Edward Owens hoax
The Edward Owens hoax is a historical hoax created by students at George Mason University in 2008 as a class project on "Lying About the Past". The students created a website and a fictitious entry on English Wikipedia about Edward Owens, purportedly a Virginia oyster fisherman born in 1853 who became a pirate. The hoax was reported as true in some media outlets.
Students published a blog and videos about the fictional Owens, created by the fictional student "Jane Browning." The blog asserted that Owens fell on hard times during the Long Depression of the 1870s and took up piracy in Chesapeake Bay to survive. The students claimed he robbed smaller commercial vessels and wealthy pleasure boaters from Maryland using a punt gun to threaten his victims. The students created a fake will which asserted that Owens and his crew eventually went back to oyster fishing. The students later created a hoax biography of Owens on Wikipedia. After some media outlets and academics reported the hoax as factual the class divulged the hoax. In March 2013, Kelly announced that he would no longer be teaching the course, after the university declined to make it part of the regular curriculum of his department.
- Yoni Appelbaum (May 15, 2012). "How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
- Howard, Jennifer (18 December 2008). "Teaching by Lying: Professor Unveils 'Last Pirate' Hoax". The Chronicle of Higher Education.(subscription required)
- Jon Brodkin (January 14, 2011). "The 10 biggest hoaxes in Wikipedia's first 10 years". Network World. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
- T. Mills Kelly. "True Facts or False Facts—Which Are More Authentic?". Playing With History. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
- Matheson, Whitney. Pop Candy blog, USAToday.com, December 4, 2008
- "The Last American Pirate", December 4, 2008
- Mills Kelly (March 31, 2013), No More Lying About the Past, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University