In late August of 1835, readers of the New-York Sun encountered an incredible story in its pages. The newspaper was among the inexpensive “penny press” that began publication during the 1830s and drew a large new readership with lower prices and a more narrative style of journalism than earlier newspapers. The Sunreported that the British astronomer Sir John Herschel had created a telescope “of vast dimensions and an entirely new principle” that enabled him to see life on the moon. In a series spread over six days, the Sun provided an exhaustively detailed description of Herschel’s telescope and its extraterrestrial discoveries. Although it was derided by other newspapers as a hoax, the Sun never admitted that the moon story was untrue. This excerpt describes the life forms on the moon allegedly visible through Herschel’s telescope.
We were thrilled…to perceive four successive flocks of large winged creatures, wholly unlike any kind of birds, descend with a slow even motion from the cliffs on the western side, and alight upon the plain. . . .
Certainly they were like human beings, for their wings had now disappeared, and their attitude in walking was both erect and dignified….They averaged four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly upon their backs,…The face, which was of a yellowish flesh color, was a slight improvement upon that of the large orang outang, being more open and intelligent in its expression, and having a much greater expansion of forehead. The mouth, however, was very prominent, though somewhat relieved by a thick beard upon the lower jaw, and by lips far more human than those of any species of similar genus.
. . .
Whenever we afterwards saw them, these creatures were evidently engaged in conversation; their gesticulation, more particularly the varied action of their hands and arms, appeared impassioned and emphatic. We hence inferred that they were rational beings, and although not perhaps of so high an order as others which we discovered the next month on the shores of the Bay of Rainbows…
Having adjusted the instrument for a minute examination, we found that nearly all the individuals in [the “Vale of the Triads”] were of larger stature than the former specimens, less dark in color, and in every respect an improved variety of the race. They were chiefly engaged in eating a large yellow fruit like a gourd, sections of which they divided with their fingers, and ate with rather uncouth voracity, throwing away the rind. A smaller red fruit, shaped like a cucumber, which we had often seen pendant from trees having a broad dark leaf, was also lying in heaps in the centre of several of the festive groups; but the only use they appeared to make of it was sucking its juice, after rolling it between the palms of their hands and nibbling off an end.
They seemed eminently happy, and even polite, for we saw, in many instances, individuals sitting nearest these piles of fruit, select the largest and brightest specimens, and throw them archwise across the circle to some opposite friend or associate who extracted the nutriment from those scattered around him, and which were frequently not a few.
While thus engaged in their rural banquets, or in social converse, they were always seated with their knees flat upon the turf, and their feet brought evenly together in the form of a triangle. And for some mysterious reason or other this figure seemed to be an especial favorite among them; for we found that every group or social circle arranged itself in this shaped before it dispersed, which was generally done at the signal of an individual who stepped into the centre and brought his hands over his head in an acute angle. At this signal each member of the company extended his arms forward so as to form an acute angle horizontal angle with the extremity of the fingers. But this was not the only proof we had that they were creatures of order and subordination.
We had no opportunity of seeing them actually engaged in any work of industry or art; and so far as we could judge, they spent their happy hours in collecting various fruits in the woods, in eating, flying, bathing, and loitering about on the summits of precipices….
The universal state of amity among all classes of lunar creatures, and the apparent absence of every carnivorous or ferocious creatures, gave us the most refined pleasure, and doubly endeared to us this lovely nocturnal companion of our larger, but less favored world. …
Source: New-York Sun, August 25-31, 1835—www.museumofhoaxes.com/moonhoax1.html