The Great Moon Hoax of 1836. Published in the New York Sun, six stories told of life on the moon, including hairy bat-winged aliens and nude moon maidens, as supposedly seen by astronomer John Herschel through his telescope. At the time, many people believed the stories to be true. (Artist: Leopoldo Galluzzo)
Doris and Albert Urquhart are centre left. Can you see them? Today, Doris is wearing her favourite primrose dress, but it is too tight in the waist to allow for anything more than shallow breathing. Albert, a Primate Keeper at London Zoo, shakes a stick at a hairy alien, fearing that Doris will be abducted and turned into a nude moon maiden.
Albert is eager to escape the moon and all its bizarre inhabitants, and keen to show off his new exhibit. (He plans to put the alien creature next to the Mandrills). This could be the making of him. He will perform tests on the exhibit, and write scientific papers for pompous journals. Maybe his father will finally forgive him for abandoning the family business, ‘Urquhart’s Urinals’.
Doris is strangely turned on by the alien, and quite fancies being a moon maiden, but only if she is allowed to keep her petticoat on. In the weeks they were there, she became quite fond of the moon, and the sight of the earth, so small in the distance. She is not looking forward to returning to her humdrum existence in Basingstoke, where the highlight of her life was the brief-but-beautiful arrival of the handsome butcher’s boy on a Wednesday. She wonders, just for a moment… if she jumped out of the moon boat, would the alien catch her or leave her to fall to her death?
She grips the sides. Begins to lift her knee. The wind catches and lifts her primrose bonnet, and it sails on an updraught, into the blue. Albert, watching it, misses the sudden decision his wife makes. The last he sees of Doris are the curled ends of her dark hair, writhing in the breeze as she falls… and is gone.
Cover Image by Artist, Leopoldo Galluzzo – Altre scoverte fatte nella luna dal Sigr. Herschel (Smithsonian Institution Libraries)