Great Moon Hoax

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835

The New York Sun was the culprit. It printed a series of six, long articles about new observations of the moon supposedly made by a famous astronomer, Sir John Herschel.

The public was entranced. As copies of the newspaper rolled off the press, people gobbled them up. The Sun reported that the astronomer, Herschel, had built a powerful new telescope and trained it on the moon -- and from the Cape of Good Hope he had observed fantastic living creatures. There were plants and animals, including herds of bison, blue unicorn, birds, other horned animals and what looked like sheep.

George Adamski

George Adamski claimed to have been visited by Nordic aliens, writing three books about his experiences.

Later analysis showed the UFOs in his films and photographs were cobbled together using lightbulbs or other bits and bobs.

Although Adamski was labelled a hoaxer, he continued to peddle strange stories throughout his life, claiming aliens lived on most planets in the solar system.

Nonetheless, his images of cigar shaped motherships and strange craft flying in formation are among the most famous in UFO history.

Alien Autopsy

This is perhaps the most famous hoax of all and supposedly shows the autopsy of a grey alien who crashed to earth.

The film was released in 1990 by a London-based entrepreneur called Ray Santilli and was marketed as bona fide footage of an extraterrestial who crashed at Roswell.

But it was later exposed as a hoax, after allegedly making its owner a tidy sum.

The footage was broadcast in more than 30 countries and is one of the best-known attempts to fool the public with a faux-alien.

Cottingley Fairies

The Cottingley Fairy hoax of 1917 is a case study in how smart people lose control of the truth.

In contrast to other famous hoaxes, it doesn't seem malicious, or even necessarily deliberate. Instead it seems to me to be a story about how a single, relatively small act of deception can lead a large group of people to lose control over the truth.

In the first photograph, Frances Griffiths stares somewhere to the right of the camera lens, pointedly not looking at the cardboard figures capering on the grass in front of her. In the second one, Elsie Wright leans forward to shake the hand of a toddler-sized boy fairy.

Looking at them now, both photographs seem immediately identifiable as fakes. The figures are obviously propped-up and two dimensional. Everything, including the expressions on both girls' faces, looks staged. It is hard to imagine the photos seeming convincing to anyone older than 12.

Yet the Theosophical Society saw things differently; the members immediately and ecstatically accepted the photographs as real.

Surgeon's Photograph

Is the Surgeon's Photograph a hoax? Unfortunately, yes.

In 1994, 60 years after it graced the pages of the Daily Mail, Christopher Spurling verified the photograph as a hoax by admitting his involvement in its production.

Spurling was the stepson of Maramaduke Wetherell, a famed big-game hunter who had been hired in 1933 by the Daily Mail to find the Loch Ness Monster. He returned from his expedition with evidence of enormous footprints leading from the lake's shore into the water. However, Natural History Museum researchers concluded the tracks had been made with a dried hippo's foot, which were popular umbrella stands at the time.

Humiliated, Wetherell retreated from public view. After Spurling revealed the photograph as a hoax, he explained that Wetherell had enlisted his help to create a model of the monster's neck and place it on a toy submarine. Robert Kenneth Wilson was chosen to give the photograph to the media because of his trusted reputation as a doctor.