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
Serial Pranksters
The Hoaxes of Jonathan Swift. Swift was a master of the satirical hoax. In his brief essay A Modest Proposal, he pretended to make a case for the benefits of feeding poor children to the rich, as a way of commenting on the inhumanity of the rich towards the poor. And in his Bickerstaff hoax of 1708 he poked fun at astrology by claiming he had accurately predicted the death of the famous astrologer John Partridge, even though Partridge wasn't yet dead. Continue…
Hoaxes of Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe is celebrated for his dark, gothic tales of horror and suspense. But he also published six hoaxes during his brief life. Many modern anthologies of his works, however, fail to note that these stories were first presented to readers in the guise of nonfiction. Poe was also fascinated by other hoaxes besides his own. He once referred approvingly to the age in which he lived as the "epoch of the hoax." Continue…
The Hoaxes of P.T. Barnum. Barnum described himself as the "Prince of Humbug," an epithet he more than earned during his long career. He's best remembered today for the circus that still bears his name, but before the circus he ran a New York museum, and it was this museum that initially made him rich and famous. He attracted visitors to it by means of sensational publicity stunts, hoaxes, and plain-old false advertising. But he managed to convince audiences that he was selling them entertainment, not fraud. Continue…
Hoaxes of Joseph Mulhattan. During the 1870s and 1880s Joseph Mulhattan was perhaps the most famous hoaxer in America. He was a traveling salesman, not a reporter, but he was notorious for repeatedly succeeding in having his farfetched tales reported as news. If an outrageous or bizarre story appeared in the news, reporters would often assume it was the work of Mulhattan. The media showered him with epithets. They called him a "professional liar," "the author of more hoaxes... Continue…
Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of medical journals published letters from a correspondent who identified himself as Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis. His letters usually discussed bizarre cases of a sexual nature. Both the case histories and the letter writer himself were bogus. Egerton Yorrick Davis was the pseudonym of Dr. William Osler, a Johns Hopkins University professor, who amused himself by sending these prank letters. Continue…
Lou Stone, the Winsted Liar. Louis Timothy Stone (1875-1933), more popularly known as Lou Stone, or the Winsted Liar, was a journalist famous for the hundreds of fanciful articles he wrote about the strange flora and fauna surrounding his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut. It was said he had a "faculty for seeing the unusual in stories." Continue…
Hoaxes of Hugh Troy. By trade Hugh Troy (1906-1964) was an artist. He illustrated many children's books, including "Maude for a Day," "The Chippendale Dam," and "Five Golden Wrens." But by nature he was a practical joker, with numerous pranks to his credit. When asked once what advice he would give to aspiring practical jokers, he replied that one should never sit down and try to deliberately think up a practical joke. This was a sure way to arrive at uninspired... Continue…
Hoaxes & Stunts of Jim Moran. Jim Moran (1907-1999) was called, at various times, "super salesman number one," "America's No. 1 prankster," and "the last great bunco artist in the profession of publicity." He became famous during the 1930s and 40s for devising outrageous stunts on behalf of his clients. His favorite technique was to test the validity of popular sayings. For instance, he sold an icebox to an eskimo, found a needle in a haystack, and walked a bull through a... Continue…
Dan Rattiner, the Hoaxer of the Hamptons. In 1960, twenty-year-old Dan Rattiner started a small paper during his summer vacation in the Hamptons. He gave copies of it away for free, making money from the advertisements. It was the first free paper in the United States. Gradually Dan started more papers, each of them serving a different community in the Hamptons. He called all of them collectively Dan's Papers, and they soon became the most widely read papers in the Hamptons. Dan wrote... Continue…

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