Fact Check

Odd Questions Asked of snopes.com

A collection of unusual stories we've been queried about.

Published July 7, 2006


Among the hundreds of "Is this true?" queries we receive from readers every day, we usually find at least a few items that are obviously jokes or satirical articles. Rather than viewing this phenomenon,

as some do, as yet another indicator of the imminent demise of critical thinking, we see it as part and parcel of what we do. Good satire, after all, has an air of believability to it — the satirist starts with reality and stretches it just a bit to spin a tale that will strike the reader as a ridiculous yet conceivable extension of current conditions. And jokes often have attributes in common with urban legends: they're narratives, they serve as expressions of social beliefs and customs, and they describe general, vaguely plausible events. So, if a joke is transformed into an urban legend by prefacing it with a "This is a true story" tag, it's not surprising that someone might venture to ask us if it really is a true story. (Indeed, our Jokes page includes articles we've written about dozens of the more prevalent jokes-cum-urban legends.)

Nonetheless, some queries leave us scratching our heads over just what readers are asking of us. They send us jokes, they seem to recognize that what they're sending us are jokes, yet they still ask us to validate something about what they're passing along. Under the conviction that perhaps greater minds than ours can fathom the secrets of some questions that have stumped us, we present below another collection of items that have been submitted to us for verification over the years:

Is this true?

One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names with small American flags mounted on either side of it.

The seven year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the Pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, "Good morning, Alex."

"Good morning, Pastor," the boy replied, still focused on the plaque. Then he asked, "Pastor, what is this?"

The pastor said, "Well, son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service."

Soberly they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear, asked:

"Which service: the 9:45 or the 11:15?"

I received an e-mail detailing a story about a man named Hans Grapje who had aspired to be a preist and bishop in the catholic church. I relayed the joke to a friend of mind and he wanted to know if it was true. I was curious as well so I thought that I would contact you seeing that you have had some sucess in de-bunking some stories. I will add the joke on to the end of this queary and am confident that you will find out the truth.

Hans Grapje was raised in a Catholic school in The Hague and, as a young man, aspired to become a priest, but was drafted into the Army during WWII and spent two years co-piloting B17s until his aircraft was shot down in 1943 and he lost his left arm. Captain Grapje spent the rest of the war as a chaplain, giving spiritual aid to soldiers, both Allied and enemy.

After the war, he became a priest, serving as a missionary in Africa, piloting his own plane (in spite of his handicap) to villages across the continent. In 1997, Father Grapje was serving in Zimbabwe when an explosion in a silver mine caused a cave-in. Archbishop Grapje went down into the mine to administer last rights to those too severely injured to move. Another shaft collapsed, and he was buried for three days, suffering multiple injuries, including the loss of his right eye. The high silver content in the mine's air gave him purpura, a life-long condition characterized by purplish skin blotches.

Although Cardinal Grapje devoted his life to the service of God as a scholar, mentor, and holy man, church leaders agree: he will never ascend to the Papacy. No one wants a one-eyed, one-armed, flying purple Papal leader.

This has been around forever, but I can't find it on your site. Do you have a page for this?

A blonde walks into a bank in New York City and asks for the loan officer.

She says she is going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer says the bank will need some kind of security for the loan; so, the blonde hands over the keys to a new Rolls Royce. The car is parked on the street in front of the bank. She has the title and everything checks out. The bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan.

The bank's president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the blonde for using a $250,000 Rolls as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then proceeds to drive the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the blonde returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41.

The loan officer says, "Miss, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely; but, we're a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?"

The blonde replies, "The airport wanted to charge me two hundred dollars to store my car. Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"

Not all blondes are dumb.

Received in an email. Searched your site and could not find reference. Did Bill Clinton do this? Does the Muslim religion really believe that?

Dear Continental, American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, United, et al:

I have the solution to prevent hijackings and get our airline industry back on its feet at the same time.

