In August and September 1835 a series of articles appeared in the New York Sun newspaper. Headlined ‘Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel’, they claimed that a powerful new telescope trained on the Moon had picked up many signs of life there.
Goats, bison and beavers had all been spotted frolicking on the Moon’s surface but, most sensationally of all, the telescope had revealed large numbers of winged humanoids going about their daily business.
Of course, Herschel, the world’s most famous astronomer at the time, had made no such discoveries and the articles were probably the work of an enterprising British journalist, just arrived in the USA, named Richard Locke. However, sales of the Sun soared in the weeks when it was running the articles and many readers believed in the stories about the Moon’s newly discovered inhabitants.
It was the end of the year before they were revealed to be nothing but a hoax.