Date: Thu Sep 16 1993 09:41:16 Subj: History of Hoaxes UFO - Books: Putting panties on pet

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Date: Thu Sep 16 1993 09:41:16 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: History of Hoaxes UFO ------------------------------- Books: Putting panties on pets 05/02/92 THE DAILY TELEGRAPH London HOAXERS AND THEIR VICTIMS by Nick Yapp. Robson, #16.95 THE DIFFERENCE between a hoax and a confidence trick or a fraud is that the true hoaxer does not hope for material gain and his exploits have to be in some sense witty. A famous hoaxer was Horace Cole in the early years of this century - he who organised the state visit of a bogus Emperor of Abyssinia to the flagship of the Home Fleet; who dug a hole with a drill in the middle of Piccadilly; who would stop a passer-by and ask him to hold one end of a piece of string, go round a street corner and ask another passer-by to hold the other end of the string, and then disappear, leaving the two victims standing - once, it was said, for half an hour. Hoaxers and Their Victims is a haphazard chronicle of hoaxes and frauds famous and not so famous. One hoax of wich I had not previously heard was that perpetrated by a G. Clifford Prout Jr who inaugurated the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals - the aim of which, for the sake of public morality, was to clothe all animals, putting "panties on pets, half-slips on cows, and Bermuda shorts on horses". The trouble with this plan was that too many people took it seriously. Prout appeared on television, and his appeal rang bells - "Why do cows have their heads down in the fields? Not because they're grazing but because they're hanging their heads in shame." The aim of this sort of hoax is the worthy one of exposing the pomposity of some people and the gullibility of others. Not quite so worthy, if still amusing, are the intentions of conmen whose ideas are witty even if they are aimed at making money. There was a Victor Lustig in Paris in the 1930s who posed as a civil servant empowered by the French government to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap; it was said to be falling down and would have to be demolished, though ofcourse negotiations with scrap merchants were being held in secret for fear of public outcry. There was an Arthur Furguson who in London in the 1920s had sold bits of Nelson's Column to American tourists with a similar story. One hopes that such men occasionally got away with it. More borderline cases are the famous art forgers - Van Meegeren and Keating - also the literary forgers, in recent times Konrad Kujau of the Hitler Diaries and Clifford Irving of the Howard Hughes biography. In such cases the greed and self-importance of so-called experts were mocked, and there was some virtue in calling into question the whole business of artistic authentication. But still, it is not a long step from such conmen to such gigantic practitioners as Robert Maxwell. Nick Yapp for the most part tells the stories and does not point the morals. But at the end he speculates on how we have perhaps nowadays all put ourselves in the way of being hoaxers and victims: If we see two men fighting in the street we are as likey to believe there is a TV, video or cine camera nearby as that we are witnessing a life-or-death struggle. If we see a young man running up behind an older man in the street, we are as likely to believe it's an advertising campaign for the police as an imminent piece of snatch thievery. We may be living in a society, that is, in which it is big business and official policy as well as entertainment to "con". But then, Nick Yapp suggests, why should we not accept that humans are in the business of making of reality what they can? An artist, after all, is "someone who has presented us with a revered and expensive version of the truth". By far the most interesting hoax or non-hoax or counter-hoax (take your pick) going on is that to do with the phenomena known as crop circles. These, as everyone by now must have heard, are the precisely outlined and meticulously flattened shapes that have been appearing in standing corn for the past few years all over the world but especially in certain parts of England At first it was thought there could be meteorological explanations; then in 1990 and 1991 the forms became so complex that scientists seemed to agree that the activity had to be that of hoaxers if it was not to be seen as paranormal. Towards the end of 1991 two or three groups of hoaxers owned up - notably Doug and Dave, energetic 60-year-olds, who under supervision did indeed make one or two crop-formations with a plank of wood and pieces of string - and even got crop circle "experts" to pronounce them genuine before the hoax was exposed. But then Doug and Dave claimed to have been responsible for such a large number of other crop circles, of far greater inaccessibility and intricacy of design, that their claim in turn appeared almost certain to be a hoax - and one was left, as before, with the prospect of either something paranormal going on, or there being a worldwide army of conspirators of such dedication and skill and commitment to secrecy that the existence of such a network would itself appear to e paranormal. Nick Yapp mentions the crop-circle business briefly, and comments: "What is surprising is the lack of concern on the part of science or society." But then, science and society are conditioned to be concerned only with things about which there can be sensible explanations. One of the claims of those who wish to believe in the paranormal is that we may be having to learn that there are some things for which there are no sensible explanations - that indeed, like artists, we are responsible for our own versions of the truth. --- Maximus/2 2.01wb * Origin: UFOria (Clifton, VA) 703-803-6420 (1:109/369)


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