FORGOTTEN HOAXES THAT FOOLED THE WORLD
Added on: 15th Aug 2016
WILLIAM MUMLER’S SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY
William H. Mumler was an American spirit photographer who
worked mainly in New York and Boston. Perhaps his two
most famous works are the photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln
with the ghost of her dead husband Abraham Lincoln, and his
photo of Master Herrod, a medium, with three spirit guides.
After being accused of various activities, he was taken to
court for fraud, with noted showman P. T. Barnum testifying
against him. Though found not guilty, his career was over
and he died in poverty. Today, Mumler’s photos are
THE WALAM OLUM HOAX
The Walam Olum, usually translated as “Red Record”
or “Red Score,” is purportedly a historical narrative of the
Lenape (Delaware) Native American tribe. The document has
provoked controversy as to its authenticity since its publication
in the 1830’s by botanist and antiquarian Constantine
Samuel Rafinesque. Ethnographic studies in the 1980’s and
analysis in the 1990’s of Rafinesque’s manuscripts have
produced significant evidence that the document is a hoax.
Some Delaware people, however, believe Rafinesque
based his writing on actual Lenape stories.
THE TRAVELS OF SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE
Ostensibly written by an English knight, the Travels claim to relate
his experiences in the Holy Land, Egypt, India, and China.
Mandeville declares that he served in the Great Khan’s army and
to have travelled in “the lands beyond”—countries populated by
dog-headed men, cannibals, Amazons, and pygmies.
THE SHROUD OF TURIN
The Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth bearing the image
of a man that is believed by some Christians to be the burial shroud
of Jesus. Three radiocarbon dating tests in 1988 concluded that the
age of the cloth only goes back to the Middle Ages.
THE RABBIT BABIES OF MARY TOFT
Mary Toft was an Englishwoman from Godalming, Surrey, who in
1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she
tricked doctors into believing she had given birth to rabbits.
However, when a famous London physician threatened that he
might have to surgically examine Mary’s uterus in the name of
science, she confessed she had simply inserted the dead rabbits
in her womb when no one was looking, motivated by a desire for
fame and the hope of receiving a pension from the king. She was
briefly imprisoned for fraud, but released without trial.
“THE WAR OF THE WORLDS”
“The War of the Worlds” was an episode of the American radio
drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was
performed as a Halloween episode on Sunday, October 30, 1938
and aired over the CBS radio network. Directed and narrated
by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, it was an
adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898). It became
famous for allegedly causing mass panic, although the reality of
the panic is disputed as the program had relatively few listeners.
THE PETRIFIED MAN
A report that appeared in the Territorial Enterprise (Virginia City,
Nevada’s leading newspaper) on October 4, 1862, described the
bizarre discovery of a petrified human body. It was a fascinating
little blurb. So fascinating that many other papers soon reprinted it.
However, not a word of it was true. It had been written by a young
man named Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain), who
was a new employee of the newspaper. Twain later admitted he
was surprised by how many people were fooled by his story.
THE PATAGONIAN GIANTS
The myth of the Patagonian Giants, like other stories about
remote, exotic places, captured the European imagination for a
long time. The first mention of this mythical race surfaced in the
1520’s in the account of Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of
Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition. For more than 250 years
Europe was captivated by the tales of a mysterious group of
gigantic people that were called Patagonian Giants but when a
newly revised account of the voyage came out in 1773, the
Patagonians were recorded as being six feet six inches;
very tall indeed, but by no means giants.
THE NATIVE OF FORMOSA
Have you ever heard of George Psalmanazar? No? Well, this
Frenchman’s claim to fame was his self-declaration of being the
first native of Formosa (today Taiwan) to visit Europe. For some
years he convinced many people in Britain, but he was later
exposed as a con artist. He subsequently became a theological
essayist and a friend of Samuel Johnson and other noted
figures of eighteenth-century literary London.