Police in the Hamptons are supposedly on high alert because of a stolen egg salad recipe worth $4,000. That's according to a small handful of credible and less-than-credible news outlets drawing attention to the theft. "Have You Seen This Hamptons Man's Egg Salad Recipe?" a Gawker item wonders, except no, nobody has, because there is no such recipe on the loose.
The main (read: only) source appears to be a tweet from Wall Street Journal reporter Erica Orden highlighting a paragraph "in the Hamptons police blotter":
BREAKING in the Hamptons police blotter pic.twitter.com/oaHt4nSrce— erica orden (@eorden) August 3, 2014
Seems suspicious, in part because there is no such "reality TV star" named Sergio Eisalat. The blurb bears no mention of the TV show he stars in, a Google search for his name brings up no results older than yesterday, and German journalist Ralph Pfister notes on Twitter that "Eisalat" is a literal German translation of "egg salad." Then there's the fact that the story is suspiciously similar to Woody Allen's 1966 comedy What's Up, Tiger Lily?, in which a secret agent is hired to hunt down the stolen "world's greatest egg salad recipe."
So where'd the cleverly constructed "police blotter" come from in the first place? Googling the text of Orden's Twitter photo brings you to an evidently satirical "Hamptons Police Blotter" column in Dan's Papers, a weekly Hamptons publication well-known for confusing readers. In this particular column by "Dan Koontz," the egg salad story appears below a blurb about a supposed plan allowing small planes to land amidst Hamptons highway traffic and above a story about a 104-year-old veteran "careening across Shelter Island’s night skies with an experimental jetpack attached to his back."
So that's how a bogus story spreads from satirical regional column to social media to national news outlet in a few short hours. Long Island–based editor Ryan Bonner cast the whole thing in doubt yesterday afternoon:
Dan's Papers editor Dan Rattiner hasn't responded to a request for comment, but we'll update if he does. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for viral hoaxes spreading on Twitter and for a very, very valuable egg salad recipe floating adrift in the lawless Hamptons frontier.
Update: Dan's Papers editorial director Eric Feil gave Newsweek a call and confirmed that the story is entirely satirical, but its author, Dan Koontz, is a real person and award-winning composer. "Last week or late the week before, Scott Disick, who was one of the Kardashians' boyfriends, reported that someone had taken $4,000 from their summer rental," Feil explained. "Dan Koontz found this funny and just decided to go with the egg salad approach."