Great Moon Hoax of 1835
Astonishing Reports about Life Discovered on the Moon
Reports of life discovered on the moon include details of herds of bison, blue unicorns, tail-less beavers and goats. The topography is reported to include oceans, trees, beaches and mountains. Great temples made of sapphire with roofs of gold are to be found on the moon. The most astonishing of all are the details of the furry bat-like humanoids with large wings on their backs. All of this was observed through an amazing invention of a telescope with a lens that is 4 feet in diameter, a tube that is forty feet long and a magnifying power of 6,000 times, located in Cape Town, South Africa.
Are you thinking these are details of a new science fiction movie or perhaps a page from a comic book? Wrong! These are actual reports from the New York Sun newspaper which ran a series of columns over the course of 6 days outlining the astonishing discoveries of Sir John Herschel, a famous British astronomer. Are you saying you never heard of these amazing discoveries? That could be because the dateline was August 25, 1835!
Reproduction of the Original Moon Hoax Stories
Humanoids Viewed through Powerful Telescope
The discovery of civilization on the moon was reported by Richard A. Locke, a journalist with the New York Sun. The paper was struggling for circulation and the number of readers skyrocketed to 19,360 by the time installment number 4 was printed. That was the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world at the time.
The fourth column described the humanoids that were viewed through the powerful telescope as being about 4 feet tall with copper colored hair covering all of their bodies except their faces and they had wings on their backs from the shoulders to the calves of their legs.
Worldwide Hysteria about the "Moon People"
Installments 5 and 6 of the series gave more details of the lunar man-bats and reported the existence of what was called the Temple of the Moon, made of sapphire with a roof of gold.
The world was in an uproar about the new-found civilization. Finally, there was an answer to the age old question: Is there life on the moon? A Springfield, Massachusetts missionary society was planning to send missionaries to the moon to convert and civilize the bat men. Who knows how they planned to get there. It wasn't very logical thinking for the time!
Readers of the Sun waited anxiously for more installments of the coverage of the "New Civilization" and the "Moon People". The world faced extreme disappointment when it was reported that the telescope had been left facing an easterly direction and the sun's rays coming through the lens created a fire which destroyed the telescope!
Life Discovered on the Moon - "The Great Moon Hoax"
We know now that the moon is an airless, dead rock but in the 1800's, very little was known about the moon. The idea of life there was very exciting and believable.
However, it wasn't long before readers began to suspect the story was a hoax and just a ruse to sell more newspapers. On September 16, 1835, the New York Sun said there was a "possibility" the story wasn't true but they didn't admit it was a hoax. Unbelievably, their circulation did not suffer and the newspaper never lost the new readers it gained during the "Great Moon Hoax". Mission accomplished!
From an editorial in the New York Sun on August 10, 2010, the 175th anniversary of the hoax:
"So let us just say that one of the things a long newspaper life has taught us about corrections is that, obligatory as they may be when the truth is out, one doesn't want to rush into them. For the moment, let us just say that we’re aware of the claim there are no lunar man-bats, neither on the moon nor here. Rest assured that we’re looking into it. You can check back in this space in 25 years."
I will check the New York Sun on August 10, 2035 to see if they finally admit to the hoax. I plan to still be around on that date but it remains to be seen if the New York Sun will still be in publication.
© 2011 Thelma Raker Coffone
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