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View Death of Titan Leeds

Type: Hoax.
Summary: A (fake) astrologer predicted the death of his rival.

Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Poor Richard’s Almanac was a yearly almanac written by a hen-pecked, poverty-stricken scholar named Richard Saunders. It first appeared in 1733, offering a collection of wit, poetry, as well as some prophecies.

In its first year it included the prediction that the rival almanac-writer Titan Leeds would die on “Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M., at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury.”

When that time and date arrived, however, Titan Leeds failed to die. In fact, he lived to chastise Saunders for his falsehood in his next almanac.

Saunders responded to the chastisement by theorizing that Leeds had, in fact, died, but that someone had usurped Leeds’s name and was now using it to falsely publish his almanac.

In the following years Saunders continued to insist that Leeds was dead until finally, in 1738, Leeds actually did die. This prompted Saunders to congratulate the men who had usurped Leeds’s name for finally deciding to end their pretense.

Saunders was, in reality, the pseudonym of Benjamin Franklin. The Titan Leeds hoax was adapted from Jonathan Swift’s similar Bickerstaff hoax of 1708.

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