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Hoax: Hitler's Diaries, Lincoln's Assassins, and Other Famous Frauds

Edward Steers
Foreword by Joe Nickell
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Did a collector with a knack for making sensational discoveries really find the first document ever printed in America? Did Adolf Hitler actually pen a revealing multivolume set of diaries? Has Jesus of Nazareth's burial cloth survived the ages? Can the shocking true account of Abraham Lincoln's assassination be found in lost pages from his murderer's diary?

    Napoleon famously observed that "history is a set of lies agreed upon," and Edward Steers Jr. investigates six of the most amazing frauds ever to gain wide acceptance in this engrossing book. Hoax examines the legitimacy of the Shroud of Turin, perhaps the most hotly debated relic in all of Christianity, and the fossils purported to confirm humanity's "missing link," the Piltdown Man. Steers also discusses two remarkable forgeries, the Hitler diaries and the "Oath of a Freeman," and famous conspiracy theories alleging that Franklin D. Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the planned attack on Pearl Harbor and that the details of Lincoln's assassination are recorded in missing pages from John Wilkes Booth's journal.

    The controversies that Steers presents show that there are two major factors involved in the success of a hoax or forgery -- greed and the desire to believe. Though all of the counterfeits and conspiracies featured in Hoax have been scientifically debunked, some remain fixed in many people's minds as truth. As Steers points out, the success of these frauds highlights a disturbing fact: If true history fails to entertain the public, it is likely to be ignored or forgotten.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4161-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Joe Nickell

    This book asks some of history’s grandest questions: Did Mark Hofmann discover sensational documents—from the first example of printing in America to historical Mormon writings—that helped shape American history? Was the bombing of Pearl Harbor a consequence of treason in the Oval Office? And did madman Adolf Hitler actually pen a revealing multivolume set of diaries? Has the very burial cloth of Jesus, mysteriously imprinted with his haunting visage, survived the ages? Was the Holy Grail of paleontology, the long-sought “missing link,” discovered in, of all places, a gravel pit in England? And could lost pages from John...

  4. Introduction: “Snap, Crackle, and Pop”
    (pp. 1-4)

    Wanting to believe is the first of the two most powerful emotions involved in the success of a hoax or forgery. The second is greed. Greed is a harsh term, but in the end it is an accurate characterization of one of the motivations behind being duped by the forger or taken in by the hoax. Believing (the desire to believe what you hear or see) turns out to be the most powerful narcotic in causing people to accept forgeries and hoaxes. This is certainly true when it comes to the Shroud of Turin. Wanting to believe can cloud a...

  5. 1 Oath of a Freeman: The King of Forgers
    (pp. 5-42)

    On October 16, 1985, a neatly dressed man in his mid-thirties clutched the handle on the door of his blue Toyota. As he innocently opened the door a brown paper package resting on the console slipped between the two front seats and fell to the floor. It happened in less than a second. The inside of the car erupted in a violent fireball, blowing the roof off of the car and lifting the man several feet into the air and hurtling him backward as if he had been suddenly pulled by a giant hand and thrown on the ground. Pieces...

  6. 2 Pearl Harbor: Treachery in the Oval Office?
    (pp. 43-68)

    December 7, 1941, remains one of the definitive days of the twentieth century. Within the short span of two hours the United States was propelled into a world war that only days before over 80 percent of its citizens had adamantly opposed entering. The surprise attack by the Japanese on the military bases on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands shocked the nation to its very core. How, people asked, could our military leaders be so utterly unprepared for such a daring undertaking? The core of America’s Pacific Fleet lay smoldering in a mass of twisted metal. The devastation was beyond...

  7. 3 Hah Hitler! The Hitler Diaries
    (pp. 69-116)

    The atmosphere in the bunker had grown increasingly tense every day since the celebration of the führer’s birthday on April 20. The regular afternoon conferences in the narrow hallway outside his suite reflected the unrealistic nature of the situation. The führer’s advisers became increasingly frightened of reporting the collapsing situation that was rapidly taking place all along the Russian front. As the Red Army moved closer toward Berlin, Hitler deployed his phantom armies that even if they were at full strength would be no match for the Russian assault. It was time to begin taking steps to flee the bunker...

  8. 4 The Shroud of Turin: Tell Me What You Want to Believe and I Will Tell What You Will Believe
    (pp. 117-150)

    To believers, the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth that covered the body of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion prior to his resurrection. To skeptics the shroud is a man-made object created in the fourteenth century by a medieval painter as a religious icon to attract pilgrims and their money. The shroud first came to light in 1357 and passed through several hands and places before ending up in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, where it is preserved today. Once privately owned, it is now the property of the...

  9. 5 Skullduggery: The Man Who Never Was
    (pp. 151-180)

    On a December day in 2006, Dr. Jorn Hurum, associate professor of paleontology at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo, walked into a fossil fair in Hamburg, Germany. The fair was among the largest events of its type held annually in Europe. Thousands of people from around Western Europe attended the fair in search of commercially available fossils and to see the many interesting paleontological specimens on display. It was not Hurum’s first visit to the fair, and he was not expecting to find anything out of the ordinary, but that is exactly what happened. Stopping by...

  10. 6 The Missing Pages from John Wilkes Booth’s Diary
    (pp. 181-210)

    The epigraph by John Wilkes Booth that appears above can be found in Booth’s little diary or memorandum book, currently on display in the museum in Ford’s Theatre. Booth made the entry during his attempted escape while hiding in a pine thicket, waiting until it was safe to cross the Potomac River into Virginia following his murder of Abraham Lincoln. The entry has spurred conspiracy-minded individuals for more than 140 years in their quest to prove that Lincoln’s assassination was part of a grand conspiracy between members of his own administration and the Confederate government. Beginning in 1865, when Union...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 211-212)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 213-226)
  13. Index
    (pp. 227-236)