History is a window into the past. When we look back in time, we are given a snapshot into how people used to live, what they cared about and the things they fought for. For the most part, we take history as a given as it recounts things that have already happened. What happens, then, when what we thought was true turns out to be a set of lies? Across history, there have been a huge amount of hoaxes and time and again, they have fooled thousands in believing that something was there when it didn’t exist. While there are famous hoaxes and half thought out hoaxes, there are none quite as lasting as the Cardiff Giant, a trick that had thousands of people across America dumbfounded.
To take a closer look at the history, we must venture back to 1860s American and to the home of businessman George Hull. Living and working in Binghampton, New York, the businessman claimed to have stumbled across the body of a giant that had been petrified over the course of hundreds of years. Public interest piqued almost instantaneously and practically overnight, the giant’s body became a talking point across the country. The body, turned into stone, was exhumed from the ground and put on display in a nearby tent. Visitors were charged a fee of 25 cents to see the creature up close, with Hull eventually selling his discovery for a lofty sum of $23,000.
Eventually, the giant was moved to Syracuse, New York, where crowds flooded in to take a peek. Not before long, however, word began to spread that there was something not quite right about the statue. Soon, paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh did a proper examination of the giant, publicly declaring that it was a fake. The discovery led to a huge exposé on the subject matter, with people involved admitting their input in the task.
Despite this, however, the Cardiff Giant has gone down in history as one of the most successful and widespread hoaxes of all time. The thirst for spectacle during this point in history led to many others trying a trick or two of their own, although some were more successful than others. Now, hoaxes might be more complex, but they rarely pull in the same kind of crowds as the Cardiff Giant. Created at a time when progress was at a low and natural science was in its infancy, the story really took off and now, it has lasted well beyond its creator.