Wednesday, the 25th of August marked my other half’s birthday but also a slightly older anniversary of the Great Moon Hoax, reported in the New York Sun in 1837. The Great Moon Hoax depicted the moon’s rich fauna, complete with unicorns, two-legged beavers, and winged humans. Completely sold on the story were New York Sun readers that included Yale University scientists, which was understandable, perhaps, since the hoax took place 132 years before the first moon-landing in 1969, and 187 years before deep fakes, click baits and … well, news in general today.
Over the years there have been other hoaxes, some funny, a few, well, not-funny at all. Here’s a random list of five I remember hearing about in my lifetime.
1. Disappearing Blonde Gene, 2002-2006, broadcasted by the BBC News and published in The Times about a finding in a study by some unnamed German scientists how natural blondes would become extinct by 2222.
2. Fiji Mermaid, a monkey’s head on a fishtail displayed in a coffee shop in London in 1822 and then sold to Moses Kimball of the Boston Museum. Kimball later rented the Fiji Mermaid to PT Barnum for his shows; a paper-mâché replica is currently on display at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
3. Hitler Diaries, forged and sold by Konrad Kujau between 1981 and 1983. The 60 volumes were sold to the German magazine, Stern, and authenticated by Oxford University historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper. Later forensic tests revealed they were fake.
4. Microsoft acquisition of the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of Microsoft shares. Allegedly circulated by AP in 1994, this first internet hoax still comes up in internet memes. Hmmm.
5. Taro Tsujimoto, a fictional National Hockey League Buffalo Sabres ice-hockey draft, created in 1974 when team manager, Punch Imlach was fed up with the convoluted NHL draft process that delayed revealing drafts so competitor World Hockey Association wouldn’t know who was being drafted. The inside joke revealed shortly thereafter still continues with “We want Taro” chants at games and books on the legendary fictional character.
So what’s your favorite hoax? Enjoy revisiting them this weekend, the last weekend of August – it’s a 3-day bank holiday weekend in the UK!