The Cottingley Fairies
The Cottingley Fairies is a series of photographs taken in 1917 and 1921 by two girls of 10 and 16 years. The pictures had been meant to be proof of the existence of fairies and elves and made quite a stir, but they were eventually exposed as one of the most brilliant mystifications of the 20th century. One of the girls turned out to have been assisting at her college’s photo laboratory.
Even Arthur Conan Doyle firmly believed in the authenticity of these pictures until his death.
In 2002, the BBC published an article stating that fewer people with blonde hair are born every year and will eventually die out in two hundred years.
The New York Times later published another article that pronounced the study results as false. However, the myth lived on, and it’s been repeated many times since.
In fact, recessive genes, like the fair hair gene, are transferred down the generation line without showing, only to appear all at once somewhere along it.
The Loch Ness monster
The monster of Loch Ness is probably the most popular hoax in the world. In 1934, the Daily Mail published the first ever photograph of the mystical animal by a London surgeon, Dr. Wilson.
The photo shocked the whole world, but in 1994 it was determined to be a fake. Up until then, the faith in Dr. Wilson’s honesty and the beautiful myth of the monster was unwavering.
The Piltdown Man
In 1912, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed that he’d found the remains of an ancient creature: allegedly the missing evolutionary link between primate and human.
Dawson’s deceit was only uncovered 40 years later when scientists determined that the "Piltdown Man’s" skull was actually a Middle Age man’s skull connected to an orangutan’s jaw.
William Mumler’s ghost pictures
Near the end of the 19th century, New York photographer William Mumler began making pictures that showed alleged ghosts of deceased family members of the people photographed.
Mumler’s most famous work was the photo of Mary Todd Lincoln with a "ghost" of her late husband, President Abraham Lincoln. The photo lab was extremely popular, but when Mumler was exposed as a fraud he went broke.
Beringer’s Lying Stones
In 1725, Professor of Medicine Johann Beringer discovered engraved limestone pieces that depicted prehistoric animals and plants and had Hebrew inscriptions on them.
Beringer thought this to be the will of God and even published a book about his finds. However, it turned out this whole affair was a hoax perpetrated on him by his colleagues.
The scandal that followed left the scientist, along with the originators of the hoax, in disgrace.
Chess automaton "The Turk"
In the 18th century, inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a chess-playing automaton that looked like a Turk sitting behind a table.
“The Turk“ only lost 6 games out of 300 played, and he even outsmarted Napoleon, which made it extremely famous. No one could guess how it worked: everybody saw that the machine mostly consisted of the mechanism, and there wasn’t enough room for a person inside.
Later, though, it was found that there was a real chess player inside — he lost both his legs in the war. He saw the chessboard with the help of magnets and controlled ”The Turk."
In 1947, there was an alleged crash of a UFO in Roswell, USA.
In 1995, British film producer Ray Santilli made public a sensational video showing the autopsy of a dead alien from that spacecraft. Later, however, it turned out that the film was a fake made up by Santilli himself using a humanoid doll.
A tourist of death
After the tragic events of 9/11, a photo appeared on the Internet showing a guy standing on the roof of the World Trade Center seconds before the plane crash.
Observant users, though, found some discrepancies here:
- The tourist couldn’t have been on the roof of WTC at the moment of the crash (8:45 a.m.) because the viewing platform only opened at 9:30 a.m.
- The plane was approaching the building from the wrong side.
- The plane wasn’t the right model.
- The shadows fell from the wrong angle for that time of day.
- The font used to put the date of the photo is not the regular one.
Thus, the myth of the "tourist of death" was busted.
War of the Worlds radio drama
In 1938, director Orson Welles made a radio play based on The War of the Worlds by Herbert Wells, a novel about Martians attacking the Earth.
The radio adaptation was made to resemble a live broadcast, and it was a perfect hit: the speech was interrupted by static and “correspondents“ covering events.
The listeners had been warned that it was only a play, but some still forgot about it. Some of the believers panicked and fled the city (especially after ”President Roosevelt’s" plea to remain calm).
Redheffer’s perpetual motion machine
In 1813, Charles Redheffer pronounced himself to be the man who invented the perpetual motion machine. The statement caused a hullabaloo, but engineer Robert Fulton was skeptical about the notion.
Having taken a careful look at the device, Fulton came to the conclusion that there had to be a power source that made the machine work. The "power" turned out to be an old man sitting in the attic and rotating the handle.
The legend of Paul McCartney’s death
In 1969, a rumor spread that Beatles singer Paul McCartney had died in a car accident three years earlier. The producers allegedly didn’t want to make a fuss of it and replaced Paul with a double, while the other band members, unable to speak openly, began inserting “clues“ into album covers and song lyrics.
A couple of examples:
On The Beatles Yesterday and Today (1) cover, Paul sits inside an open suitcase that resembles a coffin.
On the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2), the flowerbed looks like a grave, and yellow hyacinths (a symbol of death) make up a left-handed bass guitar (Paul’s one).
Played backward, the refrain of It’s Getting Better sounds like, ”After all Paul is dead, he lost his hairs, he lost his head."
On the Abbey Road cover (3), Paul is the only one who’s bare-footed (the deceased are buried without shoes in many countries) and isn’t keeping pace with the others.
On the cover of Magical Mystery Tour (4), the band wears animal costumes, one of which is a black walrus: allegedly a symbol of death.
As for McCartney himself, he finds the whole theory funny. And, of course...