13 April 2012

The Moon Hoax, 1835

For this year's A-Z challenge, I'm posting juicy tidbits of researchy goodness for your interest and edification. I intend to use these as story prompts for the terrifying writing challenge Story a Day in May. You may use them however you wish.

From Practical Talks by an Astronomer by Harold Jacoby

Astronomer John Herschel set out in 1833 to the Cape of Good Hope so he could get some peace and quiet and study the jewels of the night sky, as visible in the Southern hemisphere. In 1835, the New York Sun began publishing (completely fabricated) articles about his alleged findings. According to these reports, Herschel had discovered life on the moon. The English speaking world went bonkers. 

In his 1902 book Practical Talks by an Astronomer, Harold Jacoby reproduces some of the juicier bits of those reports:

There was animal life as well; "We beheld continuous herds of brown quadrupeds, having all the external characteristics of the bison, but more diminutive than any species of the bos genus in our natural history." There was a kind of beaver, that "carries its young in its arms like a human being," and lives in huts. "From the appearance of smoke in nearly all of them, there is no doubt of its (the beaver's) being acquainted with the use of fire." Finally, as was, of course, unavoidable, human creatures were discovered. "Whilst gazing in a perspective of about half a mile, we were thrilled with astonishment to perceive four successive flocks of large-winged creatures, wholly unlike any kind of birds, descend with a slow, even motion from the cliffs on the western side, and alight upon the plain.... Certainly they were like human beings, and their attitude in walking was both erect and dignified."

A typical moon-dwelling humanoid, circa 1835.

In fact Herschel was busy observing some 1300 new star clusters and nebulae. Jacoby doesn't record Herschel's response, if there was any, to the hoax. Jacoby does have this to say about it: "The public attitude toward matters scientific is one of the mysteries of our time. It can be described best by the single word, Credulity; simple, absolute credulity."


Kyra Lennon said...

Interesting stuff!

Masquerade Crew said...

My my! What people did to entertain themselves before TV! Actually it was probably a lot better back then. We now have reality TV ... what the heck?

Pick up a book and read.

Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. We're doing guest post writing tips.

Bushman said...

Sounds like he discovered magic mushrooms!

Luanne G. Smith said...

That is so crazy. I know people must have believed it too. Reminds me of that turn of the century movie footage of the man in the moon they highlighted in the movie, HUGO.

Jenny said...

Love your theme! Thanks for the many juicy tidbits.

Emily Genther said...

Haha Harvey Birdman as a moon dweller. Love it!

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

You have a good idea in posting juicy tidbits of research to use later as writing prompts. I kept each of my A to Z posts to 200 words and plan to use my research for future posts.
posting juicy tidbits of researchy

Joyful Minimalism said...

Oh! I love this!!!

Your theme continues to rock, Elizabeth!