Greatest Hoaxes That Fooled the World

Be it fiction or true stories, believable or unbelievable; human beings are incredibly attracted to great stories. So it’s not a surprise that the world has had more than a fair share of hoaxes. What is surprising however is the more incredible and outrageous a tale, the more people seem to want to follow it and believe it to be true. Over time, hoaxers have fabricated various hoaxes in various works of life that have successfully fooled the most intelligent people and even experts in their area of expertise. Some of these grand deceptions were upheld for many years and impacted many lives until they were eventually debunked, while others are still believed to be true even now. Have you been fooled? What deceptions are you still believing? The following are the biggest hoaxes of all time.

The hoax fooled ‘experts’ and was in the textbooks for 40 years

Following the study of Charles Darwin on the evolution process, the human race endeavored in the search for the missing link to close all the arguments and debate on the origin of man. The suggestion by the pioneer works indicating that human beings evolved from apes, gave room for the human race to establish a connection between human beings and apes. In 1912 the geologist Charles Dawson found a skull which he claimed as the missing link between humans and the apes. For the most extended duration of over 40 years, scientists and researchers believed this as one of the novel discoveries in the history and study of evolution.

Dawson was celebrated for the discovery and awarded by the geological society of London the same year. The researcher discovered another skull in 1917, further proof the authenticity of the Piltdown man discovery, many great scientists, anthropologists, and scholars believed in the Piltdown discovery and Dawson was recognized and celebrated for the development. In the 1950s, however, the anthropologists conducted tests on the Piltdown man and established that it was a modern fabrication and combination of human and ape’s chews created aged less than fifty years. The missing link or the Piltdown man hoax was lifted, and perpetrators encompass Dowson, Sherlock Holmes, and Sir Arthur Canon Doyle who fooled the public for 40 years.[1]

2. A Math Whiz Horse, Clever Han

Math Whiz Horse, Clever Han

The Germany mathematics teacher was determined to establish the animal intelligence and conducted various studies on animals such as the cat and bear without success. He finally landed on a horse he named Han. He trained Han on mathematical concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, along with reading Germany language. The teacher, Von Osten trained and taught the horse for several years. Han, the horse, could add, subtract, multiply and read Germany. Osten was impressed with his work and attended many shows and displayed the brilliance of his Horse.

The horse calculated math by tapping the hoofs to indicate numbers. Researchers researched and studied the horse and found no tricky or fishiness in the horse’s ability — those who witnessed believed and were amused by the intelligence of the horse, naming it Clever Han.
The deeper study discovered the trick as the master gave the correct answers to the animal without even himself knowing. For instance, Han depended on the subconscious mind of Von Osten to calculate the math. The observers discovered that the horse tapped its hoofs until a subliminal clue formed on the face of its master indicating to stop. When the math became too simple for Osten to calculate, the horse declined in its performance and totally failed to get any correct answers in the absence of its master.[2]

3. The Dead Fairy

In 2007, one of the London suckers emerged concerning the corpse of a fairy. The perpetrator Dan Baines played the public on the fool’s day by putting an online web auction for the body of a fairy. He sold the dead fairy for the amount of three hundred pounds, and over 30,000 people visited the site in just a day to view the picture of the fairy. The description of the dead fairy encompassed the features such as the presence of teeth, hair, wings, and skin, while the remains were claimed to be similar to a child with hollow bones.

The dead fairy was alleged to have been confirmed by the anthropologist who stated that it is true, increasing the interest and belief of many people in the existence of the dead fairy. However, Dan Baines admitted later that he faked the idea of the dead fairy. But the people even to date still hold that the dead fairy is true accusing the Baines of trying to cover up the truth.[3]

4. How April Fool’s Day Did Not Get Its Name

In an interview with the Boston University professor in 1983, Fred Bayles aggressively pressed for a concrete explanation regarding the start and naming of Fools Day. The professor decided to fabricate a story that will satisfy the reporter. He developed an ancient Roman empire story at the time when Constantine was the king of Rome. A group of people called the jesters petitioned to be allowed the chance for just a day for one of their own to rule. The professor stated King Kugel; a made-up name from the Jewish dishes – was the jester who was allowed by the emperor Constantine to rule Rome on April 1st. And that is how April first is considered or named Fool’s Day. Bayles created the story and published it. It trended, and media houses called the Boston professor to confirm the authenticity. He played along, and they believed that the April Fool’s day was indeed named after King Kugel.

