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Issue 66 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 66: October, 2006

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
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Hoax-Slayer is a Free Monthly Web-Based Newsletter brought to you by Brett Christensen

The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter keeps you informed about the latest email hoaxes and current Internet scams. Hoax-Slayer also features anti-spam tips, computer security information, pertinent articles and more.

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Email Rumour - Keith Urban Asks Canadians to Leave a Concert

The message shown below claims that country music star Keith Urban requested all Canadians in his audience at a recent concert to leave because Canadians "were not helping out fighting with USA troops". According to the message, the incident occurred at the Minot, North Dakota State Fair. Urban played a concert at the fair on 21st July 2006. The rumour is spreading rapidly via email, online forums and blogs.

However, there is no credible information of any kind to support the far-fetched claims in the message. Keith Urban and his wife Nicole Kidman are high profile celebrities and live their lives under intense media scrutiny. If true, the incident described in the message would have invoked a media frenzy. Various media outlets across the planet would have almost certainly covered the story. It is vastly improbable that such a "juicy" story would have been ignored by celebrity journalists. In fact, the only mention of the rumour is in the rather breathless email forward included here, in fan forums and gossipy blog posts.

Moreover, shortly before the alleged incident, Urban performed in Canada itself. On July 13 2006, Keith performed as part of a music festival for the Bayfest Weekend in Sarnia, Ontario. A few months earlier, in November 2005 he played in Hamilton Ontario.

If Urban felt so strongly about Canada's non-participation in the Iraq conflict that he asked Canadians to leave a concert, then it is highly improbable that he would have actually performed in Canada itself. Musicians sometimes refuse to play certain venues because of their political beliefs, but they do not single out specific members of an audience and ask them to leave. No professional entertainer is likely to instigate such a ridiculous and self-destructive stunt, regardless of his or her political leanings.

Another strong indication that the rumour is false is that comparable, and equally untrue, claims have been levelled against other musicians in the past. A similar unfounded rumour from 2005 claimed that US country singer Toby Keith refused to start a concert before all Canadians had left the venue. Although Toby's "defiantly patriotic" lyrics and opinions have occasionally caused some controversy in music circles, there are no credible reports to back up claims that he asked Canadian audience members to leave a performance.

An even earlier rumour accuses British performer Phil Collins of anti-Semitism and claims that he asked all Jewish audience members to leave a concert. Collins has vehemently denied the claims. According to Snopes.com, yet another version of the story claims that the late country singer John Denver once asked audience members who were Jehovah's Witness's to leave a performance.

As well as its claims about Keith Urban, the message also states that Garth Brooks "donated 1 million to keep Canadian cattle out of the USA". However, I could find no reports to backup this vague and irrelevant claim.

In short, this story is a load of nonsense that unfairly maligns Keith Urban and the other artists that have been targeted. Spreading baseless gossip of this nature serves only to make the sender appear foolish.



References:
Minot, North Dakota State Fair: Keith Urban
Sarnia Rogers Bayfest 2006: Keith Urban
Keith Urban :: Saturday Night Country
Aussie singers snub Iraq Diggers
CMT Canada Forums - Toby Keith
Courtesy Of The Red, White & Blue
Phil Collins Refutes Charges Of Anti-semitism
Ordered Away

An example of the hoax email:
WHAT AN ASS !!! NO MORE KEITH URBAN FOR ME!!! (OR GARTH BROOKS)

Subject: Keith Urban - This is horrible and very insulting!

Keith Urban is off my play list - WHAT AN ASS !!!

This big shot western singer asked all Canadians to stand up at the Minot (N.D.) Fair, after everyone stood up, he asked them all to leave the stands before he would sing because they were not helping out fighting with USA troops.

He is a New Zealander by birth (1967), then grew up in Australia (from 1969) and finally in 1992 moving and living in Nashville. Becoming an other imported brainwashed yankie.

Pass this around and see how his record sales do in Canada.

Also, Garth Brooks donated 1 million to keep Canadian cattle out of the USA.

I guess this just confirms that Americans are ignorant to any other humans in the world other than themselves. Just recently 8 Canadian Soldiers died and I believe some died of yet another American mistake.


