One of the most amazing (and gross) hoaxes of all time took place in England in 1726. That's when Mary Toft, a servant from Godalming, in Surrey, went into labor and delivered some animal parts. Local obstetrician John Howard was called in, and, over the next month, he helped deliver a rabbit's head, the legs of a cat and nine dead baby rabbits, the latter all in one day. Soon everyone from a Swiss surgeon-anatomist to the Prince of Wales' secretary visited Toft, who had become local celebrity, to witness the unbelievable births. And unbelievable they deemed them to be [source: University of Glasgow].
After examining one of the rabbits, a German surgeon found corn, hay and straw in its dung, proving it couldn't have developed inside Toft. Others reached the same conclusion after studying the bunnies' lungs and other organs. A porter was then caught trying to smuggle a rabbit into Toft 's room. Eventually Toft confessed she'd been inserting the rabbits and other animal parts into her vagina, then letting the various physicians "deliver" them [source: University of Glasgow].
Why in the world would she do this? Toft was poor, and in 18th-century Europe, people eagerly paid money to see human oddities and deformities. Her stunt was an effort to earn money and live a life of relative ease [source: Curry, Morris, Samuels and Shrout, University of Glasgow].
Author's Note: 10 Crazy Hoaxes that Duped the World
I don't think I've ever fallen for a hoax. But I did always want to believe that Anastasia was alive somewhere. Especially after seeing the animated movie.
- Why do some people believe the moon landings were a hoax?
- Why do people believe things that science has proved untrue?
- 10 Tips for Telling Fact From Fiction
- 10 Surprisingly Believable Bits of Malarkey
- 10 Complete Falsehoods about Food
- 10 of the Biggest Lies in History
- 10 Completely False ‘Facts’ Everyone Knows
- Bartlett, Kate. "Piltdown Man: Britain's Greatest Hoax." BBC. Feb. 17, 2011. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/archaeology/piltdown_man_01.shtml
- Brown, R.J. "P.T. Barnum Never Did Say 'There's a Sucker Born Every Minute.'" History Buff. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://www.historybuff.com/library/refbarnum.html
- CNN. "Authorities: 'Balloon boy' incident was a hoax." Oct. 19, 2009. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.cnn.es/2009/US/10/18/colorado.balloon.investigation/index.html
- Coppens, Philip. "Fairy dust: the Cottingley Fairies." Philip Coppens. (Nov. 18, 2012) http://www.philipcoppens.com/cottingley.html
- Cottingley. "Cottingley Fairies." (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.cottingley.net/fairies.shtml
- Curry, Andrew and Holly Morris, Art Samuels and Maggie Shrout. "Hoaxes of the ages." U.S. News. (Nov. 18, 2012) http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/mysteries/great.htm
- Harding, Luke. "Russian invasion scare sweeps Georgia after TV hoax." The Guardian. March 14, 2010. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/14/russia-georgia-fake-invasion-report
- Hughes, Trevor and Emily Bazar. "Lawyer: Family in balloon incident 'under siege.'" USA Today. Oct. 19, 2009. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-10-17-balloon-boy_N.htm
- Levy, Glen. "Georgia On Everyone's Mind." Time. March 16, 2010. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1972067,00.html
- Levy, Glen. "Hitler's Diaries." Time. March 16, 2010. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1931123,00.html
- Levy, Glen. "The Last of the Romanovs." Time. March 16, 2010. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1931131,00.html
- Lovgen, Stefan. "'War of the Worlds': Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic." National Geographic News. June 17, 2005. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_warworlds.html
- Maugh II, Thomas. "DNA testing ends mystery surrounding Czar Nicholas II children." LA Times. March 11, 2009. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/11/science/sci-romanov11
- Mother Nature Network. "Hoaxes: Fiji mermaid." (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/photos/15-of-the-biggest-scientific-hoaxes/fiji-mermaid
- Owen, James. "Loch Ness Sea Monster Fossil a Hoax, Say Scientists." National Geographic News. July 29, 2003. (Dec. 4, 2012) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/07/0729_030729_lochness.html
- Radford, Benjamin. "Article: The World's Greatest Hoaxes." Live Science. Oct. 19, 2009. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.livescience.com/23609-religious-hoaxes.html
- Radford, Benjamin. "New Nessie Photo: 'Convincing' Proof of Loch Ness Monster?" Live Science. Aug. 3, 2012. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://www.livescience.com/22118-loch-ness-monster-nessie-photo.html
- The Skeptic's Dictionary. "Cardiff giant." Dec. 9, 2010. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://skepdic.com/cardiff.html
- The Telegraph. "Russia 'invades' Georgia, as South Ossetia descends towards war." Aug. 8, 2008. (Nov. 19, 2012) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2524550/Russia-invades-Georgia-as-South-Ossetia-descends-towards-war.html
- TruTV. "Top 10 Paranormal 'Hoaxes' Of All Time." (Nov. 13, 2012) http://www.trutv.com/conspiracy/phenomena/paranormal-hoaxes/gallery.html?curPhoto=15
- UnMuseum. "The Hitler Diaries." (Nov. 19, 2012) http://www.unmuseum.org/hitlerdiaries.htm
- University of Glasgow Library Special Collections Department. "The Curious Case of Mary Toft." August 2009. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/aug2009.html
Many people believe that the number 23 has magical properties. HowStuffWorks looks at the number.