I found an interesting non-fiction (audio) book at the library yesterday - The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matthew Goodman. It's about the Great Moon Hoax. Here's some of what Wikipedia has on that ....
"The Great Moon Hoax" was a series of six articles that were published in the New York Sun beginning on August 25, 1835, about the supposed discovery of life and even civilization on the Moon. The discoveries were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, perhaps the best-known astronomer of his time.
The headline read:
GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES LATELY MADE
BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c.
At the Cape of Good Hope
[From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]
The articles described fantastic animals on the Moon, including bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-like winged humanoids ("Vespertilio-homo") who built temples. There were trees and oceans and beaches. These discoveries were supposedly made with "an immense telescope of an entirely new principle". The author of the narrative was supposedly Dr Andrew Grant, who described himself as the travelling companion and amanuensis of Sir John Herschel, but Dr Grant was fictitious.
Authorship of the article has been attributed to Richard A. Locke, a Cambridge-educated reporter who, in August 1835, was working for the New York Sun. Locke never publicly admitted to being the author ..... [the] object of Locke's satire was certainly Rev. Thomas Dick, who was known as "The Christian Philosopher" after the title of his first book. Dick had computed that the Solar System contained 21,891,974,404,480 (21+ trillion) inhabitants. In fact, the Moon alone, by his count, would contain 4,200,000,000 inhabitants. His writings were enormously popular in the United States, his fans including intellectual luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson ...... The story may also have inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write and publish "The Balloon-Hoax" in the same newspaper on April 13, 1844 ......
I'd like to think that hoaxes like this can no longer be perpetrated, given the access we currently have to global news, but even now it's not so easy to tell what's real and what's cooked .... though the internet allows hoax-busters to set things straight, it also allows for the faster growth of such hoaxes. But anyway, I like the idea of Vespertilio-homo :)
- 1835 lithograph of Lunar Man-Bats