Twenty-five years ago this month, a major national newspaper announced that Adam and Eve's skeletons had been found in Colorado, with an expert speculating that the Bible's Garden of Eden had been discovered south of Denver. And so what if that publication was the Weekly World News, which was fake news before fake news was cool?
I rediscovered this startling scoop while performing a long-delayed task — cleaning out my attic. And there it was, sitting on a shelf between a stack of dusty books: the June 2, 1992 edition of the WWN, whose cover featured the screaming, full-page headline, "Adam & Eve's Skeletons Found — in Colorado!"
Subheads added three more exclamation-point-worthy details: "The Bible's Garden of Eden Discovered South of Denver!," "Amazing proof Book of Genesis is true!" and "Incredible Photos Inside!"
Here's the cover:
Actually, the most "incredible" photo on the inside spread of the story is also spotlighted on the cover; the shot depicts two skeletons embracing. In addition, there's a "classical engraving" showing the Garden of Eden, "which a noted archaeologist says was located in Colorado," and a pic supposedly of that brainiac, Dr. Jonathan Richard, who's also described as a "Los Angeles-based expert."
In the article itself, Richard, who obviously didn't let a last name that can be shortened to "Dick" hamper his career, boldly proclaimed that "this discovery will shake the institutions of science and religion to their very foundations and eventually make believers of us all."
Then, in answer to his own rhetorical question ("So how do I know that the skeletons belonged to Adam and Eve?"), he offered his support for the claim.
"For one thing, testing shows the bones to be approximately 300,000 years old, but the shape and structure of the skulls is modern in every respect," Richard said about the skeletons, reportedly discovered "forty miles south of Denver" at a location he refused to divulge because "this is much too important a discovery to risk anything." In his opinion, "This suggests that the couple bypassed the evolutionary process and sprang to life in a fully evolved, modern form, which is exactly what the Bible says occurred."
Even more compelling, he went on, "the male skeleton is missing a rib that we found grafted to the female's spine." That's important, Richard notes, because "if you have read the story of creation that appears in the Book of Genesis, you'll recall that God created Adam from clay and then made Eve from one of Adam's ribs. As far as I'm concerned, the couple we found at our dig match that description to the letter."
Look below to see the article:
The author of this blockbuster is listed as David W. Ross, but whether anyone of that name actually had anything to do with it is doubtful. In a 2003 media column, we interviewed former Rocky Mountain News music writer Justin Mitchell, who'd written for the Weekly World News a couple of years earlier after an unpleasant exit from the Denver tabloid. (He was cleared of a plagiarism charge but forced to work as a copy editor rather than returning to his old gig, then fired for supposedly making private calls on company phones.) Mitchell's revelations about the inner workings of the WWN were both telling and hilarious.
"Yes, I was Ed Anger," Mitchell confirmed in reference to a "columnist" at the newspaper known for his regular rants. "I was also Serena Sabak ('world's sexiest psychic advisor') and Dotti Primrose," whom he described as "Dr. Laura on paint thinner." He landed on the paper's front page with an earthshaker about a mermaid that was found in a can of tuna, and as the Iraq crisis was coming to a boil, he checked in with a pair of timely exposés, "Saddam Statue Sheds Mystery Tears" and "Saddam's Doubles Looking for New Jobs." Still, his personal favorite was "Amazon Tribe Worships Wisconsin Bowling Team as Gods."
The WWN horoscope was another of Mitchell's playgrounds, and he often sprinkled his astrological blurbs with rock lyrics. On one occasion, his advice to Scorpios drew upon the collected wisdom of Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Blind Blake and the aforementioned Fab Four: "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow on Tuesday afternoon, consider breaking through to the other side and breathe, breathe in the air. Look around, choose your own ground. Ditty-wah-ditty. Lucky number: 9."
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Contrary to appearances, Mitchell told us that "WWN does fact-check, except it's mostly to prevent libel suits." Likewise, the paper's newsroom, where he worked for a couple of weeks, felt awfully familiar, with the exception of "editors hollering stuff like 'Where is that talking-french-fry story?'" As a bonus, he added, "there was no pretension or illusion among the (very small) staff and management that we were performing any sort of public service other than entertaining the unwashed masses and the bored folks stuck in a grocery store checkout line."
That's no longer the case. The Weekly World News stopped publishing a physical edition in 2007, and while it still exists online, the site isn't exactly updated on a daily basis. The most recent story at this writing, "Obama Parties With Tiger Woods in Miami," bears a date of June 1.
To put it mildly, the paper contained a lot more astonishing material a quarter-century ago. Other June 2, 1992 headlines include "George Washington Owes Me $100 Billion," "Determine the sex of your baby — by what you eat!," "Melting Lady to Wed!," "Farmer Cooks His Mother-In-Law — to Cure Her Arthritis!," "Nicotine Nightmare!: Man Overdoses on Stop-Smoking Patches!" and "The Regurgitator!," whose subhead reads, "A tough act to swallow: Professional upchucker gets paid big bucks to barf!"
Still, all of that pales before Colorado's Garden of Eden. No wonder so many people are moving here: It's paradise! And now we've got proof!