People have always had a fascination with the supernatural and the mysterious - perhaps that's why there are so many myths and legends available in our cutlure. In recent times, many people have played with our attraction to those things that seem out of the ordinary, and tourists have loved it. Here's our guide to the strangest and most succesful hoaxes turned tourist attractions.
The body of a hare and the horns of a deer. Fox and duck. Pine martin and pheasant. These are Wolperdingers, the bizarre lovechildren of any combination of animals you can think of. Have you ever spied one in the forests of Bavaria? It's unlikely, because they don't exist. But that hasn't stopped them from becoming a widely-celebrated tourist attraction there! This began in the 19th century, when stuffed models of wolperdinger made by taxidermists were sold to unwitting tourists. The idea seems to have begun sometime in the 16th century, when artistic depictions of it first start to appear. They're now widely celebrated as decorations in Bavarian hotels, restaurants and pubs. Oh, and countless items of memorabilia.
The Cardiff Giant
Imagine William Newell's surprise when, In October 1869, a huge 10 foot tall stone man was dug up from behind his barn not far from New York. Word of the discovery spread like wildfire, and Newell began charging 50 cents per visit, but that didn't discourage tourists. It was then revealed that atheist tobacconist George Hull had created a fake petrified giant in order to mock a reverend who had stuck to his literalist views during an argument with George. When the reverend put to him that the biblical line ?there were giants in the Earth in those days? should be taken as literal fact, he decided to make a giant of his own. But that only seems to have made the attraction more successful. So much, in fact, that king of hoax showmanship PT Barnum decided to have his own version made, which was eventually bought by the New York Historical Association for $30,000!
The Loch Ness Monster
Good ol' Nessie. She has to be the most famous subject of hoaxes ever. Today, around 1 million people visit the loch every year, generating a total of £25 million a year for the local economy. Due to the depth of the lake, we can never really know whether or not she exists, but somehow it seems unlikely. There have been several searches after all, including one organised by the BBC, another considered by the Thatcher government, and ranging in cost from £40 to £1 million. There have been a whole host of hoaxes, but the most famous of these is of Robert Kenneth Wilson, who took a picture of a fake head and neck stuck onto a toy submarine bought from Woolworths. More recently, both Apple Maps and Google Earth have been said to show the monster. Maybe she is down there somewhere, laughing at us?
Most popular amongst the eccentric residents of the UK, fans of crop circles point to them as evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. The rest of us might suggest that it's less of the extra as well as less of the intelligence, but that hasn't stopped the spate of mysterious circles and even more mysterious levels of media attention given to the circles. The first were created by accomplished pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley in a wheat field in Wiltshire in 1976. As soon as they did so, an explosion of apparent experts in the field of extra-terrestrial activity broke out. Theories range from Mother Earth crying out in the face of ecological destruction, secret weapons testing, and aliens. They were also connected to predictions in the Mayan calendar of a great change in 2012. Now, tourism in it is booming, with tour companies such as Megalithic Tours and Journeys with Soul popping up everywhere, as well as specialised plane flights for a bird's eye view.
To find the ?missing link? between ape and man is the Holy Grail of any archaeologist. And so, when two men announced the discovery of just that at a Geological Society meeting in 1912, it was widely accepted, and must have been very exciting. Beforehand, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson had informed Arthur Smith Woodward of the Natural History Museum of his find. His story was that he'd found the skull parts, apparently possessing features of both man and ape, in some gravel beds in Sussex. They theorised that the skull indicated human ancestors of 500,000 years ago. However, in 1949 it was revealed that it was only 50,000 years old, and that parts of an ape and human skull had been artificially put together, with evidence that the teeth had been filed down to resemble human ones. Still, that doesn't stop the Natural History Museum from proudly holding it as a specimen with an interesting history.