There’s plenty of obvious nonsense on the internet, whether it’s a poorly-written email from a supposed Nigerian prince or a blog with photo evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. But some hoaxes actually end up putting the perpetrator in serious danger.
When Shane Morris regaled his audience with an epic vacation story, he had his eyes on fame, fortune, and a possible movie deal. But the swift backlash was such a catastrophe that he quickly wished he’d never gotten the fame in the first place.
Shane wanted nothing more than to become a social media influencer. He seemed to fit the part; the guy worked out nonstop and knew all about the latest fashion. But that wasn’t enough for Shane.
Twitter / Shane Morris
He gained a decent following from a Twitter thread about how the country music scene wouldn’t accept Lil Nas X because of his race. Despite a few factual inaccuracies sprinkled throughout, a lot of users liked what he had to say.
From there, Shane built up his reputation by recounting crazy personal stories, often involving drugs and partying. He turned a lot of heads with his tale about the night he accidentally ate eight ounces of mushroom-laced candy. But he’d soon top that.
In May of 2019, Shane began a long thread about a recent trip he took with some friends up the Pacific Coast a few years back. According to his story, their free-spirit adventure soon spiraled into a matter of life and death.
Twitter / Shane Morris
Without much money to fund their vacation, the pals sold their bicycles to buy a 1979 Dodge Ram van. It was a total piece of junk, they figured, but it would do the trick. They could only hope it would last for a couple thousand miles more.
Twitter / Shane Morris
The first leg of the trip was like a dream. They took in all the beautiful sights, eventually making their way up Mount Jefferson in Oregon. But just hours later, Shane and his friends hit some car troubles.
Twitter / Shane Morris
Any number of parts could’ve died out in the van, but by pure chance, Shane said he checked the carburetor. It indeed looked a bit busted, but another matter soon caught his eye. Shane found something that was definitely not supposed to be there.
YouTube / Robert Livingston
Some kind of bundle, all wrapped up in tape, was tucked in between the carburetor and frame of the van. Shane and his friends knew just enough about illicit substances to know it was heroin. They barely held back panic when they heard another car approach.
As an SUV pulled up, a park ranger stuck his head out the window. Shane almost spilled the beans right then and there, but the ranger simply volunteered to fix their van. Little did he know, he was “inches away from the biggest drug bust in the history of Oregon state parks.”
Flickr / Insomnia Cured Here
Shane and his friends booked it back to Los Angeles, where he hid the heroin in his freezer and contemplated what to do next. However, his choice was made for him when the original owner of the van called. He said he really wanted that van back — he would pay anything.
Sensing an opportunity to make a boatload of money, Shane fixed up the van a bit and agreed to sell it back, for a cool $10,000. But instead of replacing the brick — which the owner clearly wanted back — the influencer shoved a John Grisham paperback in its place.
Shane revealed that this was where the story got out of hand. It turned out that the van buyer was a member of the infamous MS-13 gang! He swore his revenge on Shane for stealing the heroin, but fate then intervened.
Police arrested the gangster on unrelated assault charges, so Shane was home free. Not one to cover up a good story, he shared the entire thing on Twitter — while also reaching out to some Hollywood contacts about a film adaptation.
With all its twists and turns, it was no huge surprise that Shane’s Twitter epic went viral. Millions of internet readers ate up the tale and barraged him with follow-up questions. Just a few days later, Shane blew them away with yet another bombshell.
The influencer admitted that he had made up almost the entire story! He didn’t do so with a good sense of humor, however. Shane felt compelled to come clean after his pot dealer told him that his white lie could put him in very real danger.
Twitter / Shane Morris
While an ordinary guy like Shane never crossed paths with MS-13, the gang certainly wouldn’t appreciate being mocked in a viral story. Fearing they’d come after him, Shane revealed the less glamorous truth about his trip.
In reality, Shane and his friends did embark on a road trip in a beat-up van, though it didn’t come with any gangland connections. The used vehicle, like Shane himself, was quite ordinary. And it’s final destination was rather anticlimactic.
US News & World Report
The clunker really did sputter out near Mount Jefferson, but there was no saving it. The adventurers ended up selling it for scrap. That marked the finale of their grand vacation. Naturally, Shane’s former fans threw a fit.
His dishonesty made just as big a splash as his outlandish story, with users demanding that Shane explain himself. He said he felt embarrassed about how “vanilla” his life was, so he drew upon his “brilliant imagination” to spice things up. Now, he had to go into hiding.
Not knowing when or if the gang would strike, Shane planned to go off the grid. He set up a GoFundMe so his fans could help him disappear, but this was the cherry on the internet outrage sundae. Shane took it down after being thoroughly lambasted.
Twitter / Shane Morris
Pride, ambition, and a heavy dose of stupidity blinded Shane from the fact that his lies would surface sooner or later. He could’ve looked to any number of these internet hoaxes to realize that bamboozling the entire online community never turns out well.
1. Oil rig trouble: This photo captured a Hollywood-worthy disaster in progress. Lightning struck as a fierce tornado headed straight for an operating oil rig. Yikes! The caption “not what you want to see” often accompanied the image—but was it real?
