“The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” —Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.

The Cardiff Giant.
The Cardiff Giant, a pioneer in hoaxology.

Opinions certainly vary on what was or is a hoax, but there’s no doubting they’re out there. Whether it’s the Lock Ness Monster or the Holocaust*, there are always believers and skeptics and so many of us in between. Of course, I can’t address all of them, but let’s look at a few of my favorites:

As with everything, there’s no place to start like the moon. In 1835, the New York Sun ran a series of articles about life on the moon that made Flash Gordon seem tame. Batman-like creatures were seen in a detail that would make a military spy satellite blush. I’m not saying they’re not there, but we haven’t found them yet.

Then there was the once-common speculation that our planet’s only natural satellite was made entirely of cheese (apparently the result of a sarcastic remark made by John Heywood in 1546. He’s the same guy who told us we can’t have our cake and eat it too, so what does he know?)

Next there’s the carefully crafted Cardiff Giant, carved out of gypsum by a German sculptor and beaten with steel needles to create “pores”. It was buried for two years before it was “discovered” by a cousin of conceiver George Hull, at which point it was played off as the petrified remains of one of the species of giant humans that once walked the Earth. It was expensive ($2600 in 1858 dollars), but Hull more than saw his return by setting up the fake giant as a side show and eventually selling a part interest for well over $35,000.

A personal love of mine is the Philadelphia Experiment, claiming thatNaval destroyer USS Eldridge.
The USS Eldridge, supposedly teleported
200 miles using advanced 1943 technology.
in 1943 the U.S. Navy teleported a battleship from Pennsylvania to Virginia. No doubt the Navy was fine with that rumor, as it made them a little more scary to their German and Japanese opponents.

For the softer minded, there was Orson Welles’ rendering of War of the Worlds by live radio broadcast. The event resulted in mass panic, even spurring one man to race forty-five miles in a valiant attempt to save his girlfriend. The same story eventually made its way into a movie starring Tom Cruise, a man who seems destined to produce a few lasting hoaxes himself.

And of course there’s crop circles, inspiring movies and replications to this day. Proponents claim they are too large (and precise) to be created overnight by humans without heavy machinery. Obviously,Crop Circles: Only for the British.
Do aliens owe us backfees
for these billboards?
someone’s underrating the verve and tenacity of a fraternity full of bored (and probably drunk) students.

“In the butt, Bob.” Supposedly these words were uttered by a female contestant on The Newlywed Game in response to the question, “Where is the weirdest place where you have ever made whoopee?” Bob Eubanks, host of the show, finally took the bit in his teeth by offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who could produce a tape of the incident. Turns out to be just rumor, the woman had simply replied, “In the ass.”

Jackalopes: both cute and dangerous. A boon for the flagging taxidermist industry.

Nessie: That would be the famous fake inhabitant of Loch Ness in Scotland. The Loch (lake in Scottish) is mighty deep and all, and certainly no truly credible organization has performed a thorough search. But, after a deathbed confession by Marmaduke Wetherell’s son-in-law, the issue has pretty much been put to rest (turns out Wetherell created the fake monster after having he himself had been fooled into thinking such a monster existed. Better to be a liar than a sucker, I guess.)

Roswell, which simply has too many angles to bother with.

Did Flight 19 mysteriously disappear over the “Bermuda Triangle”? The area already had a reputation for oddities because of Christopher Columbus, who wrote in his diary about “mysterious lights” he observed while near that same area. Any sort of historical reference adds weight to a current mystery, but before we go taking Mr. C’s word on it, remember he also claimed to hear divine voices, wore a Franciscan habit, and was convinced he had discovered “paradise” in The Americas and the result was going to be The Last Judgement and the end of the world. Not the most credible eye-witness. So maybe the plane did disappear, but that doesn’t mean something supernatural was afoot.

Lastly, Paul is dead. This rumor arrived in 1966, when fans pulledSir Paul McCartney.
Sir Paul McCartney:
still not dead…
“clues” from Beatles lyrics that Paul McCartney (the cute one) was dead. Eventually, evidence surfaced to disprove this suspicion. Oddly, now it’s swung the other way, with Paul and Ringo in hot competition for the coveted “Last Living Beatle” title (my money’s on Ringo.)

So these are just a few of my favorites. But, as the internet is a great purverour of hoaxes, I expect there will be a follow up to this article sometime in the near future.

* At the time I penned this article, there was a lot of press over ‘Holocaust deniers’ owing to a new law in Britain.