8 Greatest Hoaxes Of All Time

Would These Hoaxes Fool You?

4. Naked Came The Stranger

Cover of the novel Naked Came The Stranger - 8 Greatest Hoaxes Of All Time


In 1969 an independent publishing company released the first edition of Naked Came The Stranger, a novel that spent 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The book was the idea of Newsday columnist Mike McGrady who was so disgusted with the over sexed and smutty bestselling novels of the times that he set out to prove his point by deliberately penning a book so void of social value and merit that it surely could not be taken seriously. He enlisted the help of 24 of his colleagues to write one chapter each instructing all that there should be “an unremitting emphasis on sex.” The writing credit for Naked Came The Stranger was attributed to Penelope Ashe, a fake author portrayed by McGrady’s sister-in-law.

The book quickly began to sell with readers devouring the idea of an unsuspecting housewife author living out her wild fantasies through her pen. The book sold more than 20, 000 copies in just a few months when McGrady decided to reveal the hoax. The controversy only fueled interest in the book and by the end of the year Naked Came The Stranger had sold more than 100, 000 copies.

3. The Fiji Mermaid

Photo of the Fiji Mermaid - 8 Greatest Hoaxes Of All Time


In 1822, an american sea captain by the name of Samuel Barrett Edes purchased an unusual creature from Japanese sailors. At the time, it was common for fisherman from Japan to create “mermaids” for religious rituals by stitching the upper body of a monkey to the lower half of a large fish. After the death of the sea captain, his son sold the creature to Moses Kimball of the Boston Museum. In 1842 Kimball took the mermaid to New York to show the famous showman P. T. Barnum. Barnum had a naturalist examine the creature who concluded that although he did not believe in mermaids he could not see how such a specimen could have been faked.

To generate hype for the mermaid, P. T. Barnum had one of his associates check into a hotel and show the creature to the owner as thanks for his hospitality. Word quickly spread to local newspapers who ran the story and public curiosity for the creature quickly grew. The mermaid was put on display for a short time in New York before it mysteriously disappeared from public view. In the 1860’s part of Barnum’s museum burnt down and it was believed that the exhibition was destroyed in the fire.

2. Operation Mincemeat

Photo of Major William Martin's naval identity card - 8 Greatest Hoaxes Of All Time


In 1943, during World War II, the British defence forces carried out one of the greatest deception missions of all time. Operation Mincemeat was the brainchild of a committee lead by Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley of the Royal Air Force and Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu of the Royal Navy. Using the recently deceased body of 34 year old Welsh man, Glyndwr Michael, they set about forging fake documents and devising a convincingly elaborate backstory to create a soldier who never existed, Major William Martin of the Royal Marines. Major Martin was released into the waters of the coast of Spain and drifted ashore soon after.

The corpse was found by a local fisherman who promptly alerted the authorities. The corpse was clothed in Royal Marines battledress and coat and found with a mysterious briefcase. Inside the briefcase several ‘top secret’ documents were discovered detailing plans by the Allies to invade Greece and Sardinia. The documents eventually found their way to German high command and Adolf Hitler who was convinced with the authenticity of the find. The Germans redirected soldiers and equipment from several campaigns in anticipation of the secret attacks.

On the 9th July 1943, The Allies invaded Sicily but the Germans, still convinced by the top secret documents they had intercepted remained poised for invasions in Greece and Sardinia. The Germans refused to act for 2 more weeks and by the time they did it was too late. The Allies had gained an important foothold on continental Europe.

  1. The War of The Worlds

Photo of Orson Welles on the New York Times performing War Of The Worlds - 8 Greatest Hoaxes Of All Time

The Skeptical Teacher

In 1938 panic gripped the U.S. as a radio broadcast announced that Grover’s Mill, a small town in New Jersey was being invaded by aliens. The program was actually a Halloween special of the radio anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air directed and narrated by actor Orson Welles. The broadcast was an adaptation of the classic H. G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds delivered in the style of a breaking news bulletin.

The news bulletin style caused so much confusion with the public that in the days following the performance, there was pressure for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the way in which radio programs could be broadcast.


The 8 greatest hoaxes of all time. What do you think about this list? Can you think of a better hoax we may have missed? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.