The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall
An article titled "the Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall" appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger
in late June of 1835. It claimed that a man in a balloon had appeared above Rotterdam, dropped a note down to the people on the ground, and then flew back up into the clouds. Upon inspection, the note turned out to be an account of the journey of a man called Hans Pfaall who had flown to the moon in a hot-air balloon in order to escape his earth-bound creditors. Apparently Pfaall had spent five years living among the inhabitants of the moon. He had sent 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 was actually 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, because 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. Poe, however, continued to attempt hoaxes throughout his career.
Fedler, Fred. Media Hoaxes. 1989. p.18-24
Text copyright © 2002 Alex Boese