15 Historical Mystifications Proving That People Are Ready to Believe Everything They Hear


Historical Mystifications

We all want to believe in magic from time to time. But we also know that fairies don’t exist and spaghetti doesn’t grow on trees. Can you imagine that some people truly believed this? Let’s see how easy it is to convince the crowd.

Apegeo has found 15 historical facts proving that even skeptics will believe any story, but on one condition: it has to be convincing.

“Rabbits’ mother” Mary Toft, 1726

An English woman from Surrey managed to puzzle and fool doctors: she convinced them that she gave birth to… rabbits. After the 15th rabbit delivery, investigators uncovered the hoax. After this incident, people laughed at doctors who believed that the woman could change a fetus inside her womb with the help of the power of thought.

Great Moon Hoax, 1835

The Great Moon Hoax is a series of 6 articles that were published in The Sun, a New York newspaper. The article discusses a huge telescope that was placed at the Cape of Good Hope that helped scientists see the Moon’s surface and discover a civilization of bat-like, winged humanoids. The hoax was uncovered a few weeks later after the first publication. By the way, the newspaper never became less popular, people just laughed at their own gullibility.

Cardiff Giant, 1869

The Cardiff Giant is a 10 ft 4.5 in sculpture that was presented as the remains of a real ancient man. Legend says that 2 workers from Cardiff, New York, discovered the “body” when they were digging a well. The owner of land where the statue was found claimed it was an Indian man and charged people for a chance to see it.

But the ancient giant appeared to be a fake. George Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about Genesis 6:4 which stated that there were giants who once lived on Earth. A statue was carved out a block of gypsum and buried on Hull’s brother’s land. Then the brother hired workers to dig a well.

Maggie Murphy potato, 1895

The legend about the giant Maggie Murphy potato was created in Loveland, Colorado by the editor-in-chief for a local newspaper who wanted to promote an upcoming street fair. A fake potato was carved out of wood and claimed to be a real one grown by farmer Joseph Swan. People believed this hoax and asked the farmer to sell pieces of Maggie Murphy so they could grow their own oversized potato.

Dreadnought hoax, 1910

Who do you think the scammer is in this picture? Well, they’re all scammers or, how we’d call them today, pranksters. By the way, the “man” on the left is actually writer Virginia Woolf and the man with the moustache is William Horace de Vere Cole, a poet and the leader of this band.

Cole, pretending to be an interpreter, and his compatriots tricked the Royal Navy into showing their flagship battleship the HMS Dreadnought to a fake delegation of Abyssinian royals. The visitors repeatedly showed amazement and appreciation by exclaiming “Bunga Bunga!” and an officer accompanying the group didn’t recognize Virginia and Horace even though he knew them.

When the prank was uncovered, with the exception of Virginia Woolf, they were subjected to a symbolic thrashing on the buttocks. But Cole said that officers should have punished themselves for being duped by the tricksters.

Bathtub hoax, 1917

In 1917, Henry Louis Mencken (in the picture above), an American journalist and satirist published an article titled A Neglected Anniversary where he described the “story” of a modern bathtub invented in Cincinnati 75 years prior. In his article, Mencken claimed that bathing used to be illegal in the USA because doctors considered it to be dangerous for your health.

Of course modern bathtubs were invented earlier and not in the USA (in the above photo, you can see a bathtub from the Cyprus Museum), but it turns out that many people didn’t know about that. Though the author just wanted to have fun, his article was still being widely quoted as a fact for years even after the hoax had been uncovered.

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