Fictional places

Where is Stotham, Massachusetts?

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The obvious answer would be ‘Massachusetts’ but the truth is that, although it was the subject of a learned article in a 1920 architectural journal, Stotham does not exist.

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The town was invented by a New England architect named Hubert Ripley who wrote a history of the place – he said it had been founded in 1689 by one Zabdiel Podbury, an English emigrant from the equally fictitious town of Stoke-on-Tritham – and published a series of photographs to show how picturesque it was.

Only in the 1940s, by which time Ripley’s article had been quoted in several other architectural works and guidebooks, did staff in the Library of Congress, finding it impossible to track down more material about Stotham, realise that it was a hoax.

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Answered by: Nick Rennison