Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Rosie Miller
Expedition Date: September 2013
When traveling how many of you stop at Roadside Attractions, Guinness Book of World Records sites or other Oddities? I am guilty. We were traveling to Vermillion, South Dakota to watch our son Matt play college football at the University of South Dakota, Dakota Dome. I stopped for gas at Ft. Dodge, in north central Iowa and noticed an old fort museum down the road. It turned out to be an old 1860’s western fort with lots of antiques, stuffed buffalos and local history. Out back was a building all by itself with a large sign saying “We Dare You to See the Cardiff Giant”. I was hooked. We went in.
What was the Cardiff Giant? It was one of the most famous hoaxes in USA history. It was a 10 foot tall purported “petrified man” uncovered on October 16, 1869 by workers digging a well (Photo #1 & #2) behind the barn of William Newell in Cardiff, New York. Newell set up a tent over the giant and charged 25 cents per person to see it (Photo #3). Two days later he increased the price to 50 cents. People came by the wagon load. Archaeologists pronounced it a fake while some preachers called it authentic. Newell made lots of money. The giant was eventually moved to Syracuse, NY for exhibition (Photo #4). The giant drew such large crowds that showman P.T. Barnum offered $50,000 for the giant.
At Fort Dodge, the giant rests peacefully on display (Photo #5) surrounded by informational boards and copies of old newspaper articles, posters (Photo #6) and vintage photos of the giant. Looked sort of like Andre the Giant. The giant was the creation of a New York atheist named George Hull who decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about Genesis 6:4 (stating there were giants who once lived on Earth). In 1868, Hull hired men to carve the 10 foot 4 inch block of gypsum in Ft. Dodge, Iowa, shipped it to a stonecutter in Chicago who carved it. Sworn to secrecy, the sculptor added stains and acids to make the giant appear old and weathered and shipped it by rail to the farm of William Newell his cousin. The giant was buried and dug up the following year. The rest is history.