However, while the professor was teaching in class, he let out how media are willing to believe anything. The university editor was in the class and published the article proofing the story by Bayles was a hoax and how the professor fooled a journalist.[4]

5. The Stone-Age Tasaday Tribe

The discovery of things forms the lucrative field that filled with countless hoaxes. The Tasaday tribe discovery by Manuel Elizalde is one of the biggest hoaxes that rocked the world for a long time. Elizalde was believed to control the stone age tribe that lived in isolation from modern civilization and have no understanding of the conflict. The stone age tribe was composed of a small group of people living in the jungle and used stone age tools, relying on hunting and gathering for food. The media, press along with the scientific community caused a sensation of the stage age tribe discovery.

However, the whole thing was a lie perpetrated by Elizalde; the tribe was a group of people who agreed to play the stone age tribe for money from him. This follows the unexpected visit to the jungle by Oswald Item who found the claimed stone age tribe wearing T-shirts and jeans, using modern items such as knives, mirrors among others. The stone age tribe was all a hoax.[5]

6. The Amityville Horror

Amityville Horror

The man named DeFeo Jr. used a gun and shot his entire family dead in the house 112 Ocean Avenue in 1974. It was the Dutch colonial house at Amityville New York village. A year later, convicted of the second-degree murder, he was sentenced to prison. The Lutz family moved into the same house. After a month of stay, the family claimed to be haunted by a ghost that attacked them supernaturally and left the house. The investigation was launched to confirm the claims by the Lutz family. After several years, the Defeo lawyer confessed it was a hoax that they planned and benefited together with the Lutz family. They included the novelist who wrote the novel titled The Amityville Horror that was adopted into a movie to increase the credibility and authenticity of the hoax.[6]

7. The Balloon Boy Saga

Balloon Boy Saga

The idea of flying in a balloon originated from the boy’s parents who appeared in a Wife Swap show on reality TV. The flying saucer in the storm was Richard’s idea. In 2009, they had to call the emergency services claiming their son had flown away in a balloon filled with helium gas. The balloon boy, the Falcon, was believed to be hovering at over 7100 feet. The story attracted the public, and everyone was concerned. However, the story turns out to be a lie; the boy was hiding in the family attics. The father had built the flying saucer just as he had said in during the show. Upon finding out, Richard was sentenced for 90 days with a fine of $36,500 while his wife served a 21-day community service sentence. They were denied any befits that emanated from the hoax as well.[7]

8. The Cardiff Giant

The Cardiff Giant
Credit: Onondaga Historical Association

The giant was discovered in a farm outside Syracuse, N.Y. while digging a well in 1869. The 11-foot giant stood in the gap of the explanations in the Bible indicating the presence of giants on earth as recorded in Genesis. Many people traveled to confirm for themselves the petrified giant. The press and the public were sensational about the discovery as a verification of the biblical passages. However, the petrified Cardiff giant was found to be a fake. It was a statue developed from gypsum stones with blue veins to reflect the biblical giant’s description. According to George Hull, a son of an atheist, the Cardiff giant was born in a conversation he eavesdropped from the evangelical ministers about the giants roaming the earth. He designed a realistic and believable statue to resemble the giants, and it was buried in his cousin’s land, where it was discovered. Thus, the whole Cardiff giant saga was a hoax, a statue made of gypsum stones.[8]

9. The Fiji Mermaid

The Fiji Mermaid

The Japanese sailors designed and carried a mermaid on their journey in 1822. They sold it to an English man, Samuel Barrett Edes, at a hefty price of $6200 who brought it to England. The mermaid was made of half human and half fish. The human part is covered by animal hair while the fish half is covered in scales. After 20 years, Ede sold the mermaid to Kimball. The mermaid was later brought to New York, and Kimball rented it to Barnum for 13 dollars for exhibition to the public.

Barnum planned an elaborate scheme to manipulate and deceive the press, public, and media. Eventually, the Fiji mermaid was exhibited in one of the Americas biggest and renown museum, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Decades after the mermaid was lost in the fire; the Harvard University claimed to hold the original material of the Fiji mermaid. However, it was discovered to be a fake, composed of a monkey sewn to a fish by the Japanese.[9]

10. Spaghetti Tree (the Secret Pasta Garden)

Spaghetti Tree

On the April fool’s day of 1957, the broadcast developed and perpetrated by BBC intentionally deceived the whole nation. The UK viewers were made to believe that spaghetti is planted in secret garden in Italy. The program named panorama documentary, still in existence, informed viewers of the spaghetti harvest, implying the tree or plant exists that produce it.

The following day, many callers were asking for the seedlings and seeds so that they can grow their own noodles. Britain in the 1950s was popular with the spaghetti dish. The image of the Swiss citizens was shown harvesting spaghetti and the presenter, Richard Dimbleby was a respected presenter, thus, increasing the credibility of the mockumentary. In reality, the broadcast was a hoax.[10]

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