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The Unexplained, Explained

There’s a sucker born every minute

A famous quote that we all attribute to P.T. Barnum. However, you may be surprised to learn that the showman never uttered these words.

In 1869, workers in Cardiff, New York were digging a well for a farmer when their shovels hit stone. Further excavation revealed that they had uncovered the petrified remains of a ten-foot-tall giant.  The owner of the land displayed the ‘Cardiff Giant’ for 50 cents a look. People lined up for a glimpse, and thousands of dollars were made.

A group of businessmen wanted a piece of that action, and they purchased the giant and put it up for display. Viewing the exhibit himself, Barnum was so impressed by the crowds paying to view the petrified man that he offered to buy it. He was turned down, so Barnum created a statue of his own for display. When his ‘giant’ garnered larger crowds, one of the businessmen was quoted in an interview that everyone viewing Barnum’s exhibit was being duped, and that 'there’s a sucker born every minute'.

A few months later the giant's whole story was revealed.  The farmer had a silent partner, George Hull, a skeptic who was fed up after arguing with religious leaders who were quoting the part of the bible that stated that ‘there were giants in the earth’. He decided to make fools of the preachers.

Hull spent thousands of dollars on his hoax by purchasing a huge block of stone and hiring sculptors to carve the statue. He then buried it and waited a year before pulling off the reveal. He made a small fortune off of the endeavor, and when he revealed it as a fake, the preachers that had eagerly claimed it was real were left with eggs on their faces.

The Cardiff Giant is considered one of the great American hoaxes. It rests now in the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, New York.  These days, most people don’t remember the event. But we do remember one of the most famous quotes in the English language, uttered because a skeptic was fooling a nation. And due to the fog of time, attributed to the wrong person.

And that’s The Unexplained, Explained.

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