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Steve Irwin Became Born Again Christian Rumour

Soon after the tragic and untimely death of Steve Irwin on 4th September 2006, a rumour began circulating via email that claimed the Crocodile Hunter had recently converted to Christianity. According to the message, Steve had been "born again" during a church service at Kings Church AOG Buderim in Queensland, Australia just weeks before his fatal encounter with a stingray while filming in North Queensland.

However, the church named in the message has denied that such a conversion took place. An official response published on the church's website states:
Steve Penny wishes to advise that the story of Steve Irwin's conversion to Christianity in Kings Christian Church is unfounded. Further investigation has failed to substantiate rumours of his conversion in any church on the Sunshine Coast.
The rumour gained momentum after a staff member forwarded an email sent to Creation Ministries International by Pastor Robyn Reiser. However, a subsequent investigation by CMI could not substantiate the claims in the "conversion" stories:
We have investigated the claims to the best of our ability, including phoning several of the churches and individuals involved. Though we were able to substantiate our earlier suggestion that Steve’s wife Terri was a churchgoing Christian, the stories of Steve himself ‘coming forward’ can at this stage not be substantiated. In fact, there is serious reason to doubt that this happened, at least not in the way that the stories claim.
Pastor Reiser worked at a different church than the one in which the conversion was alleged to have taken place and there is no claim that she was actually present during the service mentioned in the message. Although she apparently had a genuine belief that the conversion claims were factual, the contents of her message to CMI was seemingly based on false information passed on to her by others.

The email has now been forwarded around the world and mutated versions have began to emerge. Forwarding this message will serve no good purpose and may cause even more pain for Steve's grieving family and friends. Creation Ministries International asks that the message not be spread further:
We would urge Christians not to be involved in circulating the R.R. email or any other unconfirmed reports. It is, ultimately, a matter between Steve Irwin and His Creator—and if the event did occur, then since Terri Irwin is a believer, she will be highly motivated to let the world know.

References:
STEVE IRWIN Official Response
Crocodile Hunter—those conversion accounts—are they true?
Sunshine Coast Daily: How an email on Steve’s salvation became gospel


An example of the hoax email:
Subject: Good News about Steve Irwin

I want to inform Creation Ministries International that Steve Irwin became a born again Christian two and a half weeks ago at the Kings Church AOG Buderim, Queensland Australia, going forward publically before the congregation to ask Christ to become his Lord and Saviour.

Many of us will now spend eternity with him. I am sure Terri is comforted as a Christian in the fact that she will be with Jesus and also Steve again for eternity. Steve declared the day before he died that he was the happiest he had ever been in his whole life.

Pastor Robyn Reiser

Noosa Christian Outreach Centre

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Scam Baiting - Caution Required

Nigerian or "419" scams have been around for many a long year and the Internet has become very fertile territory for the criminals that run them. Because these sorts of scams are so common, the pastime known as "scam baiting" has also rapidly grown in popularity.

Basically, scam baiting describes the act of stringing a scammer along by pretending to be interested in his bogus "deal". To achieve this, the baiter may initially reply to a scam email feigning interest. When the scammer responds, the baiter will make every effort to keep him "hooked" for as long as possible. The goal is to "scam the scammer" and waste his time and money. Baiters may use a series of delaying tactics to keep the scammer interested. They may introduce other fictional characters to spin out the time it takes to close the supposed "deal". Or they might trick the scammer into arranging fictional meetings, making expensive phone calls, booking hotel rooms for guests that never arrive, complying with eccentric requests or driving to pick up non-existent travellers from the airport.

Of course, the scammers deserve everything they get. Scam baiting has sometimes aided law enforcement authorities to apprehend criminals by providing useful information about their identity or whereabouts. Baiting can also divert scammers into wasting a considerable amount of time on a "victim" that they will never actually con. Time that may have otherwise been spent scamming real victims.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, a lot of scam baiting has tended to move away from this primary goal of thwarting criminals and into the realm of pure entertainment. Ironically, perhaps because of language and cultural factors, some scammers seem to be very naive and they are easily manipulated by astute baiters. The prolonged exchanges between baiter and scammer can appear quite funny to an observer who is in on the "sting". In fact, there are entire websites devoted to scam baiting and publishing these humorous exchanges.

