The following is a quick look at a strange but popular story making its rounds on the internet, mostly in Facebook. I have no doubt that the average person would look at this and see it for what it is: a hoax. But the methods behind the hoax are fascinating.
If there’s one thing certain about people, it’s that we’ll pay for sensational nonsense and tell ourselves it’s all real. The suspension of disbelief is fun, even if for a few moments. It’s what makes a movie enjoyable and a cartoon funny. But some purveyors of sensational objects of curiosity seem to try to take unfair advantage of our innate desires to be fooled.
A Sucker Born Every Minute
The Cardiff Giant, created in the 1860s, is a prime example. Carved and cut buy Edward Burghardt, this 10 foot tall “giant” was commissioned by George Hull, a New York tobacconist. The figure was carved from solid block of gypsum. It was then passed on to William Newell who set up a tent to view it for 50 cents a person. Newell quickly went into competition with PT Barnum who created his own giant when Newell refused to sell. Barnum was then sued by Newell and then both giants were exposed as frauds in court.
Let’s not forget the so-called “alien autopsy” hoax from the 1990s, which came on the cuff of the wildly popular television series The X-Files. This 17-minute black and white film was alleged to have originated from an anonymous, retired military cameraman and supposed to depict the autopsy of an alien crash-landed in Rosewll, NM in the 1940s. Ultimately, Ray Santilli admitted that the entire thing was a staged affair. A hoax.
New Minutes; New Suckers?
So when video and photos of a “Peruvian mummy” that has an elongated skull and three long, slender fingers is debuted by Jaime Maussan, the entire fringe side of Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree. I’ve followed it loosely, but I thought it might be time I review what’s out there on the topic.
First, the mummy (there are actually a couple of different alleged “remains,” but I’ll stick to the more recent mummy) is being presented to the press. And not just any press, but would-be news outlets that specialize in the fringe and the crackpottery of aliens and bigfoot like Gaia. This is one of the warning signs of pseudoscience: the discovery is pitched directly to the media.
Second, the mummy looks odd. Like it’s coated in plaster.
Third, at least one of the key players involved with this sensational story is known hoaxer, Jaime Maussan. Michael Heiser writes a very good breakdown of his earlier “demon fairy” hoax and links to two other sites that also expose Maussan as a hoaxer (to save you time look at this Rense.com article and this Above Top Secret forum post.
Finally, there’s an excellent report written by Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi from the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum in Lima, Peru titled, “Esta Es La Falsa Mano “alienígena” Que Los Científicos De Maussan Determinaron Anatómicamente Correcta Y Funcional (This the fake “alien” hand that Maussan’s scientists determined anatomically correct and functional).” The report is in Spanish, but here are some of the highlghts:
X-rays and expert identification says that the bones of the mummy’s “hand” are from two individuals. At least one is a sub-adult, probably a neonate.
The bones of the “hand” are actually arm and leg bones of a neonatal child. the bones of the “fingers” are from the metacarpal and phalanges of an adult. The bones are also arranged poorly with phibulas on either side of metacarpels. This is the sort of mistake you could expect from amateurs creating a plastered, fake alien/mummy. Maussan and company mixed the long bones of a child with the finger bones.
And, if all this wasn’t enough, NURÉA TV (in French) revealed DNA results that show the mummies to be human. One hundred percent human. No bananas, no giraffes, no shaved squirrel-monkeys, and no aliens. Here’s a screenshot courtesy of La révélation de Gollum: