Status: Marking an anniversary in hoax history
The million little biographical lies of James Frey have been getting all the attention in the press this week, but as the Devon Western Morning News reminds us
, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of a memoir whose lies were far greater: The Third Eye
by T. Lobsang Rampa (aka the Plumber from Plympton). Rampa claimed to have grown up in Tibet (born into a wealthy Tibetan family), to have studied in Lhasa to become a lama, and then to have undergone a mysterious operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead. This operation supposedly gave him psychic powers. But in reality, Rampa wasn't a Tibetan monk. He was actually Cyril Henry Hoskins, son of a plumber from Plympton, England. He hadn't even been to Tibet. As the Western Morning News puts it:
it is probable that his globetrotting was mostly restricted to commuting from his home in Plympton to Wadebridge, where he was born and later worked as a clerk and occasional fisherman.
When confronted with the facts about his past, Rampa admitted he had been born Hoskins, but explained that his body had been taken over by Rampa's spirit. Skeptics might say that Rampa/Hoskins was full of it. But happily, thanks to Oprah Winfrey, we now know that it doesn't matter if a memoirist lies about their past, as long as their "underlying message of redemption"
is inspiring to readers. By this new standard, I think Rampa just might be off the hook.