Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Cardiff Giant: American Hoax

Great American hoaxes are part of my latest fascination, especially after reading bits and pieces from Uncle John's 4-Ply Bathroom Reader that was given to me as a gift months ago. The book is filled with a variety of stories, facts, vocabulary, and anything else you may need to win a game of Trivial Pursuit. So while you're busy trying to think of a Michael-is-George-Costanza correlation (Swarm!) let me (Wikipedia) tell you a tale of one of the tallest men in America who never existed:


The Cardiff Giant was the creation of a New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument with a fundamentalist minister named Mr. Turk about the passage in Genesis 6:4 that there were giants who once lived on earth.

Hull hired men to carve out a 10-foot (3.0 m) long, 4.5-inch block ofgypsum in Fort Dodge, Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired a German stonecutter to carve it into the likeness of a man and swore him to secrecy. Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weathered, and the giant's surface was beaten with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores. Then Hull transported the giant by rail to the farm of William Newell, his cousin, in November 1868. He had by then spent US$2,600 on the hoax.

Nearly a year later, Newell hired Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols, ostensibly to dig a well, and on October 16, 1869, they found the Giant. One of the men reportedly exclaimed, "I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!"


It's hard not to be overly amused by this hoax. First, you have to wonder how heated an argument would get between an atheist and a fundamentalist to spark a semi-wealthy asshole to commit to this prank one hundred percent. I can safely assume Mr. Hull was never married and bared no children since he could afford so much effort in dicking with a minister. Not to mention he was a tobacconist and an atheist. I can picture him lighting the biggest cigar with a page right out of the bible.

1998's comedy My Giant starring Billy Crystal and the towering 7'7" Georghe Muresan deserves a cryptic remake and I can't think of a better suited role for myself other than that of George Hull. The plot opens in 1860s New York as the camera zooms in on Hull getting kicked out of a burlesque house for shouting obsentities at a bar stool (Earlier, Hull had accidentally sat on the stool even though it belonged to another patron who had only gotten up briefly to use the restroom). Soused, Hull seeks refuge at a local church where he sleeps for ten hours only to be rudely awakened by the attending minister. The rest pretty much writes itself.

One more thing: Why do I always find out about these things before it's too late? There's some experimental rock group in Bloomington, Indiana who is using Cardiff Giant as their band name. That was so mine!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is actually a really interesting story. P.T. Barnum tried to buy the giant (for $60,000 mind you). when he was turned down he copied the shape of the giant out of wax, then into plaster. Barnum then told the press that HIS giant was a real one. the two then took their giants to court. pretty crazy stuff just to piss off a man of god. but then again if i had the time and money i might do the same.