The Museum of Hoaxes
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Petrifaction and Stone Giant Hoaxes
Forest City Man
A petrified man, manufactured out of a human skeleton, exhibited in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. More…
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. More…
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. More…
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. The eyes are well defined and very broad; forehead flat and sloping. Nose, small, sharp; nostrils open; lips very thin, flat; mouth well defined — curve of the lips perfectly natural; chin... More…
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 literalists. Showman P.T. Barnum later tried to buy the Giant. When he was refused, he created a duplicate that soon was drawing larger crowds than the original. More…
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." More…
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Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1849 1850-1899 1900-1949 1950-1979 1980s 1990s 2000s
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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.