The Museum of Hoaxes
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Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1868 1869-1913 1914-1949 1950-1976 1977-1989 1990s 2000s
The Hoax Archive — A collection of the most notorious deceptions throughout history
Archaeology Hoaxes
The Cerne Abbas Giant. The Cerne Abbas Giant is a chalk figure of an enormous naked man wielding a club carved into the side of a hill in Dorchester, England. The giant is widely believed to have been carved thousands of years ago. But in recent years historians have suggested that the Giant may date only to the seventeenth-century, since the first written reference to it only dates to 1694. Furthermore, its creation may have been intended as a prank. Continue…
The Kinderhook Plates, 1843. Six bell-shaped pieces of flat copper inscribed with hieroglyphics were unearthed from an Indian burial mound in Illinois. According to some reports, the plates were taken to Mormon leader Joseph Smith, living nearby, who proceeded to translate the markings. After which, the plates were revealed to be the work of local pranksters who intended to embarrass Smith, as the hieroglyphics were meaningless. The Mormon church denies Smith translated the plates. Continue…
The Petrified Man, 1862. Nevada's Territorial Enterprise reported the discovery of a petrified man in nearby mountains. The body was in a sitting posture, leaning against a rock surface to which it had become attached. The report subsequently was reprinted by many other papers. However, it was pure fiction, written by a young reporter, Samuel Clemens, who would later be better known as Mark Twain. He later admitted surprise at how many people were fooled by his story, since he considered it "a string of roaring absurdities." Continue…
The Cardiff Giant, 1869. On October 16, 1869, a farmer in Cardiff, New York found an enormous stone giant buried in the ground as he was digging a well. He put it on display, and thousands of people made the journey to see it. Speculation ran rampant about what it might be: a petrified giant from Biblical times or an ancient stone statue. The reality was that it was an elaborate hoax, created by the farmer's cousin, George Hull, in order to poke fun at Biblical... Continue…
The Pine River Petrified Baby, 1875. "Effigy in Lava" (Harper's Magazine, 1863)In October 1875 two hunters reported finding a small stone man, or "petrified baby" as some newspapers dubbed it, embedded in a gravel bank alongside Pine River in Michigan. The petrified baby was about four feet tall, with an extremely wide, flat forehead. Local papers offered the following description of it: The right arm is bent. The forearm is lying across the body; the other is bent below the elbow.... Continue…
George Washington Petrified. In early 1877, an article appeared in many American newspapers alleging that the remains of General George Washington had been discovered to be petrified. The reporting was attributed to the Washington correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle. It was only a matter of time before people realized that Washington's remains had not turned to stone. Nevertheless the news continued to circulate as a true story for many months. Continue…
The Taughannock Giant. The Taughannock Giant was a stone giant unearthed on July 4, 1879 on the shores of Lake Cayuga in Ithaca. It was pronounced to be of ancient origin by scientists and physicians. However, it turned out to be the work of Ira Dean who had spent months carving it in his home, with the simple desire of fooling someone. Continue…
The Holly Oak Pendant, 1889. In 1889 Hilborne T. Cresson, an archaeological assistant at Harvard's Peabody Museum, announced he had discovered a prehistoric seashell pendant that bore an engraving of a woolly mammoth. He said he had found it in a peat and forest layer near the Holly Oak railway station in northern Delaware. The pendant was an important find, since it suggested that prehistoric man must have been present in the Americas at the time when woolly mammoths still... Continue…
Forest City Man. A petrified man, manufactured out of a human skeleton, exhibited in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Continue…
King Tut’s Curse, 1923. In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse... Continue…
The Mysterious Glozel Finds, 1924. In 1924, a seventeen-year-old farmer, Emile Fradin, discovered an underground chamber that contained many mysterious artifacts. He did so while plowing a field on his grandfather's property in Glozel (near Vichy, in central France). Continue…
Chariots of the Gods?. Chariots of the Gods?, written by Erich von Däniken, was first published in 1968. It became an international bestseller. The thesis of the book is that ancient human civilizations had contact with visitors from outer space. These "ancient astronauts" were supposedly responsible for many of the great architectural feats of history, such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Nazca lines of Peru, and the statues on Easter Island. Mainstream... Continue…
The Stone Age Discoveries of Shinichi Fujimura, 2000. As a young man, Shinichi Fujimura developed an interest in Japan's pre-history and taught himself archaeology. Soon he was making spectacular finds that caught the attention of researchers around the world. By the age of 50, he had established himself as one of Japan's leading archaeologists. Fujimura's first major discovery occurred in 1981 when he found stoneware that dated back 40,000 years — the oldest stoneware ever found in Japan.... Continue…

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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.