The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
   
Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014
Hugh Stewart’s Sextuplet Hoax
In August 1951, 59-year-old science reporter Hugh Stewart approached his editors at the Chicago Herald-American with a hot tip. He had learned that a Chicago mother was about to give birth to sextuplets. It would be the first time a confirmed birth of sextuplets had occurred in America.

Stewart offered no verifiable sources for the news. He insisted that "if I break my informants' confidence it will ruin me." Nor could he disclose the mother's name because "critical medical and psychological problems necessitate such protection." Nevertheless, the Herald-American decided to run his story on its front page. It appeared on August 21 under the headline, "Mother Here Expects 5 or 6 Babies." The article disclosed that "Obstetricians, using stethoscopes, have detected the heartbeats of six babies."


Los Angeles Times - Aug 22, 1951

Rival reporters tried to track down the expectant mother, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Stewart continued to supply new details about the mother. He revealed she was 32 years old, already had three children, and was well off. However, she wanted no publicity.

When the expected delivery date passed by in September with no baby, he explained that "The mother's blood pressure went up and the doctor gave her a drug to correct that condition, knowing that this drug would cause a delaying action in the birth." When a new delivery date passed by again, Stewart attributed it to a puzzling cyst condition. But he also noted, "Latest X rays show that there are not six babies but only five. That is definite."

Finally, after months had passed by, Stewart's editors grew impatient and demanded he produce evidence to back up his claims. He then confessed he had made up the entire story. The source of his hot tip was actually his twelve-year-old niece who had heard the rumor at Girl Scout camp.

The Herald-American fired Stewart and printed an apology to its readers, stating that, "Gradually a sickening suspicion became conviction — a seasoned, mature newsman had 'cracked up' and fallen for the lure of a false 'newsbeat.'"

Stewart told reporters, "They were right in firing me. I was awfully goofy."

Links and References
  • "Chicago's Big Six." (Feb. 18, 1952). Time Magazine.
  • Associated Press. (Aug 21, 1951). "Sextuplets May Be Born." San Antonio Express.
  • UPI. (Feb 8, 1951). "Sextuplet Report Fools Paper." Long Beach Independent.
BirthMedical HoaxesNewspapers and MagazinesHoaxes of the 1950sHoaxes by JournalistsRogue Reporters


Submit a Comment

Note: Comments by non-members are all checked by a moderator before appearing on the site. This may take a while.











All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.