The word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary…

Richard Gere goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his hoax going

I’ve just watched a brilliant Richard Gere film called The Hoax. It’s based on the true story of Clifford Irving, a writer who persuaded everyone that he was writing Howard Hughes’s autobiography. It was a huge scale scam! Irving played on the fact that Hughes was so reclusive and went to great lengths to fake all their communications. He even faked a meeting, hiring a helicopter which he claimed couldn’t land because of Hughes’s OCD – all very ingenious!

Very stressful too though, and I did start to feel a bit sorry for him. In a funny way Irving probably did come close to writing the first Hughes autobiography, because he researched Hughes so thoroughly he knew him as well as anyone.

Anyway, it got me thinking about other famous hoaxes. Have a look at these and see whether you can sympathise with the perpetrators…

The Cottingley Fairies

In 1918, two little girls photographed themselves with fairies in their garden. They were eventually forced to admit they’d faked them (a shame, in a way) though they always claimed the fifth one was real. Not sure about fairies, but there certainly seems to be a mystical Ewok in there.

The Feejee Mermaid
Not exactly Daryl Hannah, is it? This monkey-fish stitch-up first appeared in circus impresario Barnum’s shows in 1842. Admit it: if you didn’t know it was a hoax, you’d be intrigued, wouldn’t you?

The Mechanical Turk

An amazing 18th chess-playing machine that could beat anyone at the game. Or was it? The Mechanical Turk toured for 80 years and beat everyone, including Napolean, but it wasn’t a machine at all – there was a man hidden inside! A shame for paying punters, but you have to respect someone who can play chess inside a sealed box for 80 years.


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