10 Of The Biggest Hoaxes In The World

Over time many people have perpetrated elaborate hoaxes in order to achieve money, fame or simply just to trick people for personal amusement. On the first day of April every year thousands partake in April Fools pranks and devote the entire day to misleading and tricking people or simply concocting annoying pranks. Although toilet papering a house or wasting hundreds of sticky notes is nothing compared to planning a hoax that tricks the media, experts and sometimes even the military. April Fools day itself was subject to a hoax but the perpetrator never intended for it to be believed.

Joseph Boskin a Boston University professor and pop culture historian tried to tell reporter Fred Bayles that the origins of April Fools day were murky. After being repeatedly questioned on the subject, he concocted a story to get the reporter off his back. Boskin claimed April Fools began back when Constantine ruled over Rome. A court jester asked Constantine for a chance for one of their own to rule for a day. The emperor agreed and a jester King Kugel ruled for 24 hours and his only order of business was to declare April 1st as a day of silliness and fun. Boskin claimed he made the story so ridiculous that the reporter would have to catch on, but the next Day the Associated Press ran the story and he fielded calls from news outlets across the country. After a few weeks of keeping the ruse the truth came out in one of his lectures about the media.

Some of the popular hoaxes in history might seem ridiculous, but thousands of people were willing to believe and in some cases many still do despite their perpetrators coming out and admitting the hoax.

8 The Cardiff Giant, 1869

The Cardiff Giant was a ten foot tall preserved body of man uncovered by workers digging a well on October 16, 1869 behind a barn in Cardiff, New York. The giant was made by George Hull, who was an atheist and was having an argument with a church minister Mr. Turk over a passage in Genesis which stated there were giants that once roamed the earth. Hull hired men to carve out a large block of gypsum from Fort Dodge, Iowa and shipped it to New York where a sculptor carved it to resemble a man. The sculptor was sworn to secrecy. After the giant was buried a year, Hull hired men to dig a well and they came across the giant and assumed they uncovered an old burial ground. The giant brought in large crowds and a showman P.T. Barnum offered Hull $60,000 to lease it for three months.  Hull turned the offer down and Barman made a copy and claim his version was real and the other a fake. On February 2, 1870 both giants were revealed as fakes in court.

7 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 1890

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a book published in 1870 and portrays a Jewish plot to take over the world. The book is one of the most well-known examples of literary forgery. Many investigations have concluded the book to be a hoax and much of the book is plagiarized from an 1864 pamphlet, Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu written by French satirist Maurice Joly. The book is seen as the beginnings of conspiracy theorists literature and is written in the form of an instruction manual explaining how the Elders will take over the world by controlling the media and finance.

6 The Surgeon's Photo of the Loch Ness Monster, 1934

One of the most iconic images of Nessie is known as the Surgeon's Photo which was taken in 1934 and seemed to reveal the most compelling evidence towards the Lock Ness monster's existence being the first image to show the head and neck instead of just the body. Many people doubted the photo's authenticity from the beginning, just a year before the hoax was revealed in 1990 the Discovery Channel did an analysis on the photo and found ripples in the water that seemed to look as if the monster was being towed. On the original picture the object was found to be only two to three feet long. It is usually cropped to make the monster seem much larger. The photographer, gynecologist Robert Kenneth Wilson, never claimed it was the monster, just that he took a picture of something in the water.

7. The Turk, 1770

The Turk was a fake automated machine that played chess and was introduced in 1770 at the Schonbrun Palace by its inventor Kempelen. The demonstration always started with Kempelen opening all the doors and cabinets on the Turk to allow the onlookers to inspect the machine, and then would find a challenger from the audience. The machine would keep its left arm on a cushion and would nod twice to signal threatening the opponents queen and three times to place the king in chess. Viewers noted the machine played aggressively and beat most of its opponents in less than thirty minutes. In reality, the Turk was built so a chess master could hide inside and tricked notable people such a Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as it toured Europe and America for over 80 years.

5 The Priory of Sion, 1956

The Priory of Sion is portrayed as a western secret society but was proved to be a fake thought up by Pierre Plantard, a pretender to the French Throne. Evidence of its existence is not considered authentic by historians although author Dan Brown referenced it as fact in his fiction novel The Davinci Code. During the years of 1961-1984, Plantard contrived a pedigree of the Priory of Sion claiming it was an offshoot of the French monarch housed in the Abbey of Sion. The Priory of Sion claimed to be founded in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the First Crusade and later taken over by the Jesuits in 1617.

4 The Feejee Mermaid, 1942

The Feejee Mermaid was presented as a grotesque creature that was half mammal, half fish. The mummified creature was made a popular display by P.T. Barnum and since copied for many other displays including one for Robert Ripley. The original exhibit caught on fire in 1860. The mermaid was a fake created with either paper-mache and parts from fish or the tail of a fish, the body of an orangutan and the head of a monkey. It was once the subject of an episode of The X-Files.

3 Piltdown Man, 1912

The Piltdown man was a famous hoax consisting of a skull and jawbone found in a gravel pit in 1912 in Piltdown, England. The skull was originally thought to be remains of a sub early human species. It wasn't exposed as a forgery until 1953, tricking many archaeologists and experts for over 40 years. It was found to be a jawbone of an Orangutan and the skull of a modern man. Since 1915 many people have expressed doubts in the authenticity, because it was inconsistent with hominid evolution.

2 Alien Autopsy, 1995

In 1995, Ray Santilli claimed to possess a video of an alien autopsy supposedly filmed inside a military tent after the Roswell UFO incident in 1947. The film was shown to a room of UFO experts, and was later edited to include expert interviews to add to the authenticity of the footage. The edited version was broadcasted in 2006 without the actual autopsy shown. Two days before its release in the UK, Santilli announced the film was only partially real, as in only a few frames. The rest was a reconstruction of 22 rolls of film totalling 4 minutes Santilli viewed in 1992 but that were since destroyed from the heat and humidity. The video was filmed in a living room of a house in Rochester using two dummies constructed by a sculptor and then filled with sheep brain set in jelly, chicken entrails and human knuckle joints.

1 The Cottingley Fairies, 1917

The Cottingley Fairies are a series of five pictures taken by two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. The two are in different poses with the supposed fairies. Elsie borrowed her father's camera and took pictures behind her house. When Arthur Wright, one of the earliest electrical engineers and Elsie's father developed the pictures he considered them as fakes, and after the second picture banned his daughter from using the camera but their mother Dolly Wright thought they were genuine and Dr. Arthur Doyle published them claiming they were authentic and many people began to believe there were fairies in Cottingley. In 1981, the girls who took the photos came out and admitted the first four were fakes but both continued to claim the fifth was in fact real until their deaths.

1.War of the Worlds, 1938

Orson Welles broadcasted a Halloween episode of radio show The Mercury Theater on the Air and adapted the episode from H.G wells 1898 novel War of the Worlds. The show ran without commercial breaks and did issue a disclaimer at the beginning of the episode introducing it as a play but listeners who tuned in later mistook the show as a real alien attack occurring and a small panic broke out. The programs new style format led to an outcry for radio regulations and was said to being cruelly misleading by newspaper reports of the incident even though it was never intended as a hoax.

More in The Biggest