Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

I Am Not Making This Up: Hoaxes And Humbugs

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 12•17
P.T. Barnum is famously quoted as saying “there is a sucker born every minute.”  While he may not have said it, it’s easy to conceive that he believed it, with some of the “humbugs” he exhibited.  
 
Here then, are some of the more famous humbugs associated with P.T. Barnum.
 
The “FeeJee” Mermaid
 

Not the kind of mermaid your child wants to theme a birthday party around.


Barnum exhibited his FeeJee mermaid in his American Museum.  The exhibit featured the head and torso of a mermaid sewn onto the tail of a fish.  The original probably burned with Barnum’s museum, though several copies exist.  You can see photos and video on the internet, if you want something to fuel your nightmares.
 
The Cardiff Giant
 
The Cardiff Giant was a hoax created by George Hull, a tobacconist and atheist to make a local Methodist preacher look foolish after the two quarreled. 
 
Hull had a 10 foot statue carved from gypsum in the likeness of a man.  He then had it buried on the farm  of his cousin, William “Stub” Newell in Cardiff, New York. 
 

You could say it was a giant hoax.


Newell waited a year, then had a well dug, and waited for the diggers to find the giant. 
 
The giant “petrified man” was immediately proclaimed by some ministers as evidence of biblical giants, though archaeologists said it must be fake.
 
Newell immediately started exhibiting the giant, and turned a hefty profit.  
 
Barnum wanted to buy the giant.  When the trust controlling the giant wouldn’t sell it, Barnum had his own created, and exhibited it as the “real Cardiff Giant.”
 
The Egress
 
When Barnum’s museum had a problem with overcrowding, he solved it by putting up signs advertising “the great egress.”  When curiosity seekers rushed to see the egress, they found themselves exiting the building.  Egress was a word Barnum used to mean exit. 
 
Though trickery was an element of Barnum’s attractions, Barnum made being tricked a feature, not a bug.  Even as he conned people out of their money, they had such a good time, they never seemed to mind being conned. 

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