In December 2003, David Hart claimed to have found a pickled dragon or, more precisely, what appeared to be the fetus of a winged reptile-type creature preserved in a 30-inch (76 cm) tall jar of formaldehyde in his garage in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire; he then showed it to a friend, Allistair Mitchell, who runs a marketing company in Oxford.
The pair had told the press that the dragon was found with documents suggesting it had been offered to the Natural History Museum in the late nineteenth century by German scientists. Mitchell suggested it was an attempt by the Germans to discredit their British colleagues.
According to their story, David Hart's grandfather, said to have been a porter at the museum, saved the specimen from being destroyed; it had then been left in a crate in his garage by Hart's father and had remained there for twenty years before being "rediscovered".
In reality the dragon was made by the model-makers behind the BBC TV series Walking with Dinosaurs, and the jar was made by a specialist glass blowing studio. The hoax was a publicity stunt to publicise Mitchell's forthcoming novel, and won him a publishing contract with Waterstones, a major British bookselling chain.
- Highfield, Roger (24 January 2004). "A baby dragon, or a bad joke?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- "Pickled dragon mystery". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2009.
- "Crawley Creatures" (model-makers' website). Retrieved 12 November 2009.
- "Book deal for dragon hoax author". BBC News. 28 March 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2009.