Hoaxes

Horace de Vere Cole and the Dreadnought Hoax

Cole was a lifelong prankster, but none of his stunts could compare with his scheme to gain access to the HMS Dreadnought by getting his friends -- including Virginia Woolf -- to pretend they were Abyssinian royalty.

Unearthed! Piltdown Man

The Piltdown Man is one of the world’s most infamous instances of scientific fraud, and it derailed the study of evolution for decades. How exactly did scientists in 1912 fall so completely for a hoax?

The Phaistos Disk of Minoan Crete

Like other artifacts that defy deciphering, this clay disk, found on Crete in the early 1900s, has puzzled researchers and stirred up controversy for decades. Is it a religious incantation, a calendar, a spell? Or is it all a pictogram hoax?

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835, Part 2

As the New York Sun's series of astonishing moon discoveries concluded, most people recognized that it was a hoax. But what made people buy into the tall tale in the first place? Read the show notes here.

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835, Part 1

In August 1835, the New York Sun ran a series about some utterly mind-blowing discoveries made by Sir John Herschel about the lunar surface. The serial had everything: moon poppies, goat-like unicorns, lunar beavers and even bat people.

The Count of Saint-Germain

Accounts of teleportation, alchemy and even immortality swirl around the legend of Count of Saint-Germain. Was he a spy? A concealed royal? A skilled con man? Or just a compulsive liar? Read the show notes here.

Johann Beringer's Fossils

In 1725, Beringer was the University of Würzburg's chair of natural history and chief physician to the prince bishop. He was also unpopular, and some of his colleagues sought to discredit him. There are two versions of the story -- but which is true?

5 Historical Hoaxes

Historical hoaxes are surprisingly common. For example, a N.Y. cigar maker once commissioned a gypsum skeleton to pass off as a 10-foot-tall petrified man called the Cardiff Giant. Join Deblina and Sarah as they explore the Cardiff Giant, Clever Hans, the Cottingley Fairies, David Wyrick, Mary Toft's bunny births and the Newark Holy Stones.

P.T. Barnum worked with many performers. Perhaps the most famous was the diminutive General Tom Thumb. Barnum also promoted Swedish singer Jenny Lind, but his biggest act was Jumbo the Elephant, an African elephant he bought from the London Zoo.

The Prince of Humbug: P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum is best known as a circus man, but he spent most of his career running a curiosity museum and staging freak shows. Barnum attracted people to his American Museum through shrewd advertising, or "humbug." He also wasn't afraid of a hoax.

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