The story of the Cardiff Giant starts in New York, with a man named George Hull. Hull, a tobacconist by trade, was a bit of an atheist. By which I mean he made it his life goal to play a massive practical joke on the Christians for kicks.
One day it came to Hull’s attention that a passage in the biblical book of Genesis stated there were once giants living on the Earth. After getting into a heated argument with a Methodist over whether giants were real, Hull decided to teach Christianity a lesson.
A normal person would probably dig up some evidence. You know, scientifically prove that giants never existed. Hull was no ordinary man. For him, revenge was a special thing.
This special thing.
That’s the Cardiff Giant, a ten foot tall stone statue of a ‘petrified’ man (sadly, he wore no stone underwear). Hull spend the equivalent of fifty thousand dollars making this fucking monstrosity. Then he had it buried in the grounds around his cousin’s farm, where they ‘discovered’ it a few weeks later.
Despite being called a fake by pretty much the entire scientific community, the Cardiff Giant became a hit with crowds. It made so much money Hull was eventually able to sell it for the modern day equivalent of over $400,000 without trouble. The crowds loved it. The religious fanatics loved it.
And P.T. Barnum loved it.
The Cardiff Giant’s dedicated followers. Finally, people more obsessed than Dr. Who fans.
Barnum saw the chance to make a fortune through the giant and offered more than twice the amount Hull had sold it for. The men who now possessed the giant refused to play ball, so Barnum got sneaky.
Specifically, he had one of his cronies make a wax cast of the giant under the cover of darkness. Then he forged his own giant, set it up in his museum, and announced to the world that Hull’s creation was a fake. And it worked. People started paying to see Barnum’s copy. When the new owner of the giant, David Hannum, tried to sue Barnum for slander, the case was thrown out of court. In order to prove Barnum had the fake, Hannum also had to prove his own giant was real.
A year later Hull finally announced that the giant was fake, presumably while teabagging a cross and giving the Pope the finger. Barnum, however, had already made a fortune.
In response to learning that people were visiting Barnum’s museum to see the ‘real’ giant, David Hannum said: ‘there’s a sucker born every minute.’
The quote P.T. Barnum is now credited for. You really have to admire this guy. He takes being an asshole to a whole new level.