The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoaxes of Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was one of the pioneers of satirical hoaxing. For instance, his most famous work, Gulliver's Travels (1726), ostensibly told the true story of an Englishman's travels to a series of incredible lands, but it actually was more of a comment on English society. Likewise, in A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to their Parents or the Country (1729), he pretended to make a serious case for the benefits to be had by feeding poor children to the rich, although he clearly was making a dark comment on the inhumanity of the rich towards the poor.

The above examples are more in the vein of satire than actual hoaxes, since the deception was fairly obvious. But he also perpetrated out-and-out hoaxes, such as his Bickerstaff hoax of 1708 in which he poked fun at astrology. Posing as the astrologer Isaac Bickerstaff, he managed to fool many people into believing he had accurately predicted the death of the famous astrologer, John Partridge, even though Partridge wasn't yet dead.

Swift's Hoaxes

PrankstersSerial Hoaxers18th-Century Hoaxes


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