If there are
some sure ingredients to fast and sleezy wealth they have to
include superstition, quackery, humbug, and outright fraud. As
stated in one of P.T. Barnum’s, less famous quotes, “Advertising
is to a genuine article what manure is to land, – it largely
increases the product.” I mention P.T. Barnum only that he
became a beneficiary of a most financially auspicious event.
The setting for the
tale was a little farm in Onondaga County, New York near the
small town of Cardiff. On October 16, 1869. Laborers had been
digging a well when they came upon an amazing discovery. Lo and
behold, they found what looked to be a petrified man. The
fellow was enormous. He was taller than ten-feet. His feet were
19-and-a-half inches long. His hands were seven-inches wide, and
his shoulders measured a full yard across.
the area couldn’t comprehend what had been found. One expert
said, for sure, he was one giant naked man. Some people thought
he was the petrified remains of a race of giants. There were
even a scattered few who silently believed that the object was
simply a giant-sized hoax.
Indeed, the Cardiff
Giant was the humbug of an insightful man, named George Hull.
He didn’t understand why some people believe every single thing
they read in the Bible. He was especially astonished that folks
put much faith into the statement about a time when there were
giants in the Earth.
Hull dreamed up his
scheme to carve a giant man from stone, then keep it buried for
a year to make it look really old. He then would manage to have
it “accidentally discovered” later on. Hull had some powerful
motivation of revenge to go through with his scheme. He’d had
enough of the Biblical literalists of his day who ridiculed Hull
for his more open minded interpretation of the book. He
believed, correctly, that the petrified man could make religious
literalists look foolish. Not only that, but Hull could probably
make a handsome sum of cash out of the project, too.
Because there were
no radios, tvs, movies, nor Internet back then, people didn’t
have as much for diversion or entertainment like we enjoy
today. So, Hull and his employees charged admission to view the
Giant Petrified Man. During the first week, they took in
thousands of dollars.
Soon, the “find” was
put on tour in the Northeastern United States. The exhibit was
wildly famous and attracted the attention of P.T. Barnum who
unsuccessfully tried to purchase the thing for his own
sideshows. Barnum went ahead and had a fake copy created for his
A few months later,
Hull finally revealed the truth about the famous Giant. Even
after the revelation of the prank, many Christian
fundamentalists and evangelical preachers continued to vouch for
the Giants authenticity. Because of the religionists and
general public’s curiosity, the exhibit and Barnum’s remained
mildly popular for a couple of years. But, after awhile the
memories of the scam faded away, almost completely.
P.T. Barnum’s copy
of the fake was said to be sold to an oddities museum in
Farmington Hills, Michigan. The owner of “Marvin’s Marvelous
Mechanical Museum” swears that it’s the authentic fake of the
The last public
appearance of the original prank copy of the Cardiff Giant was
in the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, but it was of little
interest to fair goers. An Iowa newspaperman purchased the
Giant as a decoration for his home. The piece was then sold to
the Farmer’s Museum of Cooperstown, New York in 1947. Evidently,
it remains on display, there.
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
Back to Main