Look, we here at Cracked aren't cockeyed optimists (or cockeyed anything, for that matter). We've lived in this world long enough to understand that some folks just aren't "on the level" and the things they say should be "taken with a grain of salt" because they're "completely full of shit." But even jaded, cynical bastards like us should expect more from reputable news organizations. Shouldn't we?
Nope! Just take a look at a few of the more blatant lies that once passed for journalism.
(The news isn't the only thing you can't trust. Jean-Jacques Rousseau lied about Marie Antoinette, and that's why you think she said "Let them eat cake." And as for Hitler? His whole "badass supervillain" image was all PR bullshit. You'll learn more in our De-Textbook. Your favorite book sellers are now accepting pre-orders!)
5The New York Sun Reports the First Transatlantic Flight -- in 1844
Picture yourself living in 1844. The American Civil War hasn't happened yet, no one has electricity or flush toilets or phones or even T-shirts with ironic slogans on them -- you're pretty much living in a cave in the shape of a house and waiting for death. One day you wake up, open your copy of The New York Sun, and see this:
1844 didn't half-ass it with the fonts.
Your first thought was probably "Oh my stars and garters!" (or whatever the Victorian version of "What the actual fuck?!" was). People call the priest when they have a toothache, and yet they're flying across the Atlantic Ocean? Huzzah! The age of miracles has begun! Maybe this stubbed toe doesn't have to be a death sentence anymore! Reading the article closer, you find out that a European gentleman and his seven friends were attempting to steer their coal-powered hot air balloon from Wales to Paris when a sudden gale launched them toward the Atlantic Ocean. Seventy-five hours later, one of the aeronauts recorded the following in his journal:
"We are in full view of the low coast of South Carolina. The great problem is accomplished. We have crossed the Atlantic -- fairly and easily crossed it in a balloon! God be praised! Who shall say that anything is impossible hereafter?"
New Yorkers practically trampled their neighbors to get a copy of the paper, because they all wanted a piece of that sweet, tangy history.
Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty
"We were on our way to Flugtag and thought, 'Fuck it -- transatlantic voyage.'"
But Actually ...
The New York Sun had been fed a hoax. Giggling coquettishly while the world ate up a complete fantasy was none other than this guy:
A press release that used the phrase "Chilling tale of horrors most foul and unnatural" should've been a clue.
Yes, the hoaxer was none other than Edgar Allan Poe. At the time, Poe's wife was terminally ill and he was struggling to make a living as a writer -- two things that left him spiritually and financially bankrupt. So, by combining his powers of storytelling with a few real names and details, he had the makings of a potent hoax (and perhaps a future best seller?). Poe sold the story of the balloon ride to the Sun and watched with glee as people quickly went seven shades of crazy. Obviously, the paper had to retract the story after two days due to lack of evidence and common sense. No charges were filed because, well, just look at that li'l jokester's hangdog expression! He's clearly learned his lesson.