On April 13, 1844, New York’s The Sun added an extra page to their paper. The page claimed that a popular balloonist, named Monck Mason, had flown across the Atlantic Ocean in just 74 hours–a historical first.
Named Victoria, the balloon had departed from England and was headed for Paris, when one of the propellers malfunctioned. The balloon drifted off course–and ended up in South Carolina. Word quickly spread and readers were excited to get a copy of the paper for themselves. They even showed up to the newspaper’s office to get copies.
But, unknown to the enthusiastic crowd, the story was actually a hoax–perpetrated by Edgar Allan Poe. The hoax was revealed two days later but, by then, The Sun had already made quite a bit of money.
Poe later wrote that, “I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper.” He seemed surprised that people were so easily manipulated by false news. He even stood on The Sun’s steps to inform the crowd that the story was a hoax. But, most of the readers ignored him while they were snatching up copies of the paper.