Agloe, New York

A case of a fake that became real. In this case, a fictitious town that, for a while, achieved actual existence.

The town of Agloe, New York was a "copyright trap" placed on Esso Maps during the 1930s. (That is, it was a nonexistent town whose purpose was to reveal if rival mapmakers were blindly copying the information on Esso maps.) The name was a scramble of the initials of Otto G. Lindberg (the company founder) and his assistant Ernest Alpers. They located the town at a dirt-road intersection north of Roscoe, NY.

So when the town of Agloe later appeared on a Rand McNally map, Esso accused Rand McNally of copying their map. But it turned out that Rand McNally was innocent. The town of Agloe actually had been registered with the county administration, because someone had built a general store at that dirt intersection and had named it the Agloe General Store (because that's the name they saw on the Esso map), thus bringing the town into existence.

Eventually the store went out of business, and the town of Agloe is no longer on maps. Here's the Google Map location for Roscoe, New York.

Other cases of fakes that became real:

Kremvax was a 1984 Usenet April Fool's Day hoax, alleging that the Soviet Union was joining Usenet. The announcement purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko, who used the email address [email protected]. Six years later, when the Soviet Union really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name Kremvax in honor of the hoax.

The Annual Virginia City Camel Race. Began as a hoax in 1959, perpetrated by the Nevada Territorial Enterprise, but other newspapers decided to take it seriously and actually began racing camels every year in the city.

I'm sure there are other examples, but I can't think of them right now. (I'm not counting instances of names inspired by fiction, such as the space shuttle Enterprise being named after the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.)


Posted on Thu Mar 26, 2009


sorry Alex... do your homework... From the US Navy website: "USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, commemorates a name which has been a continuing symbol of the great struggle to retain American liberty, justice and freedom since the first days of the American Revolutionary War. She is the eighth ship of the Fleet to carry this illustrious name that is literally defined as boldness, energy, and invention."
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  10:55 AM
But Hairy, I said the Space Shuttle Enterprise, not the aircraft carrier Enterprise. From Wikipedia:

>>On September 17, 1976, Enterprise was rolled out of Rockwell's plant at Palmdale, California. In recognition of its fictional namesake, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the cast of the original series of Star Trek were on hand at the dedication ceremony.<<
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  12:25 PM
So, is this really a hoax? Because if you're opening the floor to Mountweazels (or <a href="">Nihilartikels) then there's a wide variety of additional ones:

zzxjoanw: the name of a Maori drum, from Rupert Hughes
Posted by Roland  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  02:42 PM
I'm quoting you, A-man: "such as the space shuttle Enterprise being named after the USS Enterprise in Star Trek." So... the Space Shuttle was named after the USS Enterprise, not the USS Enterprise? Brrr... I'm so stupid. What was I thinking?
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  02:47 PM
mmm... jelly-filled. That's better. Perhaps Roddenberry recognized the fictional namesake, but I'm gonna need another donut to prove that Roddenberry didn't have the previous USS Enterprise(s) in mind when he named the Star Trek craft. If some dude names himself Englebert Humperdink, how do we know it's in recognition of the singer or fictional character? I say it all goes back to the original. Ah, the power of sugar
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  02:52 PM
from WIKI: "Construction began on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974.[2] Designated OV-101, it was originally planned to be named Constitution. However, a write-in campaign caused it to be renamed after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek." Damn, I hate being wrong. Now if we could only do something about flea erections. Nevermind
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  02:59 PM
The dumb part about naming the first shuttle Enterprise is that it never flew in space. It was a test platform only.

On the other hand, the first shuttle, Challenger blew up.
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  03:55 PM

...the first shuttle that orbited, Challenger...

(Of course, some Star Trek geeks could probably have come up with the proper name given that incident.)
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  03:57 PM
Hmm.....Lewis Black, Emily Litella, trusts Wiki, Englebert, a profile emerges.....
Posted by Canadarm  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  09:27 PM
The really funny part is that Agloe, which sounds plausible as a town name, was fake, but nearby Beaverkill and Grooville, which sound like jokes, are real place names.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Thu Mar 26, 2009  at  10:36 PM
The Agloe thing reminds me of a long-running prank I pulled in the 80's when I was a wacky morning drive radio DJ.

I worked in the Lehigh Valley/Allentown, PA area. One day, I looked at a map and picked Coplay, a small town north of Allentown for the gag. I explained on the air that Coplay was a "copyright trap," like Agloe and that there was actually no such place.

I kept the gag up for a few years, even when our news girl read stories based in Coplay; I would interrupt her (much to her annoyance) and calmly explain that Coplay was a fictitious place put on maps to preserve the map company's copyright.

Man, did people get mad at me! I would get calls from people who lived there who would try to convince me that Coplay did, in fact, exist. I would act as if THEY were the ones pulling a gag and tell them that I wasn't going to play along with their stupid joke.

One lady told me she was a Realtor who had been selling homes in Coplay for many years. I calmly informed her that if she really was selling property in a non-existent town, she was breaking too many laws to count. She seemed to be at a loss to respond.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  02:18 AM
That's hilarious, CMG! Were you inspired by Bielefeld, or is that just a case of <strike>great</strike> twisted minds thinking alike?
Posted by outeast  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  06:28 AM
Humble apologies CMG, just realized it must have been the Germans who - ah - flattered you, not the other way round. Pesky timelines.
Posted by outeast  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  09:00 AM
Just in case anyone is interested, the intersection where Algoe actually "existed" was at the intersection of route 206 and Beaverkill Road.

Unfortunately google maps doesn't have satellite images of high enough resolution to see the sad, out of business gas station that gave the town existence.
Posted by xzzy  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  09:43 AM
Lewis Black? n-o. Emily, yes. WIKI-truster? First link or two after googling Space Shuttle USS Enterprise. Englebertaphile? Best sideburns amongst Americans with fake British accents. Profile? Yes, prominent manly bulge in front, mangled baby ducks in back pocket. You're welcome
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  03:05 PM
I lived in an agloe with many cold toes for too much time and the bears wanted my fur to keep warm. So there you go, you hoaxers. Rrrraoul
Posted by Raoul  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  07:13 PM
Brrr....bespoke L.B. No offence intended, no more info pls, I like ducks (not intimately tho).
Posted by Canadarm  on  Fri Mar 27, 2009  at  08:32 PM
"That's hilarious, CMG! Were you inspired by Bielefeld, or is that just a case of great twisted minds thinking alike?"

I just made it up out of my own little mind. I had read about map companies using "traps" and I thought it would be funny to turn that around.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sat Mar 28, 2009  at  01:20 AM
Agloe. I am
aglow with thoughts of you.
Posted by floormaster squeeze  on  Mon Mar 30, 2009  at  09:12 AM
Joe, the first shuttle to orbit was Columbia. Challenger didn't orbit until STS-6. Not that that changes anything; Columbia is of course no longer with us either.
Posted by parkrrrr  on  Wed Nov 04, 2009  at  06:58 AM
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