Replace all female flight attendants with good lookin' strippers. What the hell? The attendants have gotten old and haggard looking. They don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss? The strippers would double, triple, perhaps quadruple the alcohol consumption and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin.

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. And, of course, every heterosexual businessman in this country would start flying again hoping to see naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt and the airline industry would see record revenue.

Why the hell didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?

Bill Clinton

This is an e-mail I received that I believe to be false. I was wondering if you had it in your archives and I was just missing it. Let me know if you have this one somewhere, please.

A little girl was talking to President Bush about whales. Mr. Bush told her that it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human being because even though it was a very large mammal, its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the President reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, "When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah."

Mr. Bush asked, "What if Jonah went to the other place?"

The little girl replied, "Then you ask him."

I was wondering about this email I was just sent. I searched and didn't see anything about it:

The US Navy welcomed the latest member of its fleet today.

The USS William Jefferson Clinton CVS1 set sail today from its home port of Vancouver, BC.

The ship is the first of its kind in the Navy and is a standing legacy to President Clinton and his foresight in military budget cuts. The ship is constructed nearly entirely from recycled aluminum and is completely solar powered with a top speed of 5 knots. It boasts an arsenal comprised of one F14 Tomcat or F18 Hornet aircraft, which although they cannot be launched or captured on the 100 foot flight deck, form a very menacing presence.

As a standing order there are no firearms allowed on board. The 20 person crew is completely diversified and includes members of all races, creeds, sex, and sexual orientation.

The ship's purpose is not defined so much as a unit of national defense — in fact in times of conflict its orders are to remain in hiding in Canada, but will be used extensively for social experimentation and whatever worthless jobs the ex-commander in chief and his wife can think of.

It is largely rumored that the ship will also be the set for the upcoming season of MTV's "The Real World."

I received an e-mail about a Philadelphia Eagles player that noticed a white powdery substance after a practice. The FBI was called in, and determined that it was the goal line. Any truth to the rumor?


I received the following email and found nothing about the situation on your web site. True or False? To me, it sounds like a joke.

Lawyers should never ask a witness a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In a trial, a Southern small town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grand-motherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?"

She responded, "Why, yes I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper-pusher. Yes, I know you."

The lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?"

She again replied, "Why yes, I do. I've know Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney almost died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench, and in a very quiet voice said, "Neither of you bastards better ask her if she knows me."

Is this a hoax?

Microsoft Windows 98's secret:

Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned having recently installed Windows 98 on my PC and that I am very happy with this operating system. I also showed him the Windows 98 CD, and to my surprise he threw it into my micro-wave oven and turned on the oven. Instantly I got very upset, because the CD had become precious to me, but he said: 'Do not worry, it is unharmed.'

After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said: 'Take a close look at it.' To my surprise the CD was quite cold to hold and it seemed to be heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but then on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription; an inscription finer than anything I have ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:


'I cannot understand the fiery letters,' I said.

'No,' he said 'but I can. The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says:

One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them,
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Is this true?

A woman was walking down the street when she was approached by a man. The man said, "I must have you right now! I'll drop 500 dollars on the ground at your feet and in the time it takes for you to pick it up I can have my way with you from behind!"

The woman thought it over and told the man to wait a minute. She called her girlfriend on her cell phone and told her about the man's proposition.

Her girlfriend said, "When he drops the $500 on the ground I'm sure you can pick it up and run before he gets his pants down. Call me back and tell me what happened."

An hour and a half later the lady called her girlfriend back. "What happened?" the girlfriend asked.

The lady said, "That son-of-a-bitch had $500 in quarters!"

I heard this story from two different people. Both people say the story was told to them by others who were themselves at least one degree of separation from the original teller. A coincidence, or an urban legend? Have others reported this? Here's the story:

A woman is on a date with a big, strong guy (I believe at least one person I heard this from said the guy was a wrestler, but I may be making that up).

