There are two versions to the famed “Cardiff Giant” hoax of the 1860s. The first, as explained in Wikipedia, is a true story. The second, as written by Mark Twain, is a stylized version filled with intrigue and humor.
Jim Waddell is blending the two for a Halloween-themed tour series during October at the Mark Twain Cave.
The story originally came to life following an 1858 article in the Alta, Calif., newspaper which professed a prospector had been petrified after drinking a liquid found within a geode. The concept of a petrified man seemed plausible to some gullible folks of the era.
Wikipedia reports that George Hull, an atheist, got into an argument at a Methodist revival meeting over the passage in Genesis 6:4, stating that there were giants who once lived on earth. In response he hired workers in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to carve a 10-foot, 4 1/2-inch block out of gypsum, which he in turn shipped to Chicago. There, a German stonecutter named Edward Burghardt - under a vow of secrecy - carved the stone into the likeness of a man.
Hull and his co-conspirator stained the stone with acid and used steel knitting needles embedded in a board to poke holes in the stone, simulating pores.
The stone was shipped by rail in November 1868 to the farm of William Newell, Hull’s cousin. A year later, two men were hired to dig a well at the farm, and on Oct. 16, 1869, they found the “petrified giant.”
The story goes on to involve P.T. Barnum, a replica, charges of fraud and a failed lawsuit. The ultimate attention came from Mark Twain, who wrote a ghost story based on the incident.
Waddell, as Twain, will tell the story at 6 p.m. each Thursday through Sunday inside the Mark Twain Cave.
“The Cardiff Giant is one of the most impressive hoaxes ever played on the American public,” Waddell said.
Stylized story, to be told in Twain style
Oct 1, 2013 at 10:47 PM