A hoax (or foolie) is something intended to deceive or defraud. A fraud is trickery or deceit aimed specifally at dishonestly gaining wealth (The Con
is a subtrope of this) or an advantage. And a forgery is simply something fake passed off as being genuine.
The reasons for these may be many—anything from a harmless jest to a financial scam
to provoking an attack on a person or group
Frauds And Foolies
, unsurprisingly, make excellent plot material—anything from being a short-term part of the plot or the basis of an entire story.
Here are the differences:
- The Hoax is a deception that is usually done For the Lulz, but may also be done for revenge (Atlanta Nights was to gain revenge on—and expose—Publish America) or to whip up fervor for or against a group (such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Also known as a "foolie".
- The Fraud is deception for power or money. Subtropes include:
- Landslide Elections where the "election" is a sham perpetrated for political power.
- The Con, a fraud perpetrated in the pursuit of wealth. Posing as an heir is this type of fraud.
- The Forgery is a fake object masquerading as the real thing, for example a forged letter or a forged painting Subtropes are:
Examples of hoaxes and frauds
- The Hoax is a rather loosely Based on a True Story dramatization of Clifford Irving's fake Howard Hughes autobiography.
- In Shattered Glass, another Based on a True Story film, Stephen Glass spends years making stories up for The New Republic until some elementary fact-checking by reporters from Forbes exposes him as a fabulist.
- F for Fake, the last film directed by Orson Welles, is a documentary about art forger Elmyr de Hory, which grew into a meditation about the nature of fakery and hoaxes after de Hory's biographer, Clifford Irving, was revealed to be a hoaxer as well (see The Hoax listed on this page).
- The 1985 film Clue by Paramount Pictures has extortionist Mister Boddy invite six victims to his mansion, wherein a series of murders are committed. The hoax is that the victims think they're getting a chance to silence those who put them under Boddy's thumb in the first place. In reality, Boddy's master plan is to inveigle his targets in complicity to murder so that he can squeeze them further.
- The original Springtime for Hitler in The Producers was an attempt to defraud investors in a play.
- Detective Rudameyer engineers a brilliant hoax upon Harry Kenyon in order to compel Harry to reveal the reason he murdered his wife and made it look like an traffic accident in Vanishing Act from May 1986.
- The last episode of the second series of Sherlock is a grand hoax perpetrated by Jim Moriarty to discredit Sherlock.
- The now-defunct Rob Lancaster's Gallery of Unusual Playing Cards displayed something called The Slööf-Lirpa deck, which was a set of invisible playing cards. For YEARS, people thought the cards were real, not realizing that the name of the company that made them reads "April Fools" in reverse—nor that it was posted on April 1.
- Clockwork Game is the story of a hoax—specifically, a chess-playing machine.
- The Calgary Sun ran an article about some pet fee that City Hall was planning to implement, causing loud outcries against City Hall. It was a prank.
- In the 1950s, the BBC had several phone calls after Panorama's spaghetti tree hoax from people wondering if they could grow their own.
- I, Libertine was a "book" that was concocted by radio DJ Jean Shepherd to highlight the flaws in how bestsellers lists were being compiled. Sure enough, he and his listeners successfully got a non-existent book by a non-existent author on the New York Times Bestseller list. By the time the hoax was openly admitted, the compilers of lists had already been made to look like fools.
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a document purportedly describing a scheme of world domination by the Jews, and has been used as a warrant for antisemitism. It is a hoax first published in Russia in 1903, and revealed as a hoax (and a heavily plagerized one) in 1921. Didn't stop Those Wacky Nazis from using it, though.
- The Great Moon Hoax. In 1835 the New York newspaper The Sun published 6 articles claiming that the astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life and civilization on the Moon.
- The Dreadnought Hoax was a practical joke by Horace Cole, in which he disguised several friends (including Virginia Woolf) as Abyssinian Princes and visited the HMS Dreadnought. The navy was completely fooled, and were NOT happy when they found out.
- A Dutch artist named Van Meegren forged several paintings in the style of the old Dutch masters—not for personal gain, but to ruin art critics, whom he loathed.
- The Piltdown Man could be considered a fraud perpetrated in pursuit of scientific prestige—if it could be conclusively proven who the hoaxer was.
- The Cardiff Giant was a statue that was marketed as a petrified man (and thus a fraud). Then a rival showman made a copy and presented it as the real Cardiff Giant (thuse a forgery of a fraud).
Examples of Forgeries (will split off from this)
- In Storm Rising, it turns out Baron Tremain, who has been sent to conquer Hardorn (and found himself stuck there) has a forged copy of the Imperial Seal that he made himself.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn exposes coins as forged though he's completely wrong about the telling clue.
- The Cardiff Giant was a statue that was marketed as a petrified man (and thus a fraud). Then a rival showman made a copy and presented it as the real Cardiff Giant (thus a forgery of a fraud).