I published a story on 1 April 2015 about a crazy Russian plan to build a high-speed railway line from Moscow to New York via the Bering Strait, Alaska and Canada. Although the plan is highly unlikely ever to come to fruition, the story itself was not a hoax, despite the fact that I wrote it on April Fool's Day.
However, the same cannot be said for an article I read about a ship that had disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 90 years ago and was recently "found" in the sea off the coast of Cuba, unmanned and simply floating ... According to the report, Cuban investigators had determined that the ship was actually the SS Cotopaxi, a tramp steamer that had left Charleston in the USA on 29 November 1925 with a cargo of coal. It was reported missing in December 1925 and was never found again.
At first glance the report seemed to be a hoax - I mean, how can a ship disappear for 90 years then reappear, none the worse for wear and with not a soul on board? But stranger things have happened, so although I was skeptical I read on. The article was well written, with quotations from Cuban investigators and coastguards and some historical background on the journey of the ill-fated SS Cotopaxi. It was not dated 1 April and there was no indication that the writer or the publication considered the story to be a joke.
But I remained unconvinced, and a quick delve around some of the other pages of the web site that carried the story revealed the truth. The article was published by World News Daily Report, and the following can be found as part of their "disclaimer":
WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.
It turns out that World News Daily Report (WNDR) is not a news site at all, but rather publishes tongue-in-cheek articles, jokes and satirical observations - none of which should be taken seriously. Looking around the WNDR pages I found many more articles just as absurd as the one about the missing ship, but all written with just enough plausability to fool a gullible person or to make a skeptical reader think twice for a second. So well done to World News Daily Report - we have enough real world doom-and-gloom news, so your satire is excellent, much-needed and appreciated!