At the end of the date they start making out. Things start to get hot and heavy, and in the middle of it, the girl decides she's not into it. "Stop," she says, but the guy seems not to hear her. "Get off me!" she finally shouts. "Get off me!"

The guy stops, jumps up, rips off his shirt, and starts flexing his muscles.

"What the hell are you doing?" asks the girl.

The guy stops and says, "I thought you just told me to 'Get Awesome!'"

Is this true?

A very unattractive, mean actin' woman walks into Wal-Mart with her two kids.

The Wal-Mart Greeter asks, "Are they twins?"

The ugly woman says, "No, the oldest one, he's 9 and the younger one, she's 7. Why? ... Do you think they really look alike?"

"No", replies the greeter, "I just couldn't believe you got laid twice!"


Two US Marines are listening to the radio in Iraq.

"American soldiers," coos a soft female voice, "Your so-called national Leaders have lied to you. You are needlessly risking your lives to wage A useless, unjust, illegal, and unwinnable war. Now is the time to return home to your loved ones, while you are still alive. If you foolishly insist on remaining where you are not wanted, the brave resistance fighters will have no choice but to kill you and add your name to the long ever-increasing casualty list of this insane war. So why risk never seeing your loved ones again for a so-called president who has repeatedly lied and deceived you at every opportunity? Why should you be sacrificed so that US corporations can enjoy fatter profits? The only wise thing to do is return home now, while you are still drawing breath, before you return zippered into a bodybag."

"What's this?" sneers one Marine. "An Islamo-terrorist version of Tokyo Rose?"

"No," answers the other. "It's just CNN!"

I had a friend who told me this story and I'm still laughing. I don't think it's true, but I'll take a shot.

There was this hotel in NYC that was under construction.

Three different men came at separate times. One man at the third floor didn't have a mirror. The guy on the second floor didn't have a crapper. The guy on the first floor didn't have a TV.

The next morning the man on the top floor was shaving and looking at his reflection in the mirror when he dropped the razor out of the window. The man below him was urinating out the window when the razor cut off his penis. The man below stuck his hand out the window to see what the weather was like when the penis fell in his hand.

This "current news article" has been circulating and I was wondering if it had any truth to it. I have seen on your website how many quotes and news events had been taken out of context. I was a little suspicious when there was no date, or newspaper reference.

WASHINGTON DC — During the National Spelling Bee this week in the nation's capital, Islamic spectators became outraged upon discovering that the USA was embedded in the middle of Jerusalem, Israel's holiest city.

The revelation was made by Douglas Levin, an eighth grader at the Joseph Lieberman Day School in Rockville Center, Md. When young Levin was asked to spell the word Jerusalem, he replied:


An audible gasp sounded from Muslim onlookers, who realized for the first time a USA presence in the holy city.

Muslim parents immediately protested the spelling contest, citing American bias toward Israel.

'It's a clear violation of church and state,' said Muhammed Ahlee, lobbyist for the Arab group Holy Shiite.

Bee officials quickly denied any wrongdoing, asserting that the Muslims were merely disgruntled because Rajeed Raheed, a seventh grader from Al Kaydah Junior High, had been eliminated earlier for misspelling Afghanistan as Afghanustan.

'There is no 'A-N-U-S' in the middle of Afghanistan,' said one bee official, 'unless you believe bin Laden is still hiding there.'

Have you ever heard of this? It smacks of urban legend, but it could be real:

The meaning of "secure a building" in different branches of the military:

If you told Navy personnel to "secure a building," they would turn off the lights and lock the doors.

Army personnel would occupy the building so no one could enter.

Marines would assault the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat.

Air Force personnel would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy.

I read this on the net, searched your site for "Grape Nuts" and came up with nothing ... so, is this true?

