Attack-Related Hoaxes Spans the Internet

The image is chilling: A man stands atop the World Trade Center while in the background an American Airlines jet is seen speeding towards his tower, just moments away as he smiles for the camera.

The only problem is it's a fraud, one of the many that have been launched into cyberspace along with the flood of other messages about the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Many of the things traveling around the Web have been accurate and important. Some of have been uplifting, some eerie, some just bizarre. But many of the messages have been hoaxes. Take the photo. It purports to be one of the last taken by a tourist camera that was recovered from the ruins of the Trade Center.

But just a slightly closer look turns up problems. For one, the weather was much too warm on the day of the attack for the unidentified tourist to be wearing what appears to be winter clothing. Also, the plane that apparently has been digitally added to the image, depicts American Airlines Flight 11. That plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center which does not have an observation deck.

What's more, debunkers note, the observation deck on the south tower isn't open to tourists until 9:30 a.m. Planes had struck both towers by just after 9 a.m.

Nostradamus? Not!

Other Net pranksters used prose rather than pictures to spook the unsuspecting.

Perhaps the most widely distributed hoax e-mail claimed that Nostradamus, a 16th Century soothsayer, had predicted in 1654 that such an attack would occur. The e-mail contained flowery verses similar to the oracle's other supposed prophecies, including descriptions of "metal birds" and "twin brothers being torn apart."

A quick search through any of the oracle's published works yields no prophecies with those phrases. And Nostradamus died in 1566.

An Oldie But a Goodie

Another e-mail hoax capitalizes on the renewed fears that terrorists may soon attack with biological weapons.

The bogus e-mail warns recipients of a deadly virus that is sent by postal mail. The packages — typically blue envelopes from a so-called Klingerman Foundation — supposedly contain a mysterious deadly virus that have claimed the lives of 23 unsuspecting and unfortunate victims.

While the threat of a biological attack may be all too real, the U.S. Postal Service noted — on May 25, 2000 — that the "Klingerman Virus" e-mail is a hoax.

Strange But True

Not all of the mass e-mails surrounding the terrorist attacks are totally false. Like many good myths, some are based — loosely — on fact.

For example, Canadian radio commentator Gordon Sinclair did pen a commentary praising American's generosity and ingenuity in the face of difficulties — back in 1973.

And both The Associated Press and CNN did have photos of the World Trade Tower explosions in which people say they can see a face in the smoke that is a hidden image of Satan. Others say that, like in clouds, people can see whatever they want.