In addition to local folklore and local ghosts, Central New York also has a history of famous hoaxes. One of the biggest folklore based hoaxes in the area, and indeed in the world, is that of the Cardiff Giant.

Discovered in 1869 in Cardiff, which is south of Syracuse, it was discovered while digging a well on the property of William Newell. The Cardiff Giant was a 10 foot tall ‘petrified’ man, and became a huge sensation, with thousands of people coming to see the giant, despite a fee of $.50.

The existence of the Cardiff Giant led to a huge debate between those who believed that it was a hoax, and those that believed that the giant was authentic, and a validation of the religious belief that giant men once populated the earth. Others believed that it was a giant statue, carved by missionaries to the area, as an offering to local natives.
The statue soon drew the attention of PT Barnum, who offered $60,000 for the ability to display the giant for 3 months. The owners of the giant disagreed, which led to PT Barnum creating a plaster copy, and putting that on display.

The owners of the giant sued Barnum, but the lawsuit was dropped when the judge stated that he couldn’t rule on the case until the giant was proven to be authentic. As by this time the Cardiff Giant was widely accepted to be a hoax, the owners were unable to continue the lawsuit.

The Cardiff Giant was actually the creation of George Hull. A firm atheist, he decided to create the giant as a response to an argument as to whether giants actually did roam the earth, as mentioned in the bible. Hull had stone imported from Iowa, and had someone carve it into the shape of a man. He then used acid and a board with embedded knitting needles to age the statue, and make it look more realistic. He then buried it on the land of his cousin, who set up the opportunity for it to be discovered.

The Cardiff Giant is still a draw, despite it being known as a hoax. In 1941, it was sold to the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, where it is still on display.


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