Many people think that the same man who " ... put the bomp in the bomp-shoo-bomp-de-bomp ..." is the fella who gave "Grape Nuts" their odd little name. That would be an incorrect assumption. Contrary to popular belief, Grape Nuts are not named after their ingredients but after their creator, Darnell "Grape Nuts" Johnson.

Johnson, 57, received his most amusing nickname after a high school football injury discolored a certain part of his anatomy. Originally nicknamed "Black Balls", Johnson, assuming his injury wasn't permanent, was convinced by his team mates three weeks after his injury to show them his ... uh ... private region. His "Black Balls" nickname was then changed to "Grape Nuts" which he answers to to this very day. Johnson started working for Post (The maker of Grape Nuts) in 1963 and was also the inspiration for several other breakfast cereals, several of which aren't even manufactured by Post. These would include (but are not limited to) "Cap'n Crunch", "Crunch Berries" and the old "Freakies" cereal from the 70s.

Is this rumor true or fake?

The real danger to us from the Middle East

This morning, from a cave somewhere in Pakistan, Taliban Minister of Migration, Mohammed Omar, warned the United States that if military action against Iraq continues, Taliban authorities will cut off America's supply of convenience store managers. And if this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next, followed by Dell customer service reps.

Any info on the truth of this?

Hillary Clinton goes to a primary school in Ithaca, New York, to talk about the world.

After her talk she offers question time. One little boy puts up his hand, and the Senator asks him what his name is.

"Richard", replied the little boy.

"And what is your question, Richard?"

"I have three questions:
1. Whatever happened to your medical health care plan?
2. Why would you run for President after your husband shamed the office?
3. Whatever happened to all those things you took when you left the White House?"

Just then the bell rings for recess. Hillary Clinton informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess.

When they resume Hillary says, "OK, where were we? Oh, that's right, question time. Who has a question?"

A different little boy puts his hand up.

Hillary points him out and asks him what his name is.

"My name is George."

"And what is your question, George?"

"I have 5 questions:
1. Whatever happened to your medical health care plan?
2. Why would you run for President after your husband shamed the office?
3. Whatever happened to all those things you took when you left the White House?
4. Why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early?
5. What happened to Richard?"

I got this chain today, and it just can't be true! Is it?

Dear Friends,

This chain letter was started in hopes of bringing relief to other tired and discouraged women. Unlike most chain letters, this one does not cost

Just send a copy of this letter to five of your female friends who are equally tired and discontented. Then bundle up the man in your life, send him to the woman whose name appears at the top of the following list, and then add your name to the bottom of the list.

When your turn comes, you will receive 15,625 men. One of them is bound to be better than the one you already have. At the writing of this letter, a friend of mine had already received 184 men, of whom one may be well worth keeping. An unmarried woman living with her widowed mother was able to choose between a Chippendale dancer and an Olympic swimmer.

You can be lucky, too, but DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN! One woman broke the chain and got her own husband back!

So let's keep it going, ladies! Just add your name and address to the list below:

Laura Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C

[Note: This is an updating of an item of contemporary lore that has been with us for at least fifty years.]

True or false?

There is a factory in Northern Minnesota that makes the Tickle Me Elmo toys. The toy laughs when you tickle it under the arm. Here is a true

Lena was hired at the factory and she reported for her 1st day promptly at 8:00 a.m. The following day, at 8:45, there was a knock at the personnel manager's door. The foreman from the assembly line threw open the door and began to rant about his new employee, Lena. He complained that she was incredibly slow and that the entire production line was behind schedule and backing up!

The personnel manager decided he should see this for himself, so the two men marched down to the factory floor. When they got there, the line was so backed up, there were Tickle Me Elmos all over the factory floor and they were really beginning to pile up at the end of the line stood Lena,
surrounded by mountains of Tickle Me Elmos.

She had a roll of plush red fabric and a huge bag of small marbles. The two men watched in amazement as she cut a little piece of fabric, wrapped it around two marbles and began carefully to sew the little package between Elmo's legs.

