1. Toilet Spiders
For whatever reason, a couple years ago a rumor circulated about the existence of arachnids gluteus, spiders that live under toilet seats (specifically) and have a penchant for butt-biting. Symptoms of such an attack would result in fever, chills, paralysis, and ultimately, death. Fortunately, though our world is often a rough place, it’s not quite THAT terrifying.
2. The Cardiff Giant
1868 makes the year that one of the first practical jokers emerged—his name? George Hull. That year he commissioned a 10-foot-tall man to be carved of stone, buried it in Cardiff, NY, and waited. A year later, workers were digging a well and discovered the “giant”—believing it not to just be an ancient statue, but actually a fossilized giant. Thousands came to see it, paying a cool 50 cents to check it out. Only after a pretty penny was made did Hull own up to the joke.
4. The War of the Worlds
In the 1930s, the world was on the precipice of yet another global war, and reports interrupted radio broadcasts daily to deliver news of catastrophes across the Atlantic. This hysteria came to its climax on October 30, 1938, when a report came in that hostile Martians had landed in New Jersey (naturally). People barricaded themselves—packed and left—grabbed armaments. Meanwhile, Orson Welles continued reading what his listeners would soon discover was a radio play of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds.
5. Eagle Snatches Baby
After a video of an eagle picking up and dropping a baby surfaced late last year, the Internet was shocked. It immediately went viral, and immediately people questioned its authenticity—though the majority believed it was real. A couple weeks later, the people behind it finally took credit for creating the masterful video edit: three video production students at Centre NAD in Montreal.
6. The Surgeon’s Photograph
In 1934 (the ’30s were a crazy time), a Dr. Wilson claimed to have photographic evidence of the fabled Loch Ness monster—catching a glimpse of its head and neck while just gazing at a loch (like you do). A mere 41 years later, experts declared the Loch Ness to actually be a protruding “object,” in the loch, and not the monster we’d all love to find.
7. The Bohemian Club
The Bohemian Club of San Francisco was originally believed to be an organization of rich and powerful politicians who secretly worshipped owls and dressed up in hoods and did… whatever it is such a cult would do. While it’s not entirely clear what the members did do, owls were only adopted as a symbol of knowledge.
8. Woman Gets 118-Degree Fever
Reenactment of a woman with a fever in 1923. (Not actually a woman with a fever in 1923.)
In the 1920s, a woman pretended to have an 118-degree fever for weeks. No one could figure out why she wasn’t dying and it was covered in newspapers around the country. It turned out she would just hold the thermometer on a hot water bottle when people weren’t looking. … And that’s how you got famous back in the early 20th century.
9. The Goat Gland Cure-All
In perhaps the most upsetting example on this list, Dr. John Brinkley made millions of dollars convincing people that having goat glands surgically inserted into them would make them young and cure almost anything. Turns out—surprisingly—they don’t do any of that. And did we mention that he ran for governor of Kansas?
10. The Balloon Boy
Back in 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene released a large, helium-filled balloon into the Colorado atmosphere and subsequently claimed their six-year-old son, Falcon, was trapped inside it. The event garnered worldwide attention because the balloon looked like a UFO (and the kid-being-inside-it thing)—but little did everyone know that it was just a balloon. Falcon, meanwhile, was just chilling in the family’s attic.
When he finally owned up to it on Larry King Live, he said it was done for the show. Worth it? Probably not, considering the parents were jailed for some days and had to pay a $36,000 fine.