Monday, September 23, 2013

How I Learned to Love the Hoax -Sitting Now

Originally published September 23, 2013 via sittingnow.co.uk

“Hoax” is the dirtiest of words, isn’t it?  Not only is it a lie, it’s a lie that makes us look stupid.  And it works double-time.  If it’s believable, you feel dumb for being gullible.  If it’s not, you feel dumb just for sharing DNA with the perpetrator.

But some hoaxes can have a positive effect, leaving us laughing at ourselves, and walking away with a pleasant experience.  The famous Nantucket Sea Serpent, for instance, was a hoax that wasn’t meant to denigrate its witnesses in any way.

Tony Sarg, an illustrator who would come to be known as “America’s Puppet Master,” was the designer of the first large-scale helium balloon animals used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 1928.  These massive balloons have since become a tradition, and seeing a Thanksgiving parade without one would be unthinkable.  In 1933, he performed a puppet show at the World’s Fair in Chicago with an audience of over 3 million.  And in 1937, he took part in one of the most fun hoaxes ever.

During the summer months in Nantucket, Massachusetts, sightings of a monstrous sea creature were reported in the local newspaper.  Soon, photos of men measuring large footprints allegedly left by the beast were published. The local community began to buzz over the news.

Then, in July, the serpent appeared.  Beached on the shore, the massive rubber creature became a major tourist attraction, bringing sightseers from all over America’s east coast to view it before it was entered into the Thanksgiving Parade, later that year.  Photos of tourists and children playing around the puppet don’t seem to show a single person upset by the hoax.

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