Headlined at the top of the front page of the April 3, 1923 issue of the New York Times
was an article about a terrifying new weapon recently invented by a Soviet scientist, Figu Posakoff. It was capable of "harnessing the latent energy of the atmosphere," and thereby hurling objects of any weight almost unlimited distances. The Soviets were said to be committed to using the invention for peaceful purposes, although the possession of such a weapon was bound to give it military superiority over all other nations. As the Times
noted the next day, the story would have been "important if true." However, it wasn't true. It was an April Fool hoax that had run two days prior in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
. But the New York Times
wasn't alone in falling for it. The LA Times
also subsequently printed it as fact, as did many other American papers, some up to a month later.