New York State Hoaxes and Legends – The Cardiff Giant
Recently I wrote an article about hoaxes, legends, and wild imaginations, and the topic was the legendary 'Champ' creature from Lake Champlain in northeastern New York State.
Well, there are more hoaxes and legends from New York State, and one of them you may have heard of is the Cardiff Giant. This story as we all know was most certainly a hoax. When the discovery was made, the world was fooled into thinking it was real. I was the DJ for a wedding at the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum several years ago, and in the next room from the reception, lay the world-famous Cardiff Giant. (I hope he enjoyed the music I was playing.)
As the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum website explains, the idea for this hoax, was the brainchild of George Hull, a businessman from the Binghamton area. The idea was a get-rich-quick scheme, and it worked.
In 1868, Hull had a stonecutter take a five-ton block of gypsum and mold it into the shape of a petrified man. When it was completed, the fake body was buried in Cardiff, New York. In 1869, Hull hired workmen to dig a well exactly where the giant had been buried, and news spread around the world of this unbelievable discovery of a petrified man, just over 10 feet tall.
People came from near and far to see the Cardiff Giant. Some thought the giant was a part of an ancient race mentioned in Genesis. There were other theories as to the origins of the Cardiff Giant as well. Eventually, the sculpture fessed up to the hoax. In 1947, the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum purchased the Cardiff Giant which is now on display in the main building.
The History Channel website mentions that P.T. Barnum offered to buy the Cardiff Giant but was turned down, so he has a replica made and put it on display in a New York City museum. And the article mentions that the person who created the forgery for P.T. Barnum made more copies and put them on exhibit around the country.
Check out the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum website and the History Channel website for the complete tale of this strange and twisted hoax, along with pictures. And of course, if you are in the Cooperstown, NY area, stop by the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum, and see the Cardiff Giant for yourself.
Small Towns In the Southern Tier and Central NY