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Acts of deception  


Writer: DAVID WALLACE // Photographer: SARAH A. MILLER // Nov/Dec 2014

Seldom has a secret been kept so well for so long. Documents brought to light in 1996 show that during World War II the United States military used the talents of set designers, sound technicians, painters and producers. Artists helped save the world!

Just when Hitler seemed unstoppable, the American soldiers in the tactical deception unit proved to be the ultimate secret weapon. Also known as The Ghost Army, the 1,100 soldiers confused The Furor and helped thwart his forces.

At first they were used to successfully camouflage essential installations our military needed to keep secret. The Ghost Army then created entire fake military installations that made the enemy think we had gained a foothold in new territories. Fake installations made from tree limbs, painted canvases and even rubber tanks were created overnight and misled the Nazis.

The tactic of using deception to create focal points worked beautifully.

Focal points capture attention, draw the eye into a space and reveal what you want to show. In design, color is useful in achieving focal points. Black, white or bold colors – especially red – capture the eye. Another way to create a focal point is using a dominant piece of furniture, architectural element or art.


A fireplace makes the perfect focal point for any room. If you don’t have a fireplace, don’t worry, all it takes to create one is a few boxes, a few minutes and flare for deception. It is easy, effective and inexpensive.

The faux fireplace I made cost about $20 (a can of flat paint). Most of the materials I used were salvaged from the trash. Others were given to me. You need five long, strong boxes. The sizes of the boxes will determine the size of the fireplace. The photos show the boxes I used.

I used the longest box (61”x24”x12”) to form the bottom hearth. I placed it on its side. It stands 12 inches tall. On top of this, I placed an open box (24”x24”x12”) and painted it black with a flat paint. This is where the logs would go.

Next, I took two tall boxes, each the same size, and stood them on one of their ends to form the sides of the faux fireplace. I rested these boxes (16”x18”x30”) on the bottom hearth. The boxes I used were given to me by Beverly Abell, director of Tyler’s Gallery Main Street, and previously were used to display art in the gallery.

I placed the final box (59″x33″x7″) across the top and resting on the side boxes to form the fake mantle. You can use all kinds of elements to embellish the boxes and decorate the “mantle.”

Keep in mind that this is not a real fireplace. Never use anything with a flame near this project. Instead, use electric faux logs sold at home stores. In my fake fireplace, I placed an inexpensive flat-screen television and on it play a DVD of a burning fire complete with the sounds of crackling logs. Heat is the only thing missing.

I have included another photo showing another faux fireplace. I made this one using a wooden shelf and topped it with more wood. Remember, fireplaces come in many styles and sizes.

You could even use recycled speakers from a thrift store. If your boxes are open on one side, that’s okay. Place the open side to the back.

A faux fireplace makes an impressive focal point. Just because it isn’t real, doesn’t mean your friends won’t be fooled.

It was said that during World War II two farmers saw some of the soldiers of the tactical deception unit pick up one of the fake rubber tanks. Astounded, one farmer said to the other, “The Americans are very strong!”

Deception can amaze.






About Danny Mogle


  1. How can I access the photos for this article ?

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