An article titled "The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall" appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger
in late June of 1835. It claimed to be the text of a note dropped from a hot-air balloon that had appeared recently above Rotterdam. The note described Hans Pfall's journey to the moon in order to escape his earth-bound creditors. Pfaall had spent five years living among the inhabitants of the moon before sending one of the lunar inhabitants back to Earth in his balloon in order to deliver a message that he would return to Earth to tell his tale if the citizens of Rotterdam granted him a full pardon for past crimes he had committed; however, the lunarian had been scared by the sight of all the people on the ground and, after throwing Pfall's note down to the crowd, had fled back up into the clouds, thus preventing the residents of Rotterdam from responding to Pfaall's message.
The article, though it purported to be factual, was actually a story written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was his first, and somewhat unsuccessful, attempt at a hoax. Few people were fooled, perhaps because, as Poe himself later acknowledged, it was written in a "tone of mere banter."
Poe never finished Pfaall's tale of life on the moon. Shortly after the first installment of his article appeared it was upstaged by a similar hoax
about lunar life that appeared in the New York Sun
. The success of the New York Sun's
hoax dissuaded Poe from continuing with his own tale.
Links and References
- Fedler, Fred. Media Hoaxes. 1989. p.18-24