March 02, 2023

#08-289: OOPArts

The Cardiff Giant is "exhumed" in 1869. (Wikipedia)

Note: Someone said "There's a sucker born every minute"--and many manufactured OOPArts prove this statement to be true!

Get Ready: What would you think if you heard evidence of, say, dinosaurs and humans existing side-by-side? Or the discovery of a 10-foot tall petrified giant human? Would you believe it? Doubt it? Want more evidence?

The American writer Charles Fort specialized in "anomalous phenomena": not just the usual ghosts, UFOs, and such, but also cryptozoology (Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster); people with seemingly "supernatural" abilities, like ESP; unusual weather events; and so on. Such phenomena are sometimes called "Forteana" after Fort; the adjective form is "Fortean."

One interesting category in his work is the "OOPArt" or Out-of-Place Artifact. This is something found in an unusual--some would say "impossible"--context, like the footprints of humans and dinosaurs together, though their time on the planet was separated by nearly 65 million years.

Fort would investigate such anomalies with an open mind. Most often he would end up debunking his subjects, but occasionally one would come along with no explanation, opening the possibility that it was genuine.

When Fort learned of what seemed to be an OOPArt, the first thing he did was look for alternative explanations, including natural causes, hoaxes, mistaken identity, and mistakes in dating.

For instance, the human "footprints" found near genuine dinosaur tracks in Texas were actually natural phenomena (caused by wind erosion) or in some cases outright forgeries made by locals to make money.

Another famous hoax was the "Cardiff Giant," a figure carved from a soft type of stone and "found" in New York state in 1869; it was supposedly a ten-foot-tall petrified man from Biblical times. Experts quickly spotted the forgery, and the perpetrator admitted his offense. But even this did not decrease the object's popularity; it is still on display at a museum not far from where it was "discovered."

Dating problems can be caused by misunderstanding of geology. In 1961, three people in California found what seemed to be a spark plug (invented in the 19th century) encased in a 500,000-year-old stone called a geode. In fact, it WAS a spark plug--but it was not in a geode, just a build-up of hard soil around something made in the 1920s!

The writings of Fort and his followers shouldn't be taken too seriously, but they can be extremely interesting.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. anomalous
  2. debunking
  3. erosion
  4. forgery
  5. geology
  6. hoaxes
  7. outright
  8. perpetrator
  9. petrified
  10. spark plug

  1. tricks; frauds
  2. turned into stone
  3. a part of a car's electrical system
  4. a fake; something made in order to deceive people
  5. abnormal; not fitting into what's expected
  6. proving something to be false
  7. wearing away by wind and water
  8. straightforward; unambiguous
  9. the study of the earth's physical materials (rocks, etc.)
  10. a person who commits a wrongful act

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 2, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. f; 3. g; 4. d; 5. i; 6. a; 7. h; 8. j; 9. b; 10. c