Therein lies a problem. Naturally, such sites tend to focus on the funniest and most prolonged of these scam baiting exchanges. Thus, it is quite easy for observers to draw the erroneous conclusion that all scammers are inherently dumb and thus easily manipulated. However, it could be very dangerous to underestimate these individuals. We should always keep in mind that, foolish and naive or not, these people are unscrupulous and unpredictable criminals. There have been violent attacks, abductions and even murders associated with Nigerian scams and the criminals that run them should not be trifled with.

"Professional" scam baiters go to great lengths to ensure that their real identity is protected. They use disposable email addresses and names, locations and circumstances used in the baiting will be entirely imaginary. Experienced baiters are very careful to ensure that no sensitive personal information is inadvertently leaked to their targets. However, given the increasing tendency to present scam baiting as entertainment, there is real potential for less experienced Internet users to jump headlong into what they perceive as a new and interesting Internet "sport" without taking the necessary steps to protect their identity. I know of cases in which amateur "baiters" have initiated a baiting session by simply replying directly to a scam email that arrived in their personal inbox - replies that include their real name and other personal information.

Moreover, having viewed a great many scam baiting exchanges, I sometimes wonder who is baiting whom. The scammer may not be as dumb as you think. Given his "trade", he may actually be quite skilled at collating small pieces of information until he has enough to identify his baiter. You really do not want one of these scammers to know where you live or work, especially if you have antagonized him by a prolonged baiting session.

Thus, while scam baiting can play a useful role, it should only be practised under very controlled conditions by people who know how to effectively disguise their identity. And, personally, I do not think it should be carried out "just for fun". As I'm sure the many thousands of scam victims around the world would testify, there is nothing remotely funny about these scammer scumbags or their activities.

People fall victim to scammers simply because they are unaware of how such scams operate. If you really want to get back at the slimeball that sent you that Nigerian scam email, don't bait him, tell your friends instead. Spread the word! Talk to your friends, neighbours and workmates about such scams. Show them an example of the scam email you received. Make sure they know how to avoid becoming the scammer's next mark. Ultimately, that is likely to be a lot more productive than a game of scam baiting, however entertaining it may seem at the time.

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Fake Mail Server Report Message Carries Worm

The email message shown below attempts to trick the recipient into opening an attachment by claiming that "e-mails containing worm copies" have been sent from his or her computer. The message purports to be a "Mail server report" and instructs the recipient to install updates to remove the worm infection. The update is supposedly included in an attachment that comes with the email.

However, the "update" actually carries a variant of the W32.Stration worm. Once executed, the worm can download and execute remote files, harvest email addresses from the infected computer, and send itself to these addresses. Ironically, the warning about worms contained in the message text more or less describes the behaviour of its own malicious payload. The messages uses spoofing to disguise their true origin.

Service providers and anti-virus companies would never send software updates via unsolicited email attachments. The bogus update ruse has been used before to distribute computer worms. In 2005, official looking emails that claimed to be from Microsoft carried worms disguised as "security patches". Any message that claims the recipient needs to open an attachment to install an update should be treated with extreme caution.

The "Mail Server report" message is only one of several that carry the W32.Stration worm. The messages may also have different email subject lines and various attachment names.

The best defence against email worms is to run reliable and up-to-date antivirus software and to use caution when dealing with email attachments.

References:
W32.Stration@mm
Email Worm Spoofing - Spoofing Explained
Fake Microsoft Security Patch Emails
Spreading Stration worm pretends to be security patch

An example of the worm email:
Re: Mail server report.

Our firewall determined the e-mails containing worm copies are being sent from your computer.

Nowadays it happens from many computers, because this is a new virus type (Network Worms).

Using the new bug in the Windows, these viruses infect the computer unnoticeably. After the penetrating into the computer the virus harvests all the e-mail addresses and sends the copies of itself to these e-mail addresses

Please install updates for worm elimination and your computer restoring.

Best regards,
Customers support service

Attachment: Update-KB2703-x86

[TOP]



ATM Security Advise Message : Enter PIN In Reverse to Call Police

The email forward included below claims that if criminals forced you to withdraw money from an ATM, entering your PIN in reverse will automatically alert police.

