Top 10 paranormal hoaxes

Written by nick redfern | 13/05/2017
Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Close encounters of the jokey kind (Getty Editorial)

They were the controversial cases, events and close encounters that got monster-hunters, paranormal investigators, conspiracy-theorists and UFO spotters in states of deep anticipation and high excitement. They even caught the attention of the mainstream media and the general public - sometimes to a massive degree. They involved everything from photos of fairies to gigantic crop circles in the fields of the UK, aliens from other worlds to Bigfoot in the woods, and the Loch Ness Monster to NASA's Apollo Moon-landing missions. They're the biggest, most outrageous, and undeniably entertaining top 10 hoaxes of the paranormal kind. And here they are...

Running around in circles

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Having a field day (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

No-one can deny the skilled artistry involved. And they work wonders for the tourist industry in Wiltshire, England, where most of them appear every year. They're crop circles. But who is creating them? Aliens, secret military projects, and even mating hedgehogs have been blamed! In 1999, however, a Welshman, Matthew Williams, was arrested and convicted for making such a formation. The charge: damage to property. Since then, Williams has found himself in high demand from TV companies wanting someone to demonstrate the ease with which these fantastic creations can be made. Crop circle researchers really don't like Matt.

Related: Video on calligraphy in crop circle designs

Nothing but a fairy-tale

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Photographic fakery (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was bright and intelligent, a skilled writer, and the man who created the world's most famous private detective, Sherlock Holmes. But Doyle had another string to his bow: he believed in fairies. Rather amazingly, in 1917, Sir Arthur was utterly taken in by two young girls who fabricated a number of pretty good photos that seemed to show real-life fairies hanging out in Cottingley, Bradford. It was all a good-natured prank that got out of control. In the 1980s, the two girls - by now old ladies - finally admitted the hoax. No fairies after all.

Related: Top 10 TV detectives

E.T. gets sliced and diced

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Almost Oscar-winning (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

In 1995, a man named Ray Santilli provoked uproar when he unleashed what has infamously become known as the "Alien Autopsy Film." Supposedly showing the secret dissection by the U.S. military of an E.T. recovered from a crashed UFO during the 1940s, it was actually nothing of the sort. In 2006 the "body" was revealed to be a very well put together special-effect. As for the autopsy-team, it was comprised of Santilli's mates. UFO sleuths steamed. A fictional film on the matter, starring Ant and Dec, was soon released. Ray raked in the dosh.

Related: Top 10 Dr Who villains

A monster-sized caper

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
From Bigfoot to big nothing (Getty Editorial)

It was what fans of Sasquatch had waited for so long to hear. A Bigfoot had been bagged. At last! A real one. And, its body was carefully preserved in someone's freezer. Amazing, right? Nope. An appropriately monstrous hoax? Yep. It all began in July 2008 when two chaps, Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton, claimed to have found a Bigfoot body in the woods of Georgia, USA. The media went insane. The BBC and CNN were soon on the case. Anticipation was high. So was gullibility. There was no Bigfoot. If it's any consolation to creature-seekers, the freezer was real.

Related: 10 Historical lies that Hollywood made us all believe

Lunar lunacy

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
One giant con for mankind? (Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

It's one of those wacky tales that refuses to go away. It's believed by millions. It causes NASA untold headaches. It's the theory that the Apollo Moon-landings of 1969-1972 were hoaxed. Well, we're here to tell you that it's the hoax-theory that is the hoax! Despite what the conspiracy-theorists claim, no hard evidence has ever surfaced to suggest the historic events did not occur just as NASA claims. No whistle-blower has ever come forward claiming: "I was one of the cameramen in the studio when the films were shot." When Neil Armstrong made that giant leap, he really did!

Related: How to spot the northern star and other constellations

A giant-sized joke

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
A caper in Cardiff (Ciaran Griffin/Lifesize/Getty Images)

It's one of the biggest hoaxes in American history, and it caught the imaginations of thousands. It's the saga of the Cardiff-Giant: the body of a 10-foot-tall man, supposedly found on October 16, 1869, by workmen digging a well in Cardiff, New York. In reality, however, the giant was nothing of the sort. It was actually the brainchild of a man named George Hull. He was an atheist who created the mighty form, as a joke, after an argument with a fundamentalist preacher about a section in the Bible stating that giants once roamed the Earth. Hugely deceptive!

Related: How to know if someone is lying

Nessie? Not nessie-sarily

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
A hunter and a hoax (Getty Editorial)

Whether we believe in it or not, there are probably very few of us who would not find it exciting to learn that a monster really does lurk deep in the dark waters of Loch Ness, Scotland. And maybe it does! The problem is that monsters bring out monster-hoaxers. Back in the 1930s, a professional, big-game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell thought he had struck gold when he found strange footprints on the shore of the loch. He excitedly got them analysed. Dinosaur tracks? No. Hippopotamus prints. Say what? Yep, Wetherell had got pranked. Unless Nessie is a hippo, of course...

Related: How to become a Cryptozoologist

From werewolf to no wolf

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Hoaxing a horror legend (Getty Editorial)

An American Werewolf in London, Underworld, The Wolfman: most of us have seen them and been mightily entertained in the process. But what about real werewolves? Such a possibility got a big boost in 2007, when a piece of allegedly old footage - known as the "Gable Film", after the name on the canister - surfaced in Michigan, USA. After rigorous analysis, however, and, finally, a confession from the man in the suit - Mike Agrusa - the result was in: a bit of fun that quickly became something else for many. The werewolf-hunting community was not happy.

Related: Top 10 British horror films

Japes and apes

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Not the missing link, after all (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Some monster-hunters may tell you that the Yeti is the legendary "missing link" between humans and apes. But, long before it entered popular-culture, there was Piltdown Man, who hit the big-time in 1912. Or, more correctly, parts of him did. Those parts - sections of a skull and jawbone - were supposedly found, in 1908, in an old pit in Piltdown, Sussex. Scientists excitedly expressed amazement at the incredibly discovery. Well, they did until 1953, when the whole thing collapsed: the skull-fragments were shown to be from a modern-day man. The jawbone? That of an orangutan. Talk about monkeying around!

Related: 12 Practical steps to becoming a cryptozoologist

Hoaxing in the woods

Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
Leaving a monster-sized mark (Getty Editorial)

Bigfoot fascinates many, but it's a beast that hoaxers just love. One of them was Ray Wallace; a man who died in 2002, and who most Sasquatch-seekers would prefer to forget. A logger and construction-worker, Wallace enjoyed wandering around the woods of California playing pranks. Specifically, those pranks involved strapping on a large pair of wooden feet and stomping around leaving as many distinct tracks as he possibly could. In fact, those feet weren't just large. They were Bigfoot-sized. How many such tracks, famously attributed to Sasquatch, may actually have been down to Wallace is anyone's guess.

Related: The UK's top 10 unsolved mysteries

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