The Great Moon Hoax that Rivaled Jules Verne

In August of 1835, the fledgling New York Sun printed the most astonishing news. Life had been discovered on the moon! An excited public ate it up, and what may have been intended as a satirical poke at past religious and “scientific” articles became the Great Moon Hoax.

Story was a Story was a “reprint” from a supplement to the (nonexistent) Edinburgh Journal of Science Tue, Oct 1, 1957 – Page 14 · The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, New York) · Newspapers.com

As described in the clipping above, probable author Richard Adams Locke presented the article as originating from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. That, along with the name-drop of famous astronomer Sir John Herschel, lent credibility to an otherwise incredible story.

With the use of a powerful telescope, “Herschel” and his (entirely fictional) colleague, Dr. Grant, were able to make some remarkable discoveries on the moon’s surface. First, the article describes the land and vegetation.

First organic production of nature in a foreign worldFirst organic production of nature in a foreign world Fri, Sep 4, 1835 – Page 3 · Newbern Spectator (New Bern, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com

There were descriptions of beautiful beaches lining deep blue water, green marble walls of stone, huge pyramidal amethysts that stretched for miles, and red, crystallized hills. But the most amazing discovery of all were the creatures.

The moon and its life formsThe moon and its life forms Thu, Aug 25, 2011 – Page 1-2 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Herds of something like bison, tail-less beavers that walked upright, majestic birds,  beautiful black-antlered stags, and blue goat-unicorns were just some of the fauna described in “Dr. Grant’s” account. But the most exciting and sensational discovery of all was the humanoid “man-bat.”

The man-bats of the moonThe man-bats of the moon Fri, Sep 4, 1835 – Page 3 · Newbern Spectator (New Bern, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com

The man-batsThe man-bats Sun, Feb 25, 1962 – 75 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.com

It sounds ridiculous now, and to many it sounded ridiculous then. When the telescope that brought all this marvelous insight into the life on the moon “broke,” it didn’t take long for the truth of the hoax to come to light. Oddly enough, most people didn’t really seem to mind.

Kept on Buying itKept on Buying it Fri, Oct 4, 1957 – Page 24 · Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com

Comment by Professor Ulf Jonas BjorkComment by Professor Ulf Jonas Bjork Thu, Aug 25, 2011 – Page 1-2 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Who needs the truth when you can have a good story?

Find more on the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, including the original articles that were circulated at the time of the hoax, with a search on Newspapers.com.

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