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The Balloon-Hoax

The Balloon-Hoax was a newspaper article written by Edgar Allan Poe. Published on April 13, 1844, It began with the headline:

ASTOUNDING NEWS!
BY EXPRESS VIA NORFOLK:
* * * * * * *
THE ATLANTIC CROSSED
IN THREE DAYS!
* * * * * * *
SIGNAL TRIUMPH OF
MR. MONCK MASON'S
FLYING MACHINE!!!

The article went on to provide a detailed and highly plausible account of a lighter-than-air balloon trip across the Atlantic Ocean taking 75 hours, along with a diagram and specifications for the craft.

A retraction concerning the article was printed in The Sun on April 15, 1844: "BALLOON - The mails from the South last Saturday night not having brought a confirmation of the arrival of the Balloon from England, the particulars of which from our correspondent we detailed in our Extra, we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous. The description of the Balloon and they voyage wa written with a minuteness and scientific ability calculated to obtain credit everywhere, and was read with great pleasure and satisfaction. We by no means think such a project impossible." The author of this retraction has not been determined and is perhaps Poe himself.

A facsimile of this article was printed by Clarence S. Brigham, "Poe's 'Balloon Hoax'," The American Book Collector, vol. I, No. 2, February 1932, pp. 94-95. The facsimile, which appears at the front of the issue, is so reduced in size that only the text of the headline can be effectively read. Mary E. Phillips reprinted the headline and the illustration of "The Victoria" in Edgar Allan Poe the Man, Chicago, 1926, II, pp. 872-873. Inadvertently, Mrs. Phillips gives the picture of "The Victoria" upside down, with the basket and propeller above the balloon. (In her own copy of this book, left to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore and kept in the collection of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Mrs. Phillips notes this error as one of several corrections for an intended second edition which was never published.) The top half of the page containing the article, but not including the picture, is reproduced in Thomas & Jackson, The Poe Log, 1987, p. 459.

The first human-carrying balloon to actually cross the Atlantic Ocean was Double Eagle II from August 11 to 17, 1978. The Pacific was crossed in three days by un-manned Japanese "fire balloons" in 1944.



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