Metamorphosis: Miracle Roach Hormone Cure
Categories: Animals | Insects | Fish, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Science | Technology
On May 22, 1981, Skaggs converted an apartment into a laboratory, filled it with the world’s largest collection of cockroach art and memorabilia, and he and his congregation staged a press conference for the media. He introduced himself as Dr. Josef Gregor, entomologist.
He said he had created a strain of super-roaches immune to toxins and radiation, and had extracted a hormone which he and his followers were taking. To date they had cured all of the common ailments known to man, such as colds, acne, anemia, and menstrual cramps. Skaggs proclaimed that his miracle cure would even make people immune to nuclear radiation. The purpose of the press conference was to make his hormone vitamin pills available to the general public, free of charge.
Among the many journalists present were representatives of United Press International. The ensuing UPI story read “Roach Hormone Hailed as Miracle Drug” which ran in hundreds of newspapers around the country and was picked up by countless other news organizations.
Dr. Gregor was featured live on WNBC TV’s Live at Five with Jack Cafferty and Sue Simmons. He went on the air equipped with live roaches in petri dishes feasting on apples and a cassette tape of La Cucaracha, the organization’s theme song. No one checked his credentials, which he said were from the University of Bogota in Columbia. Nor did anyone notice his references to the Kafka story Metamorphosis in which the main character, Gregor Samsa, turns into a six foot insect.
Several months later, after articles about Metamorphosis appeared in hundreds of newspapers and on radio and television shows, Skaggs granted an exclusive interview to People Magazine (September 21, 1981) and revealed the hoax. A flurry of post-hoax press followed. UPI and WNBC TV never retracted their stories.
This satire was intended to bring attention to the media’s responsibility to report the truth, as well as to the public’s responsibility to seek worthwhile solutions to problems rather than panaceas and quick cures. Charlatans take advantage of the media to prey upon the desperation of sick people and bilk them of millions of dollars. Unfortunately there are few checks and balances in place to protect the unquestioning public.
- Metamorphosis Ad in Soho Weekly News, May 1981
- Metamorphosis Press Release #1, May 13, 1981
- Dr. Josef Gregor Letter to the American Medical Association about Metamorphosis, June 19, 1981
- Dr. Josef Gregor Letter to the Federal Drug Administration about Metamorphosis, June 19, 1981
- Metamorphosis Press Release #2, June 20, 1981
- Metamorphosis Press Release #3, 1981
- Roach 'Hormone" Hailed as Miracle Cure, UPI, Philadelphia Daily News, May 28, 1981
- Yum, yum... roach pills, New York Post, May 28, 1981
- Cockroach pills with make you immune to radiation, Reading Mass Chronicle, May 28, 1981
- Cockroach pill poppers swear by 'em, by Ed Lion, UPI, Bend, Oregon, May 28, 1981
- Bug admirer takes cue, cure from roaches, UPI, Piedmont, Greenville, South Carolina, May 28, 1981
- He preaches roach power, guess what communion is, UPI, Sentinel-Star, Orlando, Fl, May, 29, 1981
- Cockroach capsule a day keeps..., UPI, Star, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 29, 1981
- Roach Pill is called cure-all, UPI, Kentucky Post, May 29, 1981
- Good Morning G, by Tony Pasquale, News, Erie, Pennsylvania, May 29, 1981
- A Man Who Would Eat Roaches, UPI, Times-Observer, Toms River, New Jersey, May 31, 1981
- Illness can't bug us, pill eaters say, by Ed Lion, UPI, News Sun Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl, May 31, 1981
- Giant Cockroaches are overrunning U.S., Sun, September 4, 1984
- The 'roach' hormone story - it all sounded a bit buggy, by Lou Antosh, Bulletin, Philadelphia, June 1, 1981
- Skaggs Shoots Bull, Repents, by Amy Taubin, Soho Weekly News, July 22, 1981
- Sham-ful Acts Catch Media's Guard Down, Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1981
- Hottest Show on TV, New York Magazine, August 31, 1981 [Cover for article about WNBC TV's "Live at Five"]
- A Greenwich Village Hoaxer Bugs the Media with Tales of Medicine Made from Cockroaches, by Rebecca Bricker, People, September 21, 1981
- A Kafkaesque Tale Of Health Faddists Eating Cockroaches, by David J. Blum, Wall Street Journal, September 28, 1981
- Bugged by roach hoax, columnist eats crow, by Glenn Rutherford, The Courier Journal, October 1, 1981
- AP & UPI hookwinked by reporter and j-prof, by John Consoli, Editor & Publisher, October 3, 1981
- A 'Superstrain' of Cockroaches Hookwinks News Organizations, by Kim McDonald, The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 1981
- Man Bites Media, Channel Magazine, 1981
- Prof Cons Media, Wall Paper Journal, February 17, 1982
- The Right Chemistry: Cockroach milk a 'superfood'?, Montreal Gazette, October 12, 2018