Hoax Archive: Categories
Jacko (July 4, 1884)
The British Columbia Daily Colonist reported that a gorilla-type creature had been captured by railway workers and was being held in a local jail. It was given the nickname "Jacko." However, the entire thing turned out to be a hoax, as the hundreds of people who visited the jail and tried to view Jacko discovered, since Jacko was nonexistent. This story languished in obscurity until the 1950s when a reporter came across a reference to it (unaware it had turned out to be a newspaper hoax) and publicized it as an early example of a Sasquatch sighting.
The Loch Ness Monster (1933-Present)
Ancient Scottish legend told of a "beast" that lived in the waters of Loch Ness. St. Columba, for instance, was supposed to have encountered a large serpent in the River Ness over 1400 years ago. But the modern history of Nessie began in 1933 when a new road was completed along the northern shore of the Loch, providing easy access to unobstructed views of the water. Soon after this, a couple spotted an "enormous animal" in the Loch. The Inverness Courier wrote up their sighting, describing what they saw as a "monster;" intense media interest followed; and thus was born the modern Loch Ness Monster. More→
The Spray Photograph (November 12, 1933)
On November 12, 1933, Hugh Gray was walking back from church along the shore of Loch Ness when, so he later claimed, he saw an "object of considerable dimensions—making a big splash with spray on the surface" of the Loch. Luckily he had his camera with him, so he began snapping pictures. Only one of the pictures showed anything. Nessie believers hailed it as the first photographic evidence of the monster. Skeptics, however, dismissed it as a blurry mess that doesn't show anything at all. Many have suggested that it looks like a distorted image of a dog (perhaps Mr. Gray's own) carrying a stick in its mouth as it swims through water.
The Surgeon’s Photo, 1934 (April 1934)
In April 1934, Colonel Robert Wilson, a respected British surgeon, came forward with a picture that appeared to show a sea serpent rising out of the water of Loch Ness. Wilson claimed he took the photograph early in the morning on April 19, 1934, while driving along the northern shore of the Loch. He said he noticed something moving in the water and stopped his car to take a photo. For decades this photo was considered to be the best evidence of the existence of a sea monster in the Loch. But Wilson himself refused to have his name associated with it. Therefore it came to be known simply as "The Surgeon's Photo." More→
The Stuart Photograph (July 14, 1951)
On July 14, 1951, Forestry Commission employee Lachlan Stuart took a picture of mysterious humps rising from the loch. Over twenty years later researchers visited the spot where he had taken the picture and realized the humps would have been in extremely shallow water close to the shore, meaning that Stuart's monster must have been awfully flat. Confirming their suspicions, author Richard Frere later revealed that Stuart had confessed to him the humps were nothing more than bales of hay covered with tarpaulins.
The MacNab Photograph (July 29, 1955)
July 29, 1955: Bank manager Peter MacNab snapped a photo of something large moving through the water of the loch near Urquhart Castle. But when researcher Roy Mackal studied the photo, he discovered differences between the negative of the image and the print that MacNab had originally shown to the media. Specifically, there was more of the image in the print than there was in the negative (the tree at the bottom left is missing from the negative). This led him to conclude that the "negative" had been created by re-photographing a print. In other words, it was clear that the image had been doctored.
The Birth of Bigfoot, 1958 (August 27, 1958)
August 27, 1958: While working on a construction site in northwest California, a tractor operator named Jerry Crew found a series of massive, 16-inch footprints tracked through the mud. Due to the size of the prints, the media began referring to the creature that created them as "Bigfoot." The name stuck, eventually replacing Sasquatch in the popular imagination as the name for North America's legendary ape-man. It was long suspected that Crew's prank-loving boss, Ray Wallace, had created the prints by strapping carved wooden feet to his boots and stomping around in the mud. This was confirmed when Wallace died in 2002 and his family came clean with the whole story. (Bigfoot believers, however, continue to insist the prints were legitimate Sasquatch tracks.)
