Just before July 2, 1879, local hotel owner John Thompson and collaborators buried a hoax petrified seven-foot humanoid in the path of road construction so crews would find it. They tunneled sideways so the soil above it would not be disturbed. It was made out of a mix composed of eggs, beef blood, iron filings, and plaster or cement by another local, Ira Dean, who fashioned it in this way so it would fool Cornell University scientists into authenticating it as real human remains.
The scheme worked at first. Like the Cardiff Giant before it, people were fascinated by the discovery and wanted to see for themselves. Ultimately the ruse brought thousands of visitors who paid to see the artifact, as well as to purchase photos of it. (Presumably, it also contributed to Thompson’s hotel profits.)
The deception was ultimately discovered as loose-lipped collaborator Frank Creque revealed the details of the plan at a (probably alcohol-induced) public confession at a local tavern. It ultimately fell into disrepair and was damaged attempting to move it, so it was buried at an undisclosed field in Trumansburg.
Now 142 years later, this folly is celebrated by the ribbon cutting on a reproduction of the “giant,” which is protected by a handsome pavilion. It remains a reminder of the gullibility of people, and the need for rigorous scientific investigation into claims of truth.
Know Before You Go
The Giant is located just across Main St. (Rt 96) from the Trumansburg Farmers Market. The market is open Wednesday afternoons seasonally and you can park there and walk across to see the giant. The giant also has its own parking circle.