15 Biggest Hoaxes That Fooled The World

Don't believe the hype.

Dead Fairy Hoax

Most of us like to think that we're not easily fooled, but, every now and then, a story comes along so fantastical that we can't help but get caught up.

Some hoaxes are just too great, too audacious, not to be believed. Many of history's biggest stunts were completely taken up by a willing public, ready to believe in the fantastic, the scandalous and the downright astonishing. Indeed, even after being revealed as hogwash at the time, many of them are still hanging around, having since passed into public consciousness as sort-of-half-truths that probably happened in the dim, distant past.

Of course, there is a chance that some of this uncertainty is not entirely by accident. A lot of the evidence that people use to prove the existence of supernatural phenomena - ghosts, fairies, aliens - actually began as hoaxes that have been picked over and retold so often, that they have gone through the domain of "stunt" and passed straight into the realms of legend - or worse - fact. So, with all that misinformation out there, it's time to get our facts straight as we embark on a journey through the history of the world's biggest hoaxes.

How many did you fall for?

15. The Cardiff Giant

Dead Fairy Hoax

On the 16th of October, 1869, an enormous, petrified man was uncovered by a man called William Newell whilst digging a well in Cardiff, New York.

Newell claimed that it must the petrified remains of a giant and immediately set up a tent over the site and charged the public 25 cents to view it. People flocked to see the curiosity and even kept on coming when Newell doubled the entry fee.

Archaeologists pronounced the find as a fake, citing the fact, amongst others, that there was no good reason to dig a well in that spot (plus, you know, it was a giant). However, a number of religious scholars backed Newell and his giant, citing a passage in Genesis 6:4 that says that giants once roamed the earth.

Unfortunately for them, the giant was in fact a hoax, and it was inspired by that very passage. Newell, himself an atheist, had had an argument over a year previously at a Methodist revival meeting about it and decided to play the long con and create his own. He had his giant carved from gypsum, beaten and stained to age it then buried under his cousin's farm, to which he would return a year later to dig it up.

The hoax was twofold in the end as, after having his offer to purchase the giant refused, the famous entertainer, P T Barnum, had a plaster copy made for his own display. He claimed that his was in fact the real giant and the one that Newell and his team were exhibiting was a fake. It is this incident that lead David Hannum, one of Newell's men, to be quoted as saying "there's a sucker born every minute" - a quote that would later be attributed to Barnum himself.

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