Plus, furry, bat-like humans on the moon.
In August 1835, The Sun in New York published a series of six articles describing the astonishing findings of the esteemed astronomer, Sir John Herschel.
The newspaper breathlessly reported that Herschel had set up his remarkably powerful telescope at the Cape of Good Hope, resulting in his discovery of a rich diversity of life on the lunar surface.
In great detail, the six articles described trees, vegetation, oceans, beaches, cranes, pelicans, bison, goats, and — most extraordinary of all — furry, winged humans, resembling bats.
All on the moon.
Of course, the New York public lapped up the spectacular news, resulting in The Sun ending the month with a circulation of 19,360, which it claimed made it the world’s most popular newspaper.
But there was one problem.
You see, soon after the articles appeared, the newspaper’s editor admitted that the whole thing was a downright hoax.
Although Herschel was real enough (but not involved in any way with the deception), and he had indeed recently been to the Cape of Good Hope, the entire story was made up, designed to increase The Sun’s circulation. Which, of course, it did.
Strangely, however, even after the hoax was admitted, The Sun’s readers didn’t cancel their subscriptions.
We may imagine that fake news is something new, and, of course, the internet does indeed make it easier than ever to spread made-up stories, but the truth is that it’s been around a long time.
In fact, the whole idea of deliberately fake stories appeared on our own horizon last week, when we were rather randomly wondering about poop-related world records.
Happily, Google scratched our world-record itch, with various web pages telling the tale of an enterprising (and at the time unnamed) young woman from Ann Arbor who, in 1995, supposedly produced one single bowel motion 26 feet long.
According to various online reports, and supported by video stills, the woman worked in conjunction with a nutritionist from the University of Michigan, who placed her on a high fiber diet for a week while also, uh, plugging her butt.
The great uncorking took place at the Cranbrook-Kingswood High School bowling alley, as this was apparently the only place in town with a flat area large enough to lay down such a whopper.
According to a clock in the corner of the video stills, the young woman took something like twenty minutes to squeeze out her record-breaking butt nugget, which, reports explained, was the length of her entire colon, including the intestine.
The stills show it lying neatly down the length of one of the alley’s lanes, leading one online commenter to remark: “I can’t quite imagine duck-walking for  feet while streaming a turd.”
So, where did this reflection appear?
Well, on Snopes.com, which, of course, sadly leads us to the revelation that this story, just like the 1835 moon one, was in fact an utter hoax.It was actually engineered by artist Michelle Hines in a performance piece she called “World Record #4: Peristaltic Action.”
There appears to be no actual video evidence of Ms. Hines’ performance piece, even on YouTube (or should that be PooTube?), just the aforementioned “stills” and her claim at the time that “the week-long endurance prior to the event was ensured by the employment of a plug specifically designed to curtail any premature excretions.”
But if this was World Record #4 (and surely it really should have been #2), what other records did Michelle Hines supposedly break?
Well, we do know that #1 was claimed for the world’s largest ear of corn.
The artist explained: “In the early fall of 1994, I harvested this mammoth ear of sweet corn, measuring six feet, six-and-a-half inches, and weighing over 175 pounds. The chemicals used to enhance growth were developed in collaboration with agricultural chemists at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.”
Sounds kind of plausible, doesn’t it?
Another university referenced. Just enough detail on the methodology.
But nope, this was yet another hoax masquerading as an art project.
Actually, Michelle Hines herself has a relatively light online profile — no Wikipedia page, for example.
So might she, too, be a hoax?
Well, we think not, although, it does make you wonder.
For now, though, we live in awe of a woman who convinced the world 22 years ago that she’d hatched a hankey only a little shorter than the length of an average stretch limo (a stretch Lincoln Town Car is about 28 feet long).
On a bowling alley’s lane. In a high school.
You couldn’t make it up.
Except that Michelle Hines did.