Last weekend, the Denver Center Theatre Company's New Play Summit featured Great Wall Story, a play by Lloyd Suh based on the true story of how, in 1899, three Denver reporters came up with a hoax that the Great Wall of China was being torn down. It was quite a ruse, and it caused an international scare.
To honor those intrepid reporters, Westword featured six of our favorite recent Colorado hoaxes in this week's issue.
Now, here are four older ones that still amaze:
The Solid Muldoon, 1877, south Denver (formerly Beulah)
In 1877, a seven-foot prehistoric human "body" was discovered in the mountains of Colorado and named either for wrestler William Muldoon or for Muldoon Hill, where it was found. Shortly after, the Solid Muldoon was brought to Denver by Soapy Smith. It was billed as the "between" state of man and apes, and it cost the curious ten cents to witness the find. The Solid Muldoon traveled as far as New York to educate its viewers of the missing step in evolution. The Denver Daily Times recorded that "there could be no questions about the genuineness of this piece of statuary." Wrong. The piece of statuary had been intricately constructed out of mortar, dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood and meat.
Stealing Alfred Packer's headstone, 1960s, Littleton
It wasn't that funny in 1873, when Alfred Packer killed and ate his fellow prospectors after they became stranded in a snowstorm near Lake City. But, as they say, pain plus time equals humor. Today, Packer is a macabre local celebrity, and his actual gravesite is in the Littleton Cemetery, where teens regularly stole it in the 1960s and '70s. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Defense got tired of replacing the marble marker (since Packer was a veteran, the agency paid for it), so the cemetery encased the marker in cement. The current stone is chipped from the last time someone tried to take it, but the cemetery has one remaining replacement, just in case anyone decides to resurrect this prank.
Man-Eating Rats, 1876, Pikes Peak
In 1876, Private John O'Keefe was Pikes Peak's Signal Station attendant, so he spent a lot of time by himself -- thinking up weird tales. In one, he reported that he and his wife and daughter had been attacked by giant man-eating rats who'd crept out of caves and taken the family by surprise. And although the story was carried in many newspapers, it turns out that O'Keefe didn't have a wife or daughter. Two years later, O'Keefe returned to Pike's Peak, and this time claimed that the mountaintop had erupted like a volcano. It hadn't.
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The Great Diamond Hoax, 1872, Moffat County
In 1872, cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack reported that they had discovered a field in northwestern Colorado that contained millions of dollars worth of diamonds of rubies. Bag of diamonds in hand, they convinced a pair of wealthy investors to purchase the rights to the land. The pair managed to collect $660,000 and fool bankers and jewelers before geologist Clarence King inspected the field and discovered that it had been "salted." Arnold and Slack got away.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Best DIA conspiracy video ever now ready to terrify Germans, too."