Twelve Red Flags for a Historical Hoax

David Meadows at Rogue Classicism has put together a list of twelve warning signs that set off his skeptic senses:

  1. Claim is made by someone who is not a specialist (i.e. with a degree) in the discipline
  2. Claimant has an “Indiana Jones” type epithet, often self-imposed
  3. Topic of claim is one of the long-standing mysteries (e.g. Cleopatra’s tomb, Alexander’s tomb, anything related to Atlantis, the Ark of the Covenant, something biblical, etc.)
  4. Claim is initially made on a press release site and later picked up by mainstream media
  5. Claim has not appeared in a scholarly journal nor is ‘in press’
  6. The word “decode” is used at least once in the claim
  7. The phrase “years of research” figures prominently
  8. Claimant justifies position with references to the Trojan War or Galileo
  9. Claimant suggests a “coverup” of some sort by academics
  10. Claim is made on a significant date (especially if related to early Christianity … Easter and Christmas are the big dates)
  11. Newspaper report doesn’t actually ask a specialist for a contrary opinion
  12. Mention of a documentary to come is made in the concluding paragraphs

Pretty good, but needs a mention of invisible watermelons.

  • Lurker111

    #13. Claim involves a weed-trimmer, a live chicken and a tub of whipped cream.

    Extra credit to those of you who can place this reference. ;)

    Edit: Okay, here’s the answer. Small alert: satirizes stalking:

    Ray Stevens story:

  • MichaelNewsham

    In reference to #8: Everything is connected to the Templars!

    Don’t know your reference, lurker111, mine might be easier

  • Nebuladancer

    What would be an example of #2, and “Indiana Jones” type epithet?

  • mikespeir

    Well, in reference to #1, at least reference needs to be made to the opinions of specialists.

    • kessy_athena

      I think where the bar is set for this one depends a lot on context and the nature of the claim. And in the popular media it’s often not clear at all what the qualifications of claimants and of “experts” who opine on it are. On one hand, just because someone has a PhD doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re talking about. On the other hand, good, rigorous work can and has been done by amateurs. After all, Einstein was working as a patent clerk when he wrote his miracle year papers. So I think this particular criterion needs to be applied with a great deal of caution. Criteria #4 and #5 are probably better measures of credibility.