New York Sun's Fantastic Moon Story
About a four-part series in the New York Sun which described the inhabitants of the moon in fantastic and false detail.
MEMORABLE NEWSPAPER STORIES THAT NEVER HAPPENED
1. GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES New York Sun, 1835
The fanciful outpourings of a Dr. Thomas Dick, who claimed that people inhabited the moon, helped to goad Richard Adams Locke, editor of the four-page daily Sun, into publishing a series of articles about moon discoveries. The series began with a news item stating that astronomer Sir John Herschel, then studying the heavens at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, had "made some astronomical discoveries of the most wonderful description, by means of an immense telescope of an entirely new principle." According to later stories, the telescope could magnify an object 42,000 times, stood on 150-ft.-high pillars, and used a method of artificial light "transfusion." Seen through the telescope: moon forests, an amethyst crystal 90 ft. high, a blue goatlike animal with one horn, a beaver that knew how to make fire. But most astonishing were the moon people; short and hairy-bodied, with yellow faces, they had membranous wings reaching from their shoulders to the calves of their legs. These people had built sapphire temples, on whose roofs were designs showing a flaming globe. The Sun's readers, who swelled in number to 19,360, believed the four-installment series. A clergyman talked of getting the Gospel to the moon people. A theater exhibited a huge canvas of moon scenes. Edgar Allan Poe was one of the few to debunk the story for its scientific inaccuracies; e.g., how could birds fly on an airless moon? But Sir John Herschel found the articles amusing.
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