But to answer Ralph’s question, yes, I know of a few Idaho hoaxes. Hoaxes, by my definition, do not include April Fool’s Day jokes. Clever and humbling as those are, they just aren’t in the same category.
Here are a few I’ve previously written about, with the links to those stories. Probably the most famous and enduring hoax is the Bear Lake Monster. Note that this story includes a decidedly not-hoaxy piece on that big dog in Cottonwood. The William Clark Rock certainly smells like a hoax, though the artifact is still in the Idaho State Archives. Daniel Boone in Idaho qualifies as a hoax, even if the woman who publicized it sincerely believed in its validity.
Caleb Lyon, the second governor of Idaho Territory, famously embezzled more than $46,000 from intended for the Boise Shoshoni Tribe while he was in office. It’s less well-known that he started a frenzy of diamond prospecting by claiming that a diamond had been found near Ruby City. Hundreds flocked to stake their claims. Not a single diamond was found.
Kenneth Arnold, Idaho’s flying saucer man, is widely credited with starting the UFO mania that continues even today. His 1947 sighting generated a number of UFO hoaxes, perhaps the most famous of which was tied to Twin Falls. Following several sightings in Idaho in July of that year, some Twin Falls residents found a 30-inch disc in their backyard after hearing a thud at 2:30 in the morning. Police confiscated the object, which contained radio tubes, electrical coils, and wires underneath a plexiglass dome. The FBI turned the thing over to Army intelligence. They determined that it had been built by teenage pranksters. It got a lot of publicity before the Army got involved. When Army released a picture (below) of the suspicious disk, UFO reports dropped considerably. The Twin Falls saucer hoax came just three days after Army personnel found a “flying disc” that was later described as a weather balloon near Roswell, New Mexico.
There’s one more hoax that deserves a post of its own. Look for that one tomorrow.