The technology that makes this possible does exist. However, so far, banks have not implemented it. Thus, if you are forced to withdraw money against your will, the chance that the ATM will have the reverse pin technology installed is exceptionally slim.

Back in 1994, Joseph Zingher from Chicago began developing ATM software that would silently call police if a PIN was entered in reverse. Since then, Zingher has spent years trying to sell the idea to banks in the United States without success. Several US states have explored the idea, but it is yet to be implemented. In 2004, the US state of Illinois passed legislation requesting that banks install reverse-pin safety technology in their ATMs. However, banks were not legally required to do so, and have so far displayed little interest in using the system.

Zingher and others continue to push for the implementation of reverse pin or similar consumer safety systems at ATMs. The concept is sound, and such technology could certainly increase ATM security, discourage forced withdrawal crime and possibly even save lives, if it was widely used. In an increasingly security conscious consumer market, it may not be too long before banks decide that such technology is financially viable or legislation forces them to act.

Until then however, forwarding this message is ill advised. Since it is extremely unlikely to work, the "advice" in this message could actually be dangerous. Forcing a victim to withdraw money from an ATM is a high-risk, violent crime. If a victim enters a reverse pin at an ATM that does not have the safety pin system installed, he or she will receive an error message and no money will be dispensed. This delay could antagonize the criminal and increase the risk of violent retaliation.

Moreover, if banks were to install a safety PIN system, they would provide information to their customers explaining the new system and how to use it. The message claims that the system is seldom used because "people don't know it exists". However, it is absurd to suggest that a bank would go to the considerable expense of implementing a safety PIN system and then not bother to tell their customers about it.

The message mentions a "broadcast" as the source of the information. This may refer to a September 2006 WOAI San Antonio News story on the subject. The video cites the case of a San Antonio man who was forced to withdraw money from several ATMs and explains the concept of reverse-pin technology as a means of countering such crimes. However, the story very clearly states that such technology is not yet being used.

Thus, this message contains dangerous misinformation and it should not be forwarded. If and when banks begin to install reverse pin technology at ATMs it is sure to be well publicized. If your own bank begins using such a system, it will almost certainly let you know about it directly.

References:
Banking on ATM safety
Technology To Keep You Safe At ATM Machines
ZICUBED ATM SAFETYPIN
Crime continues to dog ATM industry
Halfbakery: Panic PIN

An example of the message:
Subject: Reverse pin number to call police

I just found out that should you ever be forced to withdraw monies from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your Pin # in reverse. The machine will still give you the monies you requested, but unkown to the robber, etc, the police will be immediately dispatched to help you. The broadcast stated that this method of calling the police is very seldom used because people don't know it exists. It might mean the difference between life & death. Hopefully, none of you will have to use this, but I wanted to pass it along just in case you hadn't heard of it. Please pass it along to everyone possible.



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Stock Spam Hitting Inboxes

Lately, a goodly proportion of the spam email that has been darkening my inboxes is of the annoying "stock tip" variety. The amount of questions about this spam from site visitors indicates that I am certainly not the only one getting inundated with this irritating trash.

The messages usually contain a "tip" advising investors to buy stock in a particular company as soon as possible in order to gain good returns. The messages arrive in a variety of formats and target a number of companies.

Unlike most other kinds of spam, stock spam generally does not include a link back to the spammer's website and many have wondered what the spammer hopes to gain by posting it. Basically, the purpose of this spam is to influence the stock price of the targeted company so that the spammer can make a quick profit on his or her shares. There are various angles on the ruse, but the primary goal is to get a lot of extra investors to trade on the specified company thus altering the price of stock in a way favourable to the spammer. Although it may seem doubtful that such a scheme would actually work, reports indicate that stock spam campaigns can indeed reap profits for the spammer.

Much of this spam arrives with very weird, off-topic subject lines and the actual "tip" may be an image embedded within paragraphs of random text (see example below). The use of images along with the strange subject lines and random text are intended to trick spam filters into letting the message go through. Spam filters are often configured to detect messages that contain certain words, phrases or ways of structuring sentences that are commonly indicative of spam. If these indicators add up to a significant percentage of the message, the filter will block the message as spam. By including the spam "payload" in an image that cannot be "read" by the filter and adding random text, the messages can sneak through without being flagged as spam.

Like other kinds of spam, there is no easy remedy for unsolicited stock email. It might be tempting to complain to the company named in the message. However according to an article on Spamnation.info, the targeted companies are rarely the ones responsible for the messages and "most stock spams are sent by third-party speculators". Advanced spam filtering techniques may be helpful, although, as noted above, the spammers use various dirty tricks to avoid filters. If filtering is ineffective, hitting your "Delete" key may ultimately be the most effective option. At least "Delete" never fails.

Of course, the hidden culprits are those investors who actually act on the information in the spam emails. As with all kinds of spam, if you buy from spammers you are making the problem worse for all Internet users and are almost as culpable as the spammers themselves. If nobody bought from spammers, the problem would soon evaporate. In any case, Spamnation notes that making investments based on stock spam is unlikely to be worthwhile.

A typical stock spam email:
Subject: Tales Rat FinkThe

He has also served as a task manager for the Prototype Data Services in the Grid Cameroon stunned holders Argentina in the opening game of 1990, Senegal did theThe one-time icon of England will not be around for the 2010 World Cup, and his
Stock Spam
Chelsea's Michael Essien, and in captain Stephen Appiah they had a player whoOnly four men have scored three goals in World Cup final matches - Geoff Hurstshowing by some obliging apologists - but he does not start his new career covered in glory. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites The network will deliver production IP capabilities and new dynamic optical services.been an inspirational leader of a Liverpool team containing less natural talent than


References:
Spamnation: Stock Spam FAQ
Study shows stock spam boosts prices


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Photo of Chopper Landing on Rooftop in Afghanistan

The below photograph of an amazing rooftop helicopter landing in Afghanistan has been making its way around the Internet for several years. The photograph is genuine and depicts a landing by pilot Larry Murphy during a 2003 operation in Afghanistan. A February 2004 article on EMS House of DeFrance notes:
Keystone Helicopter, an industry leader in helicopter services for 50 years, gave special recognition last week to pilot Larry Murphy for his recent skillful rooftop landing of his CH-47 helicopter to pick up Afghan Persons Under Custody during Operation Mountain Resolve in Afghanistan's Nuristan Province. Murphy, a 10-year Keystone Helicopter EMS pilot at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is currently on active duty with Company G, 104th Aviation Regiment
The information is also confirmed by an article on the Defend America News website that includes a different view of the rooftop landing with the following caption:
A CH-47 Chinook lowers onto a roof to receive Afghan Persons Under Control taken by 10th Mountain Division soldiers during Operation Mountain Resolve. The operation, which began on Nov. 7, is currently taking place in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar and Nuristan Provinces.
While the photograph itself is completely genuine, there is a minor inaccuracy in the description that generally accompanies it. The landing was not a rescue mission to pick up wounded soldiers. Rather, the purpose of the mission was to pick up "Persons under control" captured during the operation.

References:
EMS helicopter pilot gains company and world-wide recognition
10th Mtn. Div. Shows its Mettle In Operation Mountain Resolve
KEYSTONE HELICOPTER PILOT HONORED FOR SPECTACULAR ROOFTOP LANDING IN AFGHANISTAN TO PICK UP SUSPECTS

An example of the message:
Subject: Hello Pilot.

Take a look at this

If you don't think our military pilots earn their pay ... you need to take a look at this picture ... and then look again and realize what you're seeing .

Chopper Lands on Rooftop
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Greg Heath, 4th Public Affairs Detachment)

This photo was taken by a soldier in Afghanistan of a helo rescue mission. The pilot is a PA Guard guy who flies EMS choppers in civilian life. Now how many people on the planet you reckon could set the ass end of a chopper down on the roof top of a shack on a steep mountain cliff and hold it there while soldiers load wounded men in the rear.If this does not impress you ... nothing ever will. Gives me the chills and a serious case of the vertigo ... I can't even imagine having the nerve ... much less the talent and ability ... God Bless our military!!!



