The Hoaxes of Dan De Quille

Dan De Quille was the pen name of William Wright (1829-1898), a reporter for Nevada's Virginia City Enterprise during the nineteenth century. He was notorious for his humorous tales, many of which circulated throughout the country as fact.

De Quille was hired at the Enterprise in 1862, and he worked there on and off for over thirty years.

De Quille is often paired with Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) who was hired at the Enterprise the year after De Quille started working there, and worked under him. The two were also roommates. Both De Quille and Twain were regarded as rising literary stars. In fact, during the 1860s many thought it was De Quille, rather than Twain, who would achieve literary stardom.

De Quille's most famous hoaxes were the Traveling Stones of Pahranagat Valley (published 1867) and Solar Armor (published 1874). However, he penned several other hoaxes, such as "The Wonder of the Age, a Silver Man" (published 1865) about the discovery of a petrified man made of silver, and "Mystery of the Savage Sump" (published 1876) about the discovery of eyeless fish living deep inside several Nevada mines.

The Traveling Stones of Pahranagat Valley (1867)

Journalist Dan De Quille published an article about some unusual stones discovered in Nevada. Whenever separated from each other, the stones spontaneously moved back together. The article was a joke, but De Quille discovered that a lie once told cannot easily be untold. Years later, despite confessing to the hoax, he was still receiving numerous letters from people around the world wanting to know more details about these traveling stones. more…

Solar Armor (1874)

An article published in 1874 described a man who invented "solar armor." The armor, made of sponges wetted with a special mixture of chemicals, cooled the wearer through evaporation. Unfortunately, the armor worked too well and caused its inventor to freeze to death in the middle of a Nevada desert during the Summer. Accounts of this invention appeared in papers throughout America and Europe. However, the story was the satirical creation of Nevada writer Dan de Quille. more…