The Winsted Wild Man
In August 1895 New York City papers received a wire story about a naked, hairy man that was terrorizing townspeople in Winsted, Connecticut. Intrigued, the papers sent reporters up to Winsted to find out what was happening.
At first the reporters did not find much happening up in Winsted. But as they began asking local residents if they had seen an unusual creature lurking around, memories and tongues began to loosen. Soon reports of a "wild man" began to trickle in, and the trickle quickly grew into a flood.
With each new sighting the wild man grew progressively fiercer. He seemed to gain at least a foot or so in size every day, and in some accounts he sprouted tusks. Then he became a massive gorilla with thick arms that hung all the way down to the ground.
All these terrifying reports fanned a state of near hysteria in Winsted. People became afraid to leave their homes for fear of encountering the monster. A posse of over one hundred armed men was organized and sent out to hunt down and kill the creature. After days of searching, the men finally succeeded in shooting a creature that was seen lurking in the undergrowth. But the fearsome beast turned out to be nothing more than a local farmer's stray jackass.
The TruthIn reality, there never had been a wild man in Winsted. The original wire report had sprung from the overly fertile imagination of Lou Stone, a young reporter for the Winsted Evening Citizen. From there, mass psychology had done the rest.
Reportedly Stone came up with the idea because he needed to make $150 quickly, and he figured that the big-city papers would be unlikely to buy a story about actual events in Winsted.
He subsequently became well known as a teller of tale tales, but the Wild Man was his first hoax, and it remained his most famous.
For more details about Stone, see Lou Stone, the Winsted Liar.
Links and References
- Fred Fedler, Media Hoaxes, Iowa State University Press, 1989: 160.
- Curtis D. MacDougall, Hoaxes, Dover Publications, 1958 (1st ed., 1940): 1.
- Andrew Mound, Heroic Hoaxes, MacDonald & Co., 1983: 75.
- David E. Philips, "The Winsted Wild Man," in Legendary Connecticut: Traditional Tales from the Nutmeg State.
- Richard Saunders, The World's Greatest Hoaxes, Playboy Press, 1980: 156-157.
- Gordon Stein, Encyclopedia of Hoaxes, Gale Research Inc. 1993: 132-133.
- Nick Yapp, Great Hoaxes of the World, Robson Books, 1992: 30.