The truth: Amateur photographer Fred Smith did, in fact, capture a once-in-a-lifetime photo of a lightning strike and tornado side-by-side in 2001, seen here. The oil rig, however, was Photoshopped by an unknown hoaxer around 2008.
2. Island castle: People were tearing their hair out in disbelief when they saw photos of this fairy tale castle perched precariously atop a tall, skinny island. It defied physics! Well, it defied reality, too…
The truth: The balancing castle was a patch job of two photos—one of Lichtenstein Castle in Germany and another of an island in Thailand. It’s likely that structural engineers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when the hoax was exposed.
3. Hurricane Harvey shark: When this huge storm tore through Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in 2017, people everywhere witnessed some incredibly destructive forces… and a shark swimming along a flooded freeway, apparently.
The truth: The shark was real. The flood was real. But that shark in that flood was not real. Somebody digitally grabbed the shark from this picture from the White Shark Trust in South Africa and engaged in a little hurricane funny business.
4. The September 11th photo: If you believe everything you see on the Internet, then this would be quite the haunting photo. It supposedly captured the exact moment before one hijacked plane crashed into one of World Trade Center towers. What’s the deal?
The truth: Even the most ill-prepared tourist wouldn’t have worn a heavy coat in New York City in early September. Moreover, the plane in the photo didn’t match any involved in the attack, and—oh yeah—another vacation picture surfaced from the man’s trip. It was from 1997.
5. Flooded McDonald’s: Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the East Coast in 2012, and according to widely circulated photos, it flooded this McDonald’s. At first, fast-food maniacs panicked, but then the truth came out…
The truth: That McDonald’s did flood, but it wasn’t at Mother Nature’s behest. That photo was courtesy of a company called Superflex, which flooded a life-sized replica McDonald’s for an art installation. Thus, no French fries were harmed in the taking of that photo!
6. Horse-sized dog: Dogs aren’t usually this large, and that’s why people lost their collective minds when they read the “facts” on this dog. Allegedly, it was 31 inches tall at the shoulder, 38 inches tail to snout, and 282 pounds. For real?
The truth: While the stats about the Photoshopped dog in that picture were actually conflated with another dog (right), the jury is still out on this one. Some have suggested the dog is a fake, but other photos from what seems to be the same family and photo shoot (left) indicate he is very much real.
7. The forgotten temple of Lysistrata: Internet users gasped when they saw this photo of an allegedly lost seaside temple from ancient Greece. But was the stunning architecture a whisper from history? Or just another hoax?
The truth: Yep, it was just another hoax. A combination of the Pantheon in Rome and the Benagil Cave in Portugal, the lost temple of Lysistrata was just a liar’s creation. Too bad—it would have made for a killer vacation spot!
8. Blue watermelon: Foodies jumped out of their seats when they saw this photo of a blue watermelon pop up online. Scientists had, allegedly, given it a fancy, textbook-worthy name, too—asidus. But was the blue melon a lie?
The truth: For some reason, someone Photoshopped this image of a normal, red watermelon to be blue, proving once and for all that people will edit literally any photo for any reason and then share it online.
9. Palm-sized polar bear: Is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? A tiny polar bear, sitting in the palm of a hand! Internet animal lovers couldn’t get enough of the bear, but they, too, had merely been hoaxed. How?
The truth: This wasn’t the work of Photoshop, believe it or not. The reality was actually far simpler. It was a stuffed animal, created with needle and thread, and available for re-creation if you bought the pattern from a certain Etsy account.
10. Frozen Venice canals: Venice frozen over? Imagine the gondolas stuck in the icy Grand Canal! People all over the world must have, ’cause this photo—in all its beauty—spread across social media everywhere. But did Venice’s canals really freeze?
The truth: Actually, Venice’s canal network did freeze over in 2012, as well as once back in 1929, but not to the extent of the previous photo. The hoax image featured ice from a photo taken by Daniel Kordan at Lake Baikal in Russia.
11. Photo of Marylin Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor: These two icons stole the world’s attention in their heydays, but did the two bitter rivals really pose together for an eye-catching photo in the park?
The truth: The disappointing truth was that the hoax photo was just a combination of two separate photos, and with a little sepia saturation, the fraud was easy to see. Monroe’s picture had been taken in 1950 while Taylor’s shoot occurred in 1948.
12. Major traffic: The story accompanying this picture claimed a record-setting traffic jam on China’s National Highway 110 that stretched for over 60 miles. That would’ve been enough to make drivers—and web surfers—pull their hair out…
The truth: The Chinese traffic jam was faked, and the real basis of the picture was a much less-crowded I-405 freeway in Los Angeles. Still, anyone who’d driven on the 405 at rush hour could tell you the Photoshopped version wasn’t totally unrealistic.
13. The earthquake orphans: When an earthquake devastated Nepal in 2015, humanity was heartbroken for the two orphaned children caught holding each other tight. Captions in reliable publications claimed the little boy had protected his sister—but what really happened?
The truth: The original photographer put an end to the false claims about his picture via Twitter. The two children were Vietnamese, thus obviously not from Nepal, and had hugged because they were frightened by visitors to their village in 2007.