This lithograph "depicting" the Great Moon Hoax was published in the Sun in 1835. Credit: Wikipedia

The Great Lunar Deception of 1835, Here’s What You Should Know

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835 is perhaps the greatest lunar deception to ever happen. Although it was debunked fairly quickly, the majority of the population believed in the false stories.

News has been falsified before and will be falsified in the future. But unlike our time, in the 19th century, it was much easier to lead people, and a journalist named Richard Locke took advantage of this when he created the Great Moon Hoax.

In 1835 he worked for one of the largest and most authoritative editions of The New York Sun. In his newspaper, he decided to write an article that on instructions from the government, the famous astronomer John Herschel had built an improved telescope. In it, he said, a telescope and a microscope were combined to first zoom in on an object from a long distance, and then examine it in detail with a microscope.

It sounded convincing enough because he fully described the scheme of operation of this device. But the most interesting thing began later when in his article he spoke about intelligent life on the Moon.

He said that the moon has its own mountains, rivers, forests, and even animals. The inhabitants were humanoid creatures with wings on their backs.

Immediately after publication, this article, as expected, spread throughout America. And if you think that there were few who believed in it, then you are greatly mistaken, skeptics were in the minority, and the overwhelming majority of the population believed the article. This is how the Great Moon Hoax was born.

The immense popularity of Locke’s article launched a whole chain of disinformation – as other publishers did not want to keep up with The New York Sun, they also began to publish articles about mouse people. Even the famous New York Times was among them.

All articles were translated into other languages, including French, German, Russian, and Chinese, after which they were published all over the world. But in Europe, the news did not receive much publicity.

Even more fuel was added to the fire by the news that John Herschel, who was credited with the authorship of this discovery and article, was indeed at one of the largest observatories at that time. Everything got to the point that people tried to contact the winged-humanoids by any means, even seriously considered the idea of ​​making a huge inscription on one of Earth’s plains, and waiting for a response from the moon.

The “Great” Exposure of the Moon Hoax

Soon after the article was published, skeptics began to come to the publishing house, trying to find the source, in the form of publications by European scientists, which, of course, did not exist and Locke had to be very sophisticated in order to banish inquisitive guests. Skeptics left with nothing, and the bacchanalia continued. But this “hysteria” did not last long.

It was stopped by Richard Locke himself. Sitting at the bar, tipsy, he blabbed that he had simply come up with the news. These words were immediately picked up by all the media, and soon the news spread throughout America, but even after that, there were those who believed in the existence of mouse people. Finally, the existence of mice-people was denied by Herschel himself a few years later, at one of his lectures in New York.

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Sources:

• Brownfield, T., Zeldovich, L., & Newcott, B. (2020, August 26). The Great Moon Hoax of 1835. Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2020/08/the-great-moon-hoax-of-1835/

• “The Great Moon Hoax” Is published in the “New York Sun”. (2009, November 24). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-great-moon-hoax

• Great Moon Hoax. (2020, August 08). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Moon_Hoax

• Would you have believed the Great Moon Hoax? (n.d.). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://earthsky.org/human-world/great-moon-hoax-august-25-1835

• Zielinski, S. (2015, July 02). The Great Moon Hoax Was Simply a Sign of Its Time. Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/great-moon-hoax-was-simply-sign-its-time-180955761/

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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