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A Brief Guide To Famous Media Hoaxes
THE CARDIFF GIANT HOAX: One of the earliest and greatest media hoaxes of all time, the Cardiff Giant Hoax began in 1869, when workers digging on a farm in Cardiff, New York unearthed a mysterious stone fossil in the shape of a ten-foot tall man. When the newspapers were alerted, controversy exploded, with some "experts” speculating the find was a "petrified human,” perhaps from Biblical days when giants roamed the earth. Meanwhile, farm owner William C. Newell began charging admission to see the colossus and soon sold ¾ of his interest in the fossil to a syndicate in Syracuse, New York for $30,000. Two months later, as the fossil began a multi-city tour, it was revealed that Newell's distant relative George Hull, a cigar manufacturer from Binghamton, had perpetrated a hoax in order to prove how gullible Americans really were. The Cardiff Giant remains on display to this day at the "Farmer's Museum” in Cooperstown, New York.

THE PILTDOWN MAN HOAX: In 1912, Charles Dawson of Piltdown, England claimed to have made an earth-shattering discovery: the fossilized skeleton of a creature that was the link between apes and humans. The world was riveted. Some anthropologists even staked their careers on the discovery. It wasn't until 1953 that scientists realized that the famed skeleton was a complete fake, crafted out of different animal parts from all around the globe that were simply treated to look ancient. Today, the hoax is still considered one of the most famous frauds in the history of science.

THE VERMEER HOAX: After World War II, authorities found what they thought was a new painting by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer in the collection of Nazi leader Hermann Goering. The sale of the painting was traced to one Hans Van Meegeren, a Dutch painter, who was immediately arrested for collaborating with the enemy. But Van Meegeren had a twist to his story – he explained that he had actually forged the Vermeer, and to prove it, he painted another exact replica in his jail cell! Van Meegeren would soon go down as one of the world's great copycat artists. It was eventually determined that he had forged 14 additional Vermeers, all of which were considered to be authentic masterpieces, earning millions of dollars. His forgeries were so good that some experts continued to argue the paintings were real even after he confessed his hoaxes!

THE STONE AGED TRIBE HOAX: In the 1970s, Manuel Elizalde, Ferdinand Marcos's Cultural Minister, told the world he had made "first contact” with an incredible, newly discovered tribe in the Philippines. They were known as the Tasaday and it was claimed they were astonishing relics of humankind's ancient past – so primitive that they lived in caves, wore no clothing, had never even heard of agriculture and had no knowledge of any technology beyond the Paleolithic Stone Age. National Geographic and news networks sent cameras but few scientist were able to see them. But after the fall of Marcos, those who came to report on and study the Tasaday found them wearing t-shirts and jeans and using plenty of modern tools. The tribe members subsequently admitted they had been paid to act more "primitive” by Elizalde, discarding their clothes and using fake stone tools.

THE BOSTON MARATHON HOAX: In 1980, the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon shocked race-watchers not only because she set a new course record but because she was a complete unknown. Her name was Rosie Ruiz and when she broke the ticker-tape, she appeared barely to have broken a sweat – as it turned out, for good reason. An investigation and eyewitness reports determined that Ruiz had likely jumped into the race ½ mile from the finish line. Although she maintained her innocence, second place finisher Jackie Gareau was named the new champion.

THE HEROIN ADDICT HOAX: One of the first of many hoax scandals that woul


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