The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film (October 20, 1967)
October 20, 1967: Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin travelled on horseback into the Six Rivers National Forest of northern California, carrying with them a 16mm camera, determined to get some footage of Bigfoot. Near Bluff Creek they spotted what appeared to be a female Bigfoot (shown in the thumbnail) striding along a riverbank. Patterson managed to record 952 frames of film before the creature disappeared into the forest. The footage he took remains, by far, the most famous evidence of Bigfoot's existence. But rumors abound that Patterson and Gimlin were either victims of a hoax, or perpetrators of one. One theory is that the creature filmed by Patterson/Gimlin was the creation of John Chambers, lead make-up artist on the Planet of the Apes (filmed in 1967). More recently, a man named Bob Heironimus has come forward who claims he was hired by Gimlin to wear an ape suit and pretend to be Bigfoot for their film. More→
Body of Nessie Found, 1972 (March 31, 1972)
On the day before April Fool's Day, 1972, a team of British zoologists from the Flamingo Park Zoo found a mysterious carcass floating in Loch Ness. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15 ½ feet long. More→
Frank Searle, Monster Hunter (early 1970s to mid 1980s)
Frank Searle, a former army captain, arrived in Loch Ness to search for the monster during the early 1970s and soon established a reputation as a definite character. He was like a colonial-style adventurer, assisted by a succession of attractive young "monster huntresses." He took an enormous number of photos of Nessie, many of which were published by the media, but all of which have been dismissed by experts as fakes. His early photos, such as the one to the right (taken in October 1972) have been identified as pictures of floating tree trunks. In later photos he progressed to cutting-and-pasting dinosaurs from postcards into his images. Searle left the loch in 1985 and died in 2005.
The Flipper Photo (August 7, 1972)
August 7, 1972: An expedition to find Nessie led by Dr. Robert Rines of the Academy of Applied Science struck gold when its underwater camera took a picture of what appeared to be the flipper of a large aquatic animal resembling a plesiosaur. However, the relatively clear image of a flipper shown to the public was not quite what the camera had initially recorded. The initial image was far less distinct. (It basically looked like a shot of a bunch of bubbles or sediment in the water.) This initial picture was then computer enhanced by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, and apparently the computer-enhanced image was further artistically enhanced by the Academy of Applied Science team (i.e. it was retouched), thereby producing the final flipper photo. Modern image-enhancement software has not been able to conjure anything resembling a flipper from the original image.
Nessiteras Rhombopteryx (1975)
Sir Peter Scott of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau participated in the 1972 expedition that produced the flipper photo. Feeling that the photo provided proof that some kind of large creature existed in the loch, he decided to give the animal a scientific name: Nessiteras Rhombopteryx (which meant "the Ness wonder with a diamond fin"). But London newspapers soon pointed out that if you juggled around the letters in this name, you got the phrase "monster hoax by Sir Peter S." Was this evidence that the flipper photo had been a deliberate hoax? Scott denied it. Dr. Rines came to his rescue by pointing out that if you juggled the letters around a bit more, you could spell "Yes, both pix are monsters. R."
Bride of Bigfoot (May 1976)
Cherie Darvell was a member of a film crew searching for Bigfoot in the woods outside Eureka, California. Unfortunately for her, she found Bigfoot and he abducted her. Or so she claimed. Humboldt County organized a search party to find her, but without success. (Total cost for the search: $11,613. Humboldt County tried to sue Shasta County to make them pay a portion of the cost, but a judge struck down their suit, ruling that the search for Bigfoot had been an "exercise in futility.") A few days later, Darvell walked into a nearby resort, looking none the worse for wear, despite her experience as a Bride of Bigfoot. When reporters tried to ask her questions about her ordeal, her only response was to scream. Her fellow filmmakers, Ed Bush and Terry Gaston, later released a movie showing her being carried away by Bigfoot. It crossed the minds of a few people that the "abduction" had been simply an elaborate publicity stunt.
The Loch Ness Muppet, 1977 (May 21, 1977)
May 21, 1977: Anthony 'Doc' Shiels claimed that he took this picture while camping beside Urquhart Castle. Its startling clarity (it's probably the clearest picture of Nessie ever taken) has made it popular with the public. But it's hard to find any expert willing to take it seriously, simply because the creature depicted in it looks so obviously fake. (And it's odd that there are no ripples in the water around the neck.) Skeptics refer to Shiels's monster as "The Loch Ness Muppet." The fact that Shiels was a showman, "wizard," and psychic entertainer who was developing a side business as a professional monster hunter didn't help his credibility. Shiels himself commented that while he definitely took photos of lake monsters, he didn't believe in them.
Loch Ness Conger Eels (May 2, 2001)
May 2, 2001: Two large, serpent-like conger eels were found on the shore of the loch. Since the eels were saltwater creatures and the loch is freshwater, they evidently had been placed there. The leading theory was that a hoaxer, hoping the eels would be mistaken for mini-Nessies, had dumped them there.