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Email Request for Hospital Patient Identification Tags

The information in the email forward below is true. Mr Arthur Jones of NSW, Australia is indeed attempting to collect hospital patient identification tags. I have contacted Mr Jones and I can confirm that the request is legitimate. Mr Jones reports that he has already had some interest in the project and he is hoping to receive a lot of tags for his collection.

I will endeavour to stay in contact with Mr Jones and report on the progress of his collection.

An example of the message:
Hello,

My name is Arthur Jones, I live just south of Sydney Australia and I have a strange request to make of you. I recently underwent fairly drastic abdominal surgery, and now am recovering well with a fairly good prognosis. In Hospital I had time to think of my own mortality (yes I am mortal), but I'm no Steve Irwin or Peter Brock (millions are not going to miss me when the time comes (20-30 yrs from now hopefully), but I would like to leave something behind and in following my granddaughter's standard comment "You're weird Grandad", I've decided weird is the way to go. I want to get into the Guinness book of records for the worlds largest collection of HOSPITAL PATIENT IDENTIFICATION TAGS , you know the kind of thing they strap on you when you go in for an in-grown toenail, so you do not come out with a vasectomy. So please if you can send them in, possibly with a brief explanation or story. Hopefully I'll get them from all over the world So I, you or any one you know has one of these or is about to get one - when they are finished with it could they please send it to me.

Arthur Jones
67 Campbellfield Ave
Bradbury NSW
2560 Australia

NEXT - Could you now please forward this to as many contact as you feel you can. Remember failure to do so will result in absolutely nothing bad happening to you.(After all every chain letter must have a curse - it's the rule isn't it) Thanks in advance for your help, if anyone is interested, drop me a line in 6 months to see how the project id growing/going.



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Fish With Hands and Legs Email Forward

The photographs displayed below circulate via email and are often posted to blogs and online forums for discussion. The intriguing little creature depicted in the photographs is commonly misidentified as a "legged fish" or a "fish with legs and hands". Some postulate that the images are actually fakes created in an image manipulation program.

In fact, the photographs are genuine, although they do not depict a fish. This creature is an Axolotl or "Mexican Walking Fish". The Axolotl is an amphibian, more specifically, a salamander. Although they are native to Mexico, Axolotls have become popular as exotic pets around the world. In captivity, they are housed in an aquarium and can have a range of colours.

Like some other kinds of amphibians, the Axolotl generally remains permanently in its larval form. According to axolotl.org:
Ordinarily, amphibians undergo metamorphosis from egg to larva (the tadpole in frogs is a larva), and finally to adult form. The Axolotl, along with a number of other amphibians, remains in its larval form throughout its life. This means that it retains its gills and fins, and it doesn't develop the protruding eyes, eyelids and characteristics of other adult salamanders.
Although there is no mystery or manipulation involved, these photographs certainly depict a fascinating little animal.

More information about Axolotl :
Axolotls: The Fascinating Mexican Axolotl and the Tiger Salamander
Pet Facts: Axolotl
Axolotls

An example of the email:
Subject: Fish with hands and legs..

Check this out...a fish with hands and legs??? WTF!!

Fish with hands 1

Fish with hands 2

Fish with hands 3


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Hoax-Slayer Humour: Car For Sale (Runs Well)

In the market for a good used car? Click below to check out a real little beauty!
Car For Sale (Runs Well)


Enjoy a good laugh?
Read my review of the "That's Comedy! Joke Book"


Just to finish off - Here's the sad tale of Morris and Esther: Smile

Morris and his wife Esther went to the state fair every year, and every year Morris would say,"Esther, I'd like to ride in that helicopter."

Esther always replied, "I know Morris, but that helicopter ride is 50 dollars, and 50 dollars is 50 dollars."

One year Esther and Morris went to the fair, and Morris said "Esther I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter, I might never get another chance."

Esther replied "Morris that helicopter ride is 50 dollars, and 50 dollars is 50 dollars."

The pilot over heard the couple and said,"folks I'll make you a deal I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word I won't charge you! But if you say one word, it's 50 dollars".

Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuver, but not a word was heard. He did his dare daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. when they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said "by golly, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I'm impressed!"

Morris replied "Well, I was going to say something when Esther fell out, but "50 dollars is 50 dollars."


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The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2008