My Favorite Hoax

Admittedly, crypto-enthusiasts should decry hoaxes as the childish actions they usually are, but sometimes you come across a very humorous prank that wasn't intended to become more than a simple joke, but which fooled a lot of gullible people.

My favorite involves an outdoors column written by Jack Hubley back in the 1980's. Mr. Hubley wrote (still does, I believe) for a Lancaster, Pennsylvania newspaper (either the New Era or the Intelligencer Journal.) Mr. Hubley decided to play a simple April Fools prank. In his column he stated that a "South American dog-eating eagle" had been spotted in the area. He showed a picture of the bird, warned the community to keep their canines on a short leash, and quoted from a biologist (Dr. Robert White) on the natural history of the bird.

Many people realized right off the bat that Mr. Hubley was joking. The picture was of a red-tail or red-shouldered hawk, and most people got the Dr. Bob White pun. Not everyone got the clues, though. Many people became frightened and kept their dogs (and small children) off the streets. One individual went so far as to start screening over the top of the yard.

When it was released that the story was an April Fool's prank, letters to the editor ranged from sightings of "a huge bird ate my volkswagon, tires and all," to letters of outrage from people who had been duped. I talked to several individuals who felt foolish at having believed the story. This despite the fact that Mr. Hubley had run a story a few years earlier, also on April Fool's day, about the Pennsylvania Game Commision releasing tigers to keep the deer populations in check. (Yeah, I wish.)

The newspaper issued an apology, and Mr. Hubley promised not to do it again. Sheesh. My hat is off to Mr. Hubley - it was an enjoyable joke.

I've lost the original article, so I can't give an exact date for this article, but a little investigation should dig it up for people interested.