The personnel manager stared for a few seconds, saw what was happening, and burst into laughter. After several minutes of hysterics, he pulled himself together and approached Lena. "I'm sorry," he said to her. Barely able to keep a straight face, he said, "I think you misunderstood the instructions given you yesterday. Your job is to give each Elmo two test tickles ..."

This EMail has circulated recently — it does not appear to be in the "Snopes.Com" library as yet — I would like to know if this statement actually proceeded from an Israeli Ambassador, and if it can be traced as to the date of the occurence; Identifications of the parties involved; etc. The text follows below:

The Israeli Ambassador at the U.N. began, "Ladies and gentlemen before I commence with my speech, I want to relay an old Passover story to all of you ...

"When Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, he had to go through the nearly endless Sinai desert. The people became thirsty and needed water. So Moses struck the side of a mountain with his staff and a pond appeared with crystal clean, cool water. The people rejoiced and drank to their hearts' content.

"Moses wished to cleanse his whole body, so he went over to the other side of the pond, took all of his clothes off and dove into the cool waters. Only when Moses came out of the water, he discovered that all his clothes had been stolen. 'And,' he said, 'I have reasons to believe that the Palestinians stole my clothes.'"

The Palestinian delegate, hearing this accusation, jumps from his seat and screams out, "This is a travesty. It is widely known that there were no Palestinians there at that time!"

"And with that in mind," said the Israeli Ambassador, "let me now begin my speech."


I think this is a FOAF story.

A guy goes to Ireland and upon his return tries to smuggle "Irish moonshine" into the country in a mouthwash bottle. When the customs officer searches his suitcase, he opens the bottle because the liquid is clear and smells it. He asks the guy what it is — the guy says "water." The customs guy says no, this is "Irish moonshine." The guy gets down on his knees and says, "Praise god, it's another miracle." The customs official lets him go.

A friend just sent me the following joke. I know there is no check on the veracity of what people put up on their websites. But you're very well informed — do you think this is completely bogus?

It was the first day of school and a new student named Pedro Martinez, the son of a Mexican restaurateur, entered the fourth grade.

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American history. Who said 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death?'"

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Pedro, who had his hand up. "Patrick Henry, 1775."

"Very good!" apprised the teacher. "Now, who said, 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth'?"

Again, no response except from Pedro: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863."

The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed! Pedro, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do!"

She heard a loud whisper from the back of the classroom: "Screw the Mexicans!"

"Who said that?" she demanded.

Pedro put his hand up. "Jim Bowie, 1836."

At that point, another student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke."

The teacher glared and asked, "All right! Now, who said that?"

Again, Pedro answered, "George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991."

Another student yelled, "You're INCREDIBLE!"

Pedro jumped out of his chair waving his hand and shouting to the teacher, "Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!"

Now, with almost mob hysteria, the teacher said, "You little punk ... if you say anything else, I'll kill you!"

Pedro frantically yelled at the top of his voice, "Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, 2001."

The teacher fainted, and as the class gathered around her on the floor, someone said, "Oh crap, we're in BIG trouble now!"

Pedro whispered, "Saddam Hussein, 2003."

Finally someone throws an eraser at Pedro and another student shouts "Duck"!

Teacher, just waking, asked "Who said that?"

Pedro answered: "Dick Cheney, 2006!"

I received the below msg which is circulating the web. I cannot verify its authenticity. Looks bogus to me.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently divulged they had covertly funded a project with the US auto makers for the past five years, whereby the auto makers were installing black box voice recorders in four-wheel drive pickup trucks in an effort to determine, in fatal accidents, the circumstances in the last 15 seconds before the crash.

They were surprised to find in 44 of the 50 states the recorded last words of drivers in 61.2 percent of fatal crashes were, "Oh, SHIT!" Only the states of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas were different. There, 89.3 percent of the final words were: "Hold my beer and watch this."

Last updated:   8 July 2006

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.