The Museum of Hoaxes
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Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
The worms inside your face
The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
The Crown Prince Regent of Thulia, 1954
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Hoax, 1874
The Hoaxing Hitchhiker, 1941
Brief History of Triple-Decker Buses
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 square; slight depression or dimple over the breast bone, also just above the arm where the ribs meet, or at least just below where they meet. The form of the breast is perfect. The skin on the surface is smooth, not showing the marks of tools. Some call it a petrified child, and account for the great bredth of the head at the eyes by some pressure that flattened the forehead.

The find attracted some attention as a curiosity, but most speculated that it was a "second edition of the Cardiff Giant," the notorious stone-giant hoax of 1869.

The skeptics were correct. The petrified baby had been manufactured by William Ruddock of Thornton, Michigan. Reportedly, he used as his model a picture of an Icelandic "effigy in lava" that appeared in an 1863 edition of Harper's Magazine.

Ruddock had hoped to make a profit by displaying the petrified baby to the public, but he didn't earn enough to cover his costs. Eventually he sold it to a side show.

Links and References
  • "A Petrified Baby." Titusville Morning Herald. October 21, 1875.
  • Browne, J. Ross. (March 1863). "Californian in Iceland." Harper's New Monthly Magazine. 26: 448.
  • Stockwell, G.A. (June 1878). "The Cardiff Giant, and Other Frauds." Popular Science. 197-203.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.