Iowa has a long tradition of historical hoaxes. One of the most infamous was the Cardiff Giant. “Discovered” by a New York farmer in 1869, the giant was actually a hoax carved from a block of Iowa gypsum and buried on the New York farm.
Iowa now has a new giant tale. Last fall, State Historical Society archeologist Dan Higginbottom opened an e-mail asking what he knew about the recently discovered Kossuth Giants.
Dan, who has dealt with archeology in Iowa and the Midwest for 20 years, knew nothing of mummified giant remains being found in Kossuth County.
It turns out that two separate web sites(www.stevequayle.com/Giants/index2.html, which copies from what was clearly intended as a parody at YAWP.com carry a story that seems like something from the X-Files but with just enough balderdash to remind one of P. T. Barnum.
Reflecting a subtle sense of humor and knowledge of Iowa history, the story goes like this:
A Kossuth Center farmer who sports the name of 1950s rockabilly/country western singer Marvin Rainwater found the giants.
Marvin knew that he needed the help of archeologists from Georg Von Podebrad College located in Zoar. The archeologists uncovered robes made from the same long red hair found on the mummified giants reportedly being stored at the Kossuth County Chapter of the State Historical Society.
The truth is that both Kossuth Center and Zoar are abandoned towns, and no college bears the name of Georg Von Podebrad, a fifteenth-century Bohemian king. Nor is there a Kossuth County Chapter of the State Historical Society.
That didn’t stop an Ohio student from calling the State Historical Society to find out more about some robes in museum storage made of long red hair!
The internet opens up a new world of possibility for instigators of hoaxes. Staff at the State Historical Society stand willing to help web browsers separate fact from fiction.