The Cardiff Giant

The Cardiff Giant, October circa 2000
The Cardiff Giant in his current resting place in upstate New York.

The Cardiff Giant was exhibited in the 19th century and billed as the fossilized remains of a "prehistoric giant". This popular roadside attraction was actually made of plaster and the creation of a New York tobacco farmer named George Hull.

Hull, an atheist, created the giant out of spite after an argument with a fundamentalist minister about the passage in Genesis 6:4. In that verse, it's stated that there were giants, known as Nephilim, who reportedly once roamed a primordial Earth.

"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."
- Genesis 6:4

George Hull was clearly perpetrating a hoax upon those who followed literal bible interpretations. However, the Cardiff Giant eventually became a national sensation in the latter part of the 19th century in America. Many people actually believed that Hull had unearthed proof of giant humanoids from scripture.

The idea of a petrified man did not originate with Hull, however. In 1858, a newspaper in Alta, California published a bogus letter that claimed that a prospector was petrified when he drank a strange liquid within a geode. Some other newspapers had also published stories of supposedly petrified people.

The Cardiff Giant, October 1869
The Cardiff Giant is "unearthed" in upstate New York in October of 1869.

Hull hired men to carve out a 10-foot (3.0 m) long, 4.5-inch block of gypsum in Fort Dodge, Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired a stonecutter to carve it into the likeness of a man and swore him to secrecy. Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weathered, and the giant's surface was beaten with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores. Then Hull transported the giant by rail to the farm of William Newell, his cousin, in November 1868.

Nearly a year later, Newell hired two men on the pretext of digging a well. On October 16th 1869, the trio "found" the Giant. One of the men reportedly exclaimed, "I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!"

Cardiff GiantThe giant drew such crowds that famous showman P.T. Barnum offered Hull $60,000 for a three-month lease of it. When the new owners turned him down, Barnum hired a man to covertly model the giant's shape in wax and create a plaster replica. Barnum put his own giant on display in New York, claiming that his was the real giant and the Cardiff Giant was a fake.

On December 10th 1869, George Hull confessed to the press that his Giant was a hoax. On February of 1870, both giants were revealed as fakes in court. The presiding judge also ruled that Barnum could not be sued for calling Hull's hoax a fake.

Apparently Hull, after the hoax was found out and a high profile court battle with P.T. Barnum was not dissuaded from making fake archeological "finds". In 1876, he created yet another enormous creature. This giant was christened as the Solid Muldoon. The Muldoon was made from clay, ground bones, discarded meat, rock dust and plaster.

Today, the original Cardiff Giant resides at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, an arcade and museum of oddities in Farmington Hills, Michigan near Detroit, where the statue still draws a crowd of wide-eyed spectators and religious fanatics alike.

Wikipedia, The Cardiff Giant
Cardiff New York, Site Marker

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