Most people know what happened when Orson Welles read The War of the Worlds on radio in 1938. Hearing of an invasion by Martians, many listeners headed for the hills. But this wasn’t the first time that the public fell for a science fiction tale.In 1838 the New York Sun published a series of articles about the eminent astronomer, Sir John Herschel. Using a new and powerful telescope, one article said, Herschel could seethat the moon was populated by humanoid figures with batlike wings. The reports caused a sensation. Eventually the newspaper admitted that one of its reporters had fabricated what became known as "The Moon Hoax."Nine years later, the New York Sun published as true Edgar Allen Poe’s story about a hot air balloon that had blown across the Atlantic Ocean. Although the "Balloon Hoax" was exposed as false in less than one day, the story influenced French writer Jules Verne when he wrote Five Weeks in a Balloon and Around the World in Eighty Days.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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