Posted in Figuratively Speaking at 6:19 am by Marion


The Great Moon Hoax, an 1835 lithograph from the New York Sun


Hello out there in Fiction Dailyland! Figuratively Speaking Friday returns today, in this special, limited edition blog entry, marking this exceptional day in history.

On this day in 1835, the New York Sun created a stir by reporting that esteemed British astronomer Sir John Herschel, had discovered life on the moon.

Thank Jeffrey Kacirk for noting it in this year’s Forgotten English calendar, or I’d never have known it.

Yes, the Sun claimed it was reporting from the Edinburgh Journal of Science when it described winged, humanlike beings on the moon. He was even quoted to say,

We counted three parties of these creatures walking erect in a small wood … They averaged about four fee in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane without hair, lying snugly upon their backs, from the top of their shoulders to the calves of the legs.

The article also claimed these moon people had yellow faces similar to great apes. (You can read a full account, including the original Sun article, at the Museum of Hoaxes.)

Kacirk reports the article temporarily put the Sun above its rivals, and then humiliated other press which reported the story, without verifying it.

Now those of us in the news business know few things are worse than reporting wrong information. The only thing I know of that’s worse is when an editor inserts errors into a story that I researched scrupulously. It was always an awful feeling (and still is) when I see my beautiful, perfect stories ruined by bad information — and they carry my name, but not the offending editor’s.

In any event, we can all snicker a big when reading about these winged moon creatures, knowing what we do about the vast, airless, bleakness of the Lady of the Night.

Happy Weekend from Fiction Daily!!

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