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THE COLOSSAL CASE OF THE CARDIFF GIANT

This Issue’s Cover features a digital painting by Daniel Loxton, based upon a c.1870–1908 drawing of the Cardiff Giant (artist unknown).

Hello!

Today we’ll tell a story of gigantic proportions! Once upon a time, America buzzed with claims that the remains of a giant had been dug up from a field in New York state.

It was over ten feet tall and made entirely of stone. Amazed onlookers said this was the fossilized body of a colossal human being. Could this be true? Was America once home to a lost race of giants? Or was this a whopper too big to swallow?

Let’s find out!

DIGGING INTO A MYSTERY

The case began in a New England farming village called Cardif. It was an October day in 1869, four years after the end of the American Civil War. That morning started out like any other brisk Autumn day. Birds sang. Wind rustled through the trees. People tended their farms and went about their business.

Bright and early, a farmer named William “Stub” Newell greeted two men he’d hired to dig a well. He showed them just where to dig. At first their work went smoothly. They shovelled soft, wet soil. But then their shovels clunked against something hard. A rock?

The men cleared dirt away from the obstacle, and then stood in shock. The rocky object appeared to be a foot—a humongous human foot, almost two feet long! How could this be? The excited men dug and dug. Soon they uncovered an incredible sight: a lifelike, naked, giant man made of stone. The figure lay awkwardly in the Earth, as though preserved in a position of death. Was this strange figure an ancient statue? Was it a trick? Or was this stunning evidence for the existence of giants?

CARDIFF GIANT

IMAGINING GIANTS

Throughout history, giants have stomped through the stories of countless cultures. Greek myths said that Zeus led the gods to overthrow the giant Titans in battle. In another Greek story, the hero Odysseus tricked and defeated a giant bloodthirsty cyclops. In Norse mythology, Odin, Thor and the other gods fought against frost giants. In one well-known Bible story, a young shepherd named David killed the giant warrior Goliath with a stone hurled from his sling.

The story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” has been told and retold for centuries. It’s related to stories much older still. For thousands of years, people have shared folktales about outsmarting, defeating, or stealing treasure from giants.

COMPARISON OF GIANT CLAIMS BASED UPON LEGENDS AND MISUNDERSTOOD FOSSILS. THE TINY FIGURE IS AN ORDINARY MAN

Ogres or giants are among the most common types of monsters imagined by storytellers around the world. Why do these huge creatures loom so large in so many stories from so many places?

One simple explanation might be that giants are very easy monsters to imagine. They’re really just exaggerated versions of ourselves. Giants are like us, only bigger and stronger.

However, some people have proposed a very diferent explanation. According to claims made in past centuries— and sometimes repeated even today—legends of giants were inspired by real giants who actually existed in some forgotten past.

Now, it’s true that some people are unusually tall. A rare few even sufer from a medical condition that causes their bodies to grow to unhealthy sizes. The tallest person ever recorded was 8 feet 11 inches!

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About Skeptic

THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL AND GOD COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Laser Therapy: Hope or Hype and Hokum?, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: The Sisyphean Challenges of Skepticism or, Start by Disbelieving, by Carol Tavris ARTICLES Pterosaur Thunderbird: The Origin of a Fake Native American Legend with an Anti- Evolution Agenda • Conversations with My Dead Mother: Why We See Signs and Omens in Everyday Events • Is Cousin Marriage Dangerous? • Therapeutic Touch Redux Twenty Years After the “Emily Event”: Energy Therapies Live on Through Bad Science • What Can Science Learn from Religion? Steven Pinker on Religious Beliefs and Rituals • Becoming Fantastic: Why People Embellish Already Accomplished Lives with Incredible Tales of UFOs and Other Phenomena • 1984 in 2019: The New Privacy Threat from China’s Social Credit Surveillance System SPECIAL DEBATE SECTION Michael Shermer v. Brian Huffling: Is the Reality of Evil Good Evidence Against the Christian God? REVIEW Graham Hancock’s “America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization” reviewed by Jason Colavito JUNIOR SKEPTIC The Colossal Case of the Cardiff Giant: One of America’s Greatest Hoaxes