Fake News

When Mr. J. Smith read the New York Times one hundred years ago, on the morning of 4 June 1922, he breathed a sigh of relief: the earth was not going to be invaded by dinosaurs, as had been feared the day before. It was Conan Doyle’s fault!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes was a staunch Spiritualist. His involvement began in 1894 when he joined the British Society for Psychical Research, which investigated local paranormal phenomena. Doyle became further rooted in the movement after his son’s death during World War I. For the rest of his life , Doyle claimed that his son communicated with him from beyond the grave.

Conan Doyle attended seances and wrote articles or lectured on spiritualism. In 1922, while in America for a series of lectures, he was invited by his friend Harry Houdini to the annual meeting of the Society of American Magicians.
The guest of honour decided to honour the meeting by bringing with him concrete proof that dinosaurs not only existed but still lived!
Towards the end of a series of sleight of hand tricks and other “experiments” in magic, Doyle decided to show a stunned audience proof of that, saying:
“There would be great danger if the originals were shown instead of the counterfeit, but what you will see is a living presentment.”
After this mysterious utterance Sir Arthur said:
“I would like to add, to save myself from getting up again, that, if permission is granted for me to show this, they will speak for themselves. I will answer no questions regarding them either for the press or the others present.”

Then he played for the astonished crowd a portion of a black and white film featuring extinct monsters, mostly dinosaurs. fighting, playing or making love, without any titles or comments.
After showing the clip, as he had foretold he didn’t answer any questions, just said that people should be wise and keep their minds open when it came to the unknown, and left the audience to their own conclusions.

The following day the New York Times ran the following headline:

DINOSAURS CAVORT IN FILM FOR DOYLE
SPIRITIST MYSTIFIES WORLD-FAMED MAGICIANS WITH PICTURES OF PREHISTORIC BEASTS
KEEPS ORIGIN A SECRET
MONSTERS OF OTHER AGES SHOWN,
SOME FIGHTING, SOME AT PLAY,
IN THEIR NATIVE JUNGLES”

However, the day after, 4 June 1922, the same newspaper reported a letter sent by Conan Doyle to Houdini, in which he called the whole thing “a hoax”.

“My dear Houdini:
My cinematic interlude at the Wizards’ Supper should, I believe, be explained now that its purpose has been achieved. The purpose was simply to provide some mystification to those who have so often and so successfully mystified others.
In presenting my dinosaurs in motion I…. I was emphatic that it was not occult and only psychic ….
…. Dinosaurs and other monsters were built from pure cinema, but of the highest kind, and are used for the film “The Lost World” which depicts prehistoric life on a South American plateau. “

It was a clip from the film “The Lost World”(which had not yet been released), based on one of Doyle’s works, a novel in which a British scientist discovers a plateau in South America that has survived through geological time. and it is still full of the monsters that roamed the earth millions of years before man appeared.
Overnight, Conan Doyle made the film adaptation of his novel the most anticipated film in America!

Quando esattamente cent’anni fa il signor J. Smith lesse il New York Times, la mattina del 4 giugno 1922, tirò un sospiro di sollievo: la terra non sarebbe stata invasa dai dinosauri, come era stato paventato il giorno prima. Tutta colpa di Conan Doyle!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, il famoso creatore di Sherlock Holmes, era un convinto spiritista. Il suo coinvolgimento era iniziato nel 1894 quando era entrato nella British Society for Psychical Research/ Società per la Ricerca psichica che indagava sui fenomeni paranormali locali. Doyle si era ulteriormente consolidato nel movimento dopo la morte di suo figlio durante la prima guerra mondiale, che diceva comunicasse con lui dall’oltretomba.

Conan Doyle partecipava a sedute spiritiche e scriveva articoli o teneva conferenze sullo spiritismo. Nel 1922, mentre era in America per una serie di conferenze, fu invitato dall’amico Harry Houdini all’incontro annuale della Society of American Magicians/Società dei Maghi Americani
L’ospite d’onore decise di onorare l’incontro portando con sé la prova concreta che i dinosauri non solo erano esistiti, ma vivevano ancora!
Verso la fine di una serie di giochi di prestigio e altri “esperimenti” di magia, Doyle decise di mostrare a un pubblico sbalordito la sua prova, dicendo:

“Ci sarebbe un grande pericolo se venissero mostrati gli originali invece della contraffazione, ma quello che vedrete è un presente vivente”.
Dopo questa misteriosa frase Sir Arthur aggiunse:
Vorrei aggiungere, per evitare di rialzarmi, che, se mi viene concesso il permesso di mostrarlo, parlerà da solo. Non risponderò a domande su di loro né per la stampa né per gli altri presenti”.

Poi proiettò, senza titoli o commenti, alcune immagini in movimento che mostravano mostri estinti, per lo più dinosauri, mentre combattevano, giocavano o facevano l’amore
Dopo aver mostrato la clip, come aveva preannunciato non rispose a nessuna domanda, ma disse solo che le persone dovevamo essere sagge e mantenere le loro menti aperte quando si trattava dell’ignoto, e lasciò il pubblico alle proprie conclusioni.

