5 Clever Hoaxes That Fooled The World – Top5s
Bizarre & Interesting

5 Clever Hoaxes That Fooled The World

09 Oct 2017

Most people like to think that they would be able to spot when something wasn’t real, and they would hate to admit that they had been fooled. However, many such instances exist where people have been put in this situation from eminent experts to entire nations. With a deliberate intention to deceive, here are five hoaxes that did just that….

5The Cottingley Fairies

Two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, devised a ruse that even the famous author Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, found genuine.

In 1917 and over the next three years, the girls took a series of photographs of themselves that appeared to show them posing with fairies. So convinced was Conan Doyle that he used them to illustrate an article he had written in The Strand Magazine.

Doyle was a keen spiritualist and was certain that the photographs were proof of the existence of fairies. Even experts from the Kodak photographic company declared that they showed no signs of being fake.
There were many sceptics as well as believers, but after time, interest in the photographs disappeared. It wasn’t until a Daily Express newspaper feature in the mid-1960s that they became a national talking point again.

However, over sixty years later in 1983 the two now older women admitted that it had been a hoax. They had cut out pictures of dancing girls from a children’s book, drew wings upon them and pasted them onto cardboard. Using hat pins as support, the two placed the figures around them as they took their now famous pictures.

4The Hitler Diaries

To look inside the mind of Adolf Hitler, the man who led his country and eventually the world into history’s greatest and most horrific war was .something that many authors and psychiatrists have pondered through a variety of publications over the years.

Hitler’s diary was said to have been recovered in East Germany from a crashed plane. Indeed it is a known fact that the last plane out of Berlin in the closing days of the war crashed on April 20th, 1945 and may have contained important documents.

Konrad Kujau ran a shop that sold Nazi memorabilia, and it was through a client that he had passed a diary, said to have been kept by Adolf Hitler, to the German magazine Stern and after negotiating a deal worth 9.3 million Deutsche Marks (£2.33 million or $3.7 million), the magazine agreed to serialise extracts from the diaries.

The UK Newspaper, The Sunday Times also began to reproduce extracts from some 60 volumes of Hitler’s own thoughts. The renowned British historian Hugh Roper-Davies declared the diaries as genuine. However, just before publication, he announced he had changed his mind. Doubt set in and further investigations showed many errors including the paper having been stained with tea in order to appear aged.

Kujau finally admitted he had forged the diary and in 1984 sentenced to a four-and-half year prison sentence. After his release from prison, he became a sort of celebrity forger.
Kujau died of cancer in 2000.

3Piltdown Man

The discovery in 1912 of human-like skull fragments near the village of Piltdown, East Sussex led it’s discoverer, Charles Dawson, to claim that he had found the ‘missing link’ between ape and man. This new species was said to date from about 500,000 years B.C.

Further excavations revealed more remains and these were pieced together to produce a previously undiscovered subspecies of human.

Dawson contacted Arthur Smith Woodward of the Natural History Museum in London about his discovery. Smith Woodward then created a reconstruction of the skull using the pieces already found. The announcement of this discovery was made to the Geological Society later that year.

In 1949 Dr Kenneth Oakley, a geologist at the Natural History Museum raised concerns after dating tests on the skull, and he concluded that the fragments were only some 50,000 years old. This would disprove the new species theory as humans had already developed into Homo Sapiens by then.
Further tests proved that the bone fragments were not even from the same individual, and were actually a mixture of human and ape remains and in 1953 it was declared that Piltdown was an elaborate hoax.

However, it wasn’t until 2016 and the emergence of DNA testing that the full evidence of the hoax was released and despite initial thoughts that others had to be in on the hoax; it was concluded that Dawson orchestrated the entire thing alone as he was the only person in his circles with sufficient scientific knowledge to have carried off the deception that was believed for almost 37 years!

Although Charles Dawson never received a knighthood, like many others associated with the Piltdown “find” did. He did receive many accolades in recognition for Piltdown as well as many other discoveries he made. However, Dawson died at the age of 31, in 1916 and not surprisingly following his death no further finds were made at Piltdown.

2The Surgeon’s Photograph

An instantly recognisable photograph was supposedly taken by Robert Wilson, a London surgeon, and published in the Daily Mail newspaper on 21st April 1934. It showed what purported to be an animal-like figure raising its head out of the waters of Loch Ness.

A year earlier, a newspaper carried a report of a man and wife who spotted a dragon-like creature walking across a road towards the loch. That incident started the modern legend of the Loch Ness monster.
A total of four photographs of the supposed creature were taken. However, the picture showing the creature moving at speed, which can be confirmed by the ripple patterns in the water, is the most famous.

Many argued that this was undeniable proof that the monster existed and although others called it a fake, it was difficult to prove but was finally exposed as a hoax in 1999. An employee of the Daily Mail, Marmaduke Wetherall, conspired with others to build a fake monster using a toy submarine, pieces of wood and putty. When completed, it was tested then finally launched on Loch Ness.

Soon after the photographs were taken; which Wilson disassociated himself from, the model was sunk, so no evidence remained.

1Operation Fortitude

In 1944 it was obvious that the Allies would soon be landing in occupied Europe. Exactly where was the question the Allies wanted Nazi Germany to keep guessing…

An elaborate plan was devised to keep the Nazi leaders wondering where the invasion would take place. Operation Fortitude was part of the overall plan called Operation Bodyguard. The purpose of the operation was to keep German troops away from the landing grounds in Normandy. The allies succeeded in this in many ways.

A large part of the deception was to create a ‘phantom’ army – one that existed on paper only. By appointing it’s most famous General, George Patton to command this army, the allies convinced the enemy that it existed. Increased radio traffic, dummy tanks and aircraft helped to maintain the illusion that a major force was waiting to invade the Pas De Calais area of France.

Using double agents, including the famous ‘Garbo’ to feed false and misleading information to German intelligence gave an overall picture that the main Allied landings would not be made on D-Day.

The operation was a success as Hitler remained convinced that the Normandy landings were a diversion and the Allied hoax led to eventual victory on the western front.


Submitted by Paul Galliford