Thousands fall for it, wait in line to catch a glimpse of the creature
Let's face it: we're all suckers for mythical creatures, especially when their alleged dwelling places are at the bottom of the ocean.Just a few days back, Animal Planet decided to play a trick on its audience and ran a documentary supposedly bringing new evidence in support of the idea that mermaids are real.
Later on, the news that this documentary was in fact one great big hoax made headlines.
Interestingly enough, Animal Planet wasn't the first (and most definitely won't be the last) to play mind games with people and try to convince them that these mythical creatures do in fact exist.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the oldest mermaid hoax recorded up until now: the Fiji mermaid, a.k.a. the Fejee mermaid or the Feejee mermaid.
This creature was brought to New York City back in July 1842 by a self-titled English gentleman by the name of Dr. J. Griffin. He said that he had caught the mermaid near the Feejee Islands in the South Pacific.
Needless to say, the press went wild and so did the crowds. In just a few weeks after arriving in New York City, Dr. J. Griffin agreed to let ordinary folks have a look at the creature up close and personal.
Thus, the mermaid was showcased at Concert Hall on Broadway and also at the American Museum.
Now, mermaids are supposed to be dazzling creatures. Also stunningly beautiful and utterly graceful, I believe the myth goes.
Take one other good look at the picture above to see what the people in New York City got.
I have no idea what the beauty standards for mermaids were back then, but if I were a sailor, I would most definitely not jump off my boat just to go chasing for this creature at the bottom of the ocean.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that this wasn't actually a mermaid. Just your good old half a fish sewn together with half a monkey. Hence the really good looks.
OK, so the mermaid was not a mermaid. But then again, Dr. J. Griffin was no English gentleman. And no doctor. He was just a fraud.
By the looks of it, the man who started this whole affair (and asked the Dr. J. Griffin to join in on the fun) was showman P.T. Barnum, who made quite a few bucks by orchestrating this hoax and tricking people into paying to see a “mermaid.”
Rumor has it that P.T. Barnum's “mermaid” (and yes, I will use inverted comas for the word mermaid from now on) was destroyed in a fire that burned down his American Museum in 1865. However, some say that it got destroyed in the 1880s, when Kimball's Museum went down in flames.
Interestingly enough, Harvard's Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology currently possesses a mermaid which some say might be the one that caused all this commotion back in 1842.