Il giorno seguente il New York Times pubblicò il seguente titolo:

DINOSAURI SALTELLANO IN UN FILM PER DOYLE
LO SPIRITISTA DISORIENTA MAGHI DI FAMA MONDIALE CON IMMAGINI DI BESTIE PREISTORICHE
MANTIENE SEGRETA L
A FONTE
MOSTRATI MOSTRI DI ALTRE ERE,
ALCUNI IN COMBATTIMENTO, ALTRI IN GIOCO,
NELLE LORO GIUNGLE
ORIGINARIE

Tuttavia il giorno dopo il 4 giugno 1922 lo stesso giornale riportava una lettera inviata da Conan Doyle a Houdini, in cui definiva l’intera faccenda “una bufala”.
Mio caro Houdini:
Il mio intermezzo cinematografico in occasione della cena dei maghi dovrebbe, credo, essere spiegato, ora che il suo scopo è stato raggiunto. Lo scopo era semplicemente quello di fornire un po’ di mistificazione a coloro che così spesso e con così tanto successo hanno mistificato gli altri.
Nel presentare i miei dinosauri in movimento io …. ho enfatizzato il fatto che non era qualcosa di occulto ma solo psichico ….
…. I dinosauri e altri mostri sono stati costruiti da cinema puro, del tipo più elevato, e vengono utilizzati per il film “Il mondo perduto” che rappresenta la vita preistorica su un altopiano sudamericano. “

Si trattava infatti di una clip estrapolato dal film “The Lost World/ Il mondo perduto” (non ancora in circolazione) , basato su una delle opere di Doyle, romanzo in cui uno scienziato britannico scopre in Sud America un altopiano che è sopravvissuto attraverso il tempo geologico ed è ancora pieno di mostri che vagavano per la terra milioni di anni prima che dell’uomo.
Nel giro di un giorno, Conan Doyle rese l’adattamento cinematografico del suo romanzo il film più atteso d’America!

55 thoughts on “Fake News

  1. The special effects for the 1925 film ““The Lost World”” was done by Willis O’Brien, who would later do the original “King Kong” special effects (stop motion animation). Excellent post as always, Luisa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Luisa, for your brilliant rendition of Conan Doyle’s affliction! It made my day! I wrote about this in my books series, and will one day write about the famous authors again,

    Joanna

    Like

  3. Luisa ! Arthur Conan Doyle was a master of mystery who created ‘ Sherlock Homes ‘. Spiritually rich Doyle , like Indian Noble Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore , used to talk to spirit comfortably . It is a very sophisticated technique to communicate with the spirit the world over . And it was not like a hoax spread by Arhhur Conan Doyle about that giant monster Dinosaurs which supposedly , to him , never existed . But Luisa your literary eyes are wide enough to find such literary giant like Doyle for us . Thanks !

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow, Luisa, you have outdone yourself with this post. Very very interesting post on my most favorite author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and thanks so much for another outstanding, brilliant blog. 🥰🥰😘😘😘😘😍😍😊😊😊. Have a wonderful weekend and keep surprising me like this. You have added joy to my dull life. 😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. 😊😊🥰🥰🥰😘😘😘😍😍 I do mean every word and you deserve it. It’s my pleasure to read your blogs. Have a wonderful weekend🍕🏠🎉.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the link. I had heard of it but did not know the whole story or even the involvement of Conan Doyle, who supported it
      Humanity needs to believe in something that goes beyond the pure physicality of this world🙏🧚‍♂️🧚‍♂️🧚‍♂️

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post Luisa. I had never heard of this, but it is right up there with Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast that caused widespread panic on October 30, 1938. Just goes to show you that we all need context and need to do research before buying in. Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. Happy weekend Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” This is wise advice to follow … speaking of what is happening now, the war, the pandemic, with a bombardment of images and information, I feel really dazed and I no longer know what or who to trust.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Articolo molto gustoso, brava Luisa!
    Ho un dubbio: non conosco la lingua inglese bene come te, e così leggendo questa storia mi sono chiesto se quello di Conan Doyle sia spiritualismo oppure spiritismo. Probabilmente in inglese la parola spiritualist ha doppia valenza, almeno lo suppongo, ma forse in italiano i termini spiritualista e spiritista non sono equivalenti: il primo, direi, ha a che fare con dottrine filosofico-religiose, con Pascal e con Rosmini per intenderci, mentre l’altro fa riferimento al paranormale, a credenze esoteriche e cose del genere, pane per i denti dei miei amici del Cicap e in particolare di Massimo Polidoro 🙂
    Per risolvere il busillis mi affido a te.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Claudio, ho avuto anch’io lo stesso dubbio e ho controllato più volte e visto che in inglese pur esistendo anche la parola, spiritist, come appare nel titolo del giornale, Conan Doyle è sempre definito Spiritualist.
      Per quanto riguarda l’italiano, pur consapevole delle differenze, ho tradotto letteralmente. Ma ora che il dubbio è sorto anche a te, vado a correggere -Un abbraccio!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Another superb post Luisa. I never knew anything about this connection between Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini, but I did read the book.

    As a sidenote, it prompted me to read a book about a local man who went to explore the Amazon Rainforest. I forget the name of the book, but the explorer’s name was Percy Fawcett. You might like to look him up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Luisa. I’ve been watching an air show over the bay with the Red Arrows flying above our house. It’s always a great spectacle. I hope you’re having a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing 💙

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Beh! quella era una patacca per fregare i creduloni. Comenuque hai ragione la fake news sono vecchie come l’uomo. Basta andare indietro di qualche secolo al tempo delle guerre puniche ad esempio.

        Liked by 1 person

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