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Beane, Sawney (fl. 15th–16th cent.), legendary murderer and cannibal, is first mentioned in print in broadsheets about 1700. Various versions of his life appeared: in some he is said to have been active during the reign of James I of Scotland (1424–36), while other accounts date his crimes to the reign of ...

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Coppin, Louisa (1845–1849), supposed ghost, was born on 7 September 1845 at Ivy House, 34 Strand Road, Londonderry, the third child of Dora (d. 1866) and William Coppin (1805–1895). William Coppin was born on 9 October 1805 and was a ...

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Crofts, Elizabeth (b. c. 1535), impostor, is of unknown origins. Nothing is known of her before 1554, when she was involved in a cause célèbre that led to her being accused of attempting to undermine the church and the crown. The episode is reported in both Catholic and protestant sources, with no significant variation in detail. On 14 March that year, aged about eighteen, ...

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See Mo Ling [St Mo Ling, Mo Ling Lúachra, Tairchell, Daircell]

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Theodore Edward Hook (1788–1841) by Daniel Maclise, 1834 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Hook, Theodore Edward (1788–1841), writer and hoaxer, was born on 22 September 1788 at 3 Charlotte Street, Bedford Square, London, the son of James Hook (1746–1827), composer, and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Madden (d. 1795). Theodore Hook was educated at private schools, and subsequently for a short time at ...

Article

Richard Davenport-Hines

Jack the Ripper (fl. 1888), serial killer, was known as ‘the Whitechapel murderer’ or ‘Leather Apron’ until on 27 September 1888 the Central News Agency received a red-inked, defiant, semi-literate letter signed Jack the Ripper. This letter was probably a hoax concocted by news agency staff. It is suitable that he is known by a name devised in a journalistic stunt, for he was the first criminal to become a figure of international mythology through the medium of global communications. The indivisibility of his crimes from reportage of them is shown in a few words of a cabinet minister, ...

Article

Gordon Goodwin

revised by H. C. G. Matthew

M'Avoy, Margaret (1800–1820), impostor, was born at Liverpool of respectable parentage on 28 June 1800. Of sickly constitution, she appeared to become totally blind in June 1816. Her case attracted considerable contemporary attention from the readiness with which she was alleged to distinguish, by touch, colours of cloth, silk, and stained glass. She could also accurately describe the height, dress, bearing, and other characteristics of her visitors, and even decipher letters in a printed book or manuscript with her fingers' ends, so as to be able to read with tolerable fluency. ...

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Moore [née Peg], Ann (b. 1761), the fasting woman of Tutbury, was born on 31 October 1761 at Rosliston, Derbyshire, the daughter of a labourer and sawyer, William Peg. She went into domestic service, and in 1788 married a fellow farm servant, ...

Article

Parsons, Elizabeth [called the Cock Lane Ghost] (1749–1807), impostor, was born at Cock Lane, in the City of London, an obscure turning between Newgate Street and West Smithfield. She was the elder of two daughters of Richard Parsons, deputy parish clerk of ...