings as speedy as they are superficial—drive-thru McSkepticism. Worse, sometimes the McSkeptics are perpetrating the McHoaxes, by which, while really seeking attention, they purport to believe they will instruct the world on how easy it is to be fooled. But that is already amply illustrated by ubiquitous McBelief: would you like that with fries?