This weekend, the Denver Center Theatre Company's New Play Summit featured Great Wall Story, a play by Lloyd Suh based on the true — really! — story of how, in 1899, three Denver reporters came up with a hoax that the Great Wall of China was being torn down, and started an international scare. In honor of those intrepid reporters, here are six of our favorite recent Colorado hoaxes, compiled by Westword intern Hannah Thomas; for some older ones, go to "Top 4 classic Colorado hoaxes -- including a prehistoric body and man-eating rats!"
1) Balloon Boy, 2009, Fort Collins
It was an average day in the Heene household. You know, a "constructing a homemade balloon out of tarps, aluminum foil and duct tape that would be intended for travel purposes only" type of day. But it wasn't until six-year-old Falcon Heene supposedly climbed into the helium-filled balloon that the nation discovered what a successful prototype it was: The balloon, boy reportedly aboard, climbed to an estimated 7,000 feet and floated more than fifty miles to an area just northeast of DIA. The airport was shut down as two National Guard helicopters scrambled to rescue Falcon — but it was only after the flying-saucer-shaped balloon finally touched down that this story blew up real good.
2) Jenny DryErase, 2010, Greeley
Standing up for the downtrodden, Jenny DryErase used a dry-erase board to tell her co-workers — and the rest of the Internet — how she really felt about her job and her chauvinistic boss, the one who called her a HOPA (hot piece of ass). Turns out, the viral Internet message was a hoax perpetrated by theCHIVE.com, a comedy website, and Jenny was actually a squeaky-clean Greeley actress named Elyse Porterfield.
3) Global Warming, 2010, Loveland
Throughout his 2010 campaign for the Senate, Republican Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck repeatedly referred to global warming as a ruse. In fact, he stood in lockstep with Republican senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, telling supporters that "Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view." And while 2010 ended up being the hottest year on record, Buck's campaign turned ice-cold.
4) Cougar Ban, 2010, Denver
After Democratic state senator Suzanne Williams raised concerns during the 2010 legislative session about stereotypical American Indian mascots in high schools, House Minority Leader Mike May responded with his own concern: cougar mascots. But May wasn't talking about the animal; rather, he was referring to 45-plus women who hit night spots looking to score with younger men. As such, he proposed that cougar mascots be approved by a "Cougar Council" that would meet at Elway's in Cherry Creek.
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5) Craigslist Baby, 2010, Colorado Springs
Wanted: Someone with diaper-changing skills and baby-talking ability. When someone began posting ads on Craigslist saying that a baby had been dumped in a trash can and would die if no one rescued it, Colorado Springs police went into dumpster-driving overdrive. But since no babies were ever discovered, they concluded that the ads may have been sick hoaxes rather than ads from real people trying to get rid of their children.
6) Robot Attack, 2010, Denver
After someone cemented an eight-inch plastic robot under a Blake Street bridge last year, the Denver Police Department declared it a possible threat, shutting out civilians within one hundred yards. Then the DPD sent in a bomb-squad robot to settle the score. As rush-hour traffic piled up, the cops put an end to the tiny figurine's reign of terror by blowing it up. No one ever took credit for the prank, and the police have no suspects, but a group of artists held a wake for the robot later in the week.