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George Psalmanazer is actually a false name used by one man, who managed to pull off one of the greatest hoaxes in the early 18th century. He was introduced in 1703 to the Bishop of London as a "converted heathen from Formosa" (now known as Taiwan).

He was considered an exotic specimen. People were amazed by his stories about what Formosa was like. He claimed that before he joined the Anglican faith, he was a cannibal...and that snakes, snake blood, and raw meat, including the flesh of executed criminals, were delicacies in Formosa. Divorce customs were similarily barbaric: A man could legally kill and eat his own wife, simply by accusing her of adultery. Psalmanazer taught himself to eat raw meat, and would often show off whenever he dined with others as proof of his story.

The Bishop of London sent the "reformed savage" to Oxford University to study and to lecture on Formosan language and history. While there, the Anglican Church commissioned him to translate the Bible into Formosan (a language Psalmanazer completely invented). The year after that, Psalmanazar wrote Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa which had made up information about Formosan art, culture, diet, dress, and language. He also noted that Formosan religion demanded the sacrifice of 18,000 boys under age 9 each year.

No one in England at the time had ever been to Formosa, as it was literally on the other side of the Earth, so there were few who realized it was all a lie. When a missionary who really had been to the place finally shouted foul, Psalmanazar was so charismatic, shrewd, and convincing that the crowd actually believed him over the missionary. Psalmanazer was extremely inventive with explanations to holes in his story. When people asked him why he didn't look Asian, Psalmanazar explained that the ruling class spent all their time in underground houses; it was only the workers, who spent much time in the sun, whose skin turned to a shade of yellow. It was preposterous, but the English were gullible at the time. Also, he had massive support from the Anglican Church, after all their religion was strong enough to convert a former cannibal, while Catholicism could not.

Eventually, Psalmanazar was exposed by the famous scientist Edmund Halley (yes, the comet guy), during an interview in 1706. Halley tested Psalmanazar on how much sunlight the "underground houses" got during the day and various other questions of such nature. Psalmanzar, obviously not adept in the field of science, could not bs his way through these types of questions.

Finally, he confessed to actually being just a guy from France, but he never revealed his true name.


Hoaxes and Deceptions

BRI: Absolutely Absorbing

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