10 Crazy Hoaxes That Duped the World

Cardiff Giant
A stonecutter carved the Cardiff Giant out of a slab of gypsum. Note: The stonecutter carved an entire human figure, only part of which is shown in this image. J.L. Hamar/Archive Photos/Getty Images

In 1868, atheist George Hull hired a stonecutter to carve a slab of gypsum into a 10-foot-tall man with 21-inch-long feet. He then had it buried on the farm of distant-relative William Newell in Cardiff, N.Y. [sources: Brown, The Skeptic's Dictionary]. The following year, workers digging a well on the property discovered the stone man, and people all over were quickly enthralled [source: Radford]. Was it an ancient carving? Or a fossilized giant? If it was the latter, some said, it was proof the Bible was literally true, for Genesis 6:4 says, "There were giants in the earth in those days ..." [source: Radford].

Experts smelled a rat, and tried to warn people not to get too excited. But it was too late. People flocked to the remote farm site -- hundreds and even thousands per day -- paying 50 cents a head (a whole lot of money in those days) to see "Goliath." Even more amusing, P.T. Barnum quickly created a duplicate which people paid to see, thinking it was the original. So they were double-duped [sources: The Skeptic's Dictionary, Brown].

Hull created the behemoth as a practical joke, and also to make those who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible look foolish [source: Radford]. He confessed after an associate sued Barnum for claiming Barnum's giant was the original one [source: Brown]. The fake fossil is still around for viewing at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. [source: The Skeptic's Dictionary].

More to Explore