Hoaxes & frauds

Berners Street hoax

The Berners Street hoax was perpetrated by Theodore Hook in Westminster, England, in 1810. Hook had made a bet with his friend, Samuel Beazley, that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address in a week, which he achieved by sending out thousands of letters in the name of Mrs Tottenham, who lived at 54 Berners Street, requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance.

Cock Lane ghost

A purported haunting that attracted mass public attention in 1762.

Cottingley Fairies

The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright (1901–1988) and Frances Griffiths (1907–1986), two cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England.

Ernest Terah Hooley

Ernest Terah Hooley (5 February 1859 – 11 February 1947) was an English financier who specialised in acquiring companies and then reselling them at inflated prices, making himself substantial profits in the process.

Hammersmith Ghost

An early 19th-century hoax that reinforced the standard white-sheeted ghost look, and set a legal precedent for self-defence.

Holy Maid of Leominster

The Holy Maid of Leominster, known only as Elizabeth, was installed in the rood loft above the chancel of the priory of Leominster by its prior in the late 15th or early 16th century.


Kosmoid was a group of three companies set up by Glasgow doctor Alexander Shiels in 1904: Kosmoid Ltd, Kosmoid Locks Ltd, and Kosmoid Tubes Ltd.

Mary Bateman

Poisoner and thief whose most audacious hoax was The Prophet Hen of Leeds.

Mary Toft

An English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.

Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff

Isaac Bickerstaff was a pseudonym used by the satirist Jonathan Swift in a hoax predicting the “infallible” death of John Partridge, a well-known 18th-century astrologer and almanac maker, on 29 March 1708.

The Bottle Conjuror

The Bottle Conjurer was advertised to appear at the Haymarket Theatre in England, on 16 January 1749, when he was to have placed his body inside an empty wine bottle, in full view of the audience.

The Sleeping Girl of Turville

A girl who, her mother claimed, fell into a deep sleep from which she could not be roused for nine years.

Yorkshire witch

Redirected to Mary Bateman.