FORGOTTEN RUSES THAT FOOLED THE WORLD
Added on: 7th Nov 2016
THE MAN-EATING TREE OF MADAGASCAR
On April 28, 1874, the New York World ran an article
announcing a German explorer’s discovery in
Madagascar of a remarkable new plant species: a
man-eating tree. The article included a gruesome
description of a woman fed to the plant by members
of the local Mkodos tribe. The story was debunked in
1955 by a science writer named Willy Ley, who
discovered that not only were the tribe and the tree
made up, but so was the German explorer who
supposedly found them.
THE LYING STONES OF DR. BERINGER
Beringer’s Lying Stones are pieces of limestone carved
into the shape of various animals, discovered in 1725
by Dr. Beringer, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the
University of Würzburg. Beringer believed them to be
fossils and because some also bore the name of God in
Hebrew, suggested they might be of divine origin.
In fact, he was the victim of a hoax, perpetrated on him
by his colleagues the ex-Jesuit J. Ignatz Roderick,
professor of geography and mathematics, and Johann
Georg von Eckhart, privy councillor and university librarian.
Upon discovering the truth, Beringer took them to court
and the scandal that followed left all three in disgrace.
THE LOST ISLAND OF HY-BRASIL
Hy-Brasil is a phantom island believed to lie in the Atlantic
west of Ireland. Irish myths describe it as cloaked in mist
except for one day every seven years, when it supposedly
becomes visible but still unreachable.
THE LETTER OF PRESTER JOHN
This letter was supposedly written to the Byzantine emperor
Manuel I Comnenus (1143–1180) by Prester John, descendant
of one of the Three Magi and king of India. The many
marvels of richness and magic it contained captured the
European imagination, and it was translated into many
languages. Part of the letter’s essence was that a lost
kingdom of Nestorian Christians still existed in the
vastness of Central Asia. As for who really wrote
this letter? That remains a mystery to this day.
THE HOLY PREPUCE
The Holy Prepuce, also known as the Holy Foreskin,
was one of many relics attributed to Jesus, a product
of his circumcision. Especially during the Middle Ages,
many European churches claimed to possess his foreskin,
sometimes simultaneously. Of course, it eventually
proved to be a hoax.
THE GREAT MOON HOAX
The Great Moon Hoax, which shouldn’t be confused with
moon-landing conspiracy theories, was a series of six
articles published in The Sun, a New York newspaper,
beginning on August 25, 1835, about the supposed
discovery of life and even civilizations on the moon.
The discoveries were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel,
one of the best-known astronomers of his day.
THE GHOSTLY DRUMMER OF TEDWORTH
The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth was a case of suspected
poltergeist activity. In the early 1660’s John Mompesson of
Wiltshire began to hear strange noises in his home. There
was the sound of a drum beating, as well as scratching
and panting noises. Objects seemed to move on their own
and sometimes a strange sulphurous smell lingered in the air.
Sceptics, of which there were many, dismissed the whole
thing as a hoax, because as usually happens in such
cases, there was not enough proof.
THE FORTSAS BIBLIOHOAX
The Fortsas hoax refers to an incident in Binche, Belgium,
in 1840. That year, booksellers, librarians and collectors
of rare books throughout Europe received a catalogue
describing a collection of rare books to be auctioned.
According to the message a man named Jean Nepomucene
Auguste Pichauld, Comte de Fortsas, had been a
collector of unique books, books of which only one
copy was known to exist. When he died, on September 1,
1839, he was in possession of fifty-two such books. His heirs,
not interested in collecting books, had decided to auction
the collection. The auction was to be held on August 10, 1840,
but when the many collectors gathered in Binche hoping to bid
on the books, they discovered they had been the victims
of a man who loved pranking people.