Although most people won’t admit it, pretty much every person has fallen for a hoax at one time or another. The Internet has only accelerated this; from viral hoaxes like the waterproof iPhone to YouTube hoaxes like the eHarmony cat lady, you never know when something you consume online is false.
The Daily Dot offered some ideas on why these hoaxes persist, especially in the age of Facebook. According to them, most Internet users don’t bother to read more than article headlines and don’t understand satirical news, among other problems.
While this lack of critical thinking has given hoaxes staying power over the years, the Internet also gives us the tools we need to figure out the truth. With some help from Snopes, the master source for information about urban legends and rumors, let’s dispel some of the most enjoyable movie-related myths that are still circulating today.
The Wizard of Oz: Munchkin Suicide
The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, is one of the most-loved movies of all time. It also contains one of the biggest rumors in movie history: supposedly, a Munchkin character can be seen hanging from a rope on a tree in the background of a scene. This supposed suicide went unnoticed in the film’s early days, until the advent of VHS and DVD allowed people to watch frame-by-frame and take a closer look. Here’s the scene:
Once thought to be a crew member accidentally stuck on-screen, the legend eventually evolved into its current form: a Munchkin extra, distraught from unrequited love, decided to end his life on the movie’s set.
Why It’s Crap
This is the kind of hoax that seems believable when you get caught up in excitement and view the slow-mo video, but think about it for just a minute. First, filming a movie requires dozens of people at any given time, who would have surely noticed someone who was hanging on the set. Even if it somehow slipped by them, the post-production team would have seen the hanging when they were editing the film. That doesn’t even take into account the fact that the Munchkins weren’t even on the set when this scene was recorded.
Nobody committed suicide on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Even in 1939, it would have been physically impossible for someone to commit that act and not have a single person notice. And if the film staff were “covering it up,” they wouldn’t have been so cheap as to not get another take of the scene. Instead, it was a bird, which can be seen much more clearly in the remastered DVD release of the film:
Three Men and a Baby: Ghost Boy
Three Men and a Baby is a comedy from 1987 that involves three bachelors suddenly having to watch over a baby. As with The Wizard of Oz, a hoax circulated when viewers brought the movie home on tape and could pause and rewind the film as they saw fit.
According to the story, the house used in one scene was home to a boy who had committed suicide with a shotgun (in real life). Out of grief, the family had left the home, and the ghost of the boy now haunted it. If you look closely you can see a shotgun-like outline, followed by an eerie figure of a boy, seemingly backing this up:
What Actually Happened
Of course, this is totally made up. None of the filming took place in homes, as it was all on a set. What looks like a young boy is really a cardboard cut-out of Jack Holden, one of the three men of the title. Since Jack is an actor in the movie, there was originally going to be a story arc which involved him starring in a commercial, but it was scrapped.
The figure was left around and can actually be seen later in the movie — it’s clearly Jack, but looks different in the “ghost” scene because of the angle and curtains obscuring the hands. Once again, there’s a logical explanation for the mystery — something the unsolved conundrums on Wikipedia could use.
The MGM Lion Is a Killer
What You Heard
When it comes to film logos and mascots, surely one of the most recognizable is the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) lion, known for its iconic roar. MGM has produced hundreds of films since the 1920s (many now available on Google Play), so you’ve certainly seen this a few times:
The original lion, named Slats, has spawned two big myths: the first goes that the intro was originally supposed to be silent and still, but he instead roared when two burglars came into the warehouse where filming was taking place. The second, and more popular, says that Slats the lion killed his trainer and two assistants the day after the original intro was shot.
The first rumor is an outright lie. It was invented by a joke website, and there is nothing to suggest that MGM was filming in a warehouse used by burglars. The second myth is, unsurprisingly, false as well.
Slats never killed anyone involved in his filming, as professional animal trainers were on the scene. All the proof that is required is the life of trainer Volney Phifer, who outlived the lion and actually buried him. He couldn’t have done that if he had been killed, right?
So, the next time you watch a James Bond movie (maybe while wearing your Apple Watch), rest assured that the lion you see at the start wasn’t responsible for any deaths. Speaking of Bond…
Goldfinger: Painted Murder
1964’s Goldfinger was the first blockbuster James Bond movie (check out the best Bond gadgets ever). In it, 007 is out to stop villain Auric Goldfinger’s plot to render the gold in Fort Knox useless. The gold theme again comes into play when Goldfinger’s secretary, Jill Masterson, betrays him to help Bond. To get revenge, he kills her by painting her entire body gold.
In those days, some people believed that the body breathed through the skin, which would mean that someone who was totally covered in paint would suffocate. Knowing this, dancers back then would leave a small patch of their skin exposed so as to make breathing possible. Since this woman was painted for real and people thought that would kill someone, it was enough for viewers to conclude that she had died when she slipped out of public view.
The Real Story
Of course, we now know that people don’t breathe through their skin; so as long as you’re breathing through your mouth or nose, you won’t suffocate. However, body paint could still keep you from sweating (which would overheat your body), and could be toxic if you wear it for too long, so covering yourself in it isn’t the best idea.
Regardless, actress Shirley Eaton had doctors standing by when she wore the paint, and was not affected at all by the scene. After Goldfinger she was in a few more films before retiring, so she lived through the movie just fine. Obviously, the directors wouldn’t have written this into the story if they would have deemed it unsafe for the actress.
Watch for Hoaxes
These are far from the only movie hoaxes to have been successfully debunked by Snopes, but they are some of the most famous. Others include an exaggerated story about a real tornado occurring during a showing of Twister, and the tired lie that the hoverboards from Back to the Future II were real.
There may even be some longstanding things you think about movies that are false after all — do some research and see what really happened! If you’re interested in investigating more falsehoods, check out some modern Instagram hoaxes that fooled thousands, or protect yourself by identifying Facebook scams before you fall for them.
What are your favorite hoaxes, from movies or otherwise, that turned out to be fakes? Have you heard of any recent myths you’d like to discuss? Give your thoughts below!
Image Credits:hold the pin set by Early Spring via Shutterstock