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4 Ways to Spot a Viral Video Hoax


From eagles snatching babies to alien autopsies, the internet is a veritable minefield of ingeniously crafted hoax videos. Can't make sense of which are real and which are fakes? As always, you should probably visit, the definitive source for information about urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, hoaxes, and misinformation. If you don't want to be a sucker the next time you're linked to a popular video that winds up being debunked, just check out our very own Footage Review Specialist Alexandra Rosenmann's tips below and you'll be able to spot phonies with the best of them: 1. History

Have there been any previous recorded incidences of eagles snatching babies? How likely is it that this a first of its kind?

Historically, regarding UFOs, there have only been "alleged sightings" which vary greatly. Because an unidentified flying object could be anything. But if the UFO in the video reminds you of anything in particular, i.e. clouds, kids' toys or even lights, it's probably a hoax.

2. Science

Does a video seem too out-there to be true? Usually you can find out its validity by asking yourself some basic questions about the scene depicted.

Thinking about a few basic things should shed light on a video's legitimacy. With the recent eagle video, how much can a golden eagle pick up? Not much; large birds of prey usually swoop down and pick up small animals like mice, fish, rabbits, squirrels and gophers for a reason. The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in North America - but it doesn't reside in Canada, where the video was shot. Even so, the baby would be too heavy. It turns out students Normand Archambault, Loic Mireault and Felix Marquis-Poulin of Montreal's Centre NAD, a school that specializes in 3D animation design used composites in the Eagle Snatches Baby video, integrating the 3D animation with the live action video.

The 1995 "Alien Autopsy" Santilli film depicts the post mortem of an extraterrestrial who died in a UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 - or does it? Skeptics and many UFOlogists branded the video a hoax for two reasons in particular. Joe Nicoll, at LiveScience, observes: "Injuries sustained by the extraterrestrial were inconsistent with an air crash, and that the person performing the autopsy held the scissors like a tailor rather than a pathologist (who is trained to place his middle or ring finger in the bottom of the scissors hole and use his forefinger to steady the blades)."

3. News

Major networks don't snatch up hoax videos just like eagles don't snatch babies. Citizen journalism is carefully vetted, so if you can only find the video on a personal Youtube account with no similar videos or reporting on the video from other sources, it's most likely not real.

The 1999 American horror film, The Blair Witch Project (though fictional) presents the filmmakers' own amateur footage as archival "found footage." In addition to popularizing this technique for horror movies, viewers could also visit to examine historical information about the legend of the Blair Witch, old photographs, police reports, letters, and interviews with officials. was among the first hoax websites to accompany a hoax film, which revolutionized entertainment marketing.

4. Logic

How would normal parents react in an actual eagle attack? Probably take that child to the doctor immediately. If there is proof that the child received medical attention for eagle wounds, then the story would be much more believable.

Alan Abel (born 1930) is a wannabe comedian turned professional media hoaxer whose TV appearances spanned the period from 1975 to 1988, even though he was always found out. Able saw pranks as an opportunity amuse and anger the public, but most of all, gain media exposure. Though ridiculous and controversial, his stunts almost always commanded media attention.

For more videos with effects, see our Effects: Composites clipbox.


[LiveScience] [Documenting Reality] [WikiHow] [AlanAbel] [] [Access Hollywood]