State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Strange Tale of 1888 - Epilogue

So the mysterious tale entitled "The Seal Broken"was revealed to be, in the end, not some great archaeological discovery along Ware Creek, but instead a newspaperman's April Fools Joke. These had become not uncommon at the end of the Nineteenth Century, and New Kent would again feature prominently in one in 1902. New Kent with its close proximity to Richmond but small population(pop.1890-5,511) and heavily forested terrain seemed to appeal to newspapermen when in search for a locale to place "strange, but true" stories. Look for more of these to be published here.

The story of amazing, subterranean discoveries would have been familiar to American readers of Jules Verne; "Journey to the Center of the Earth" had first been published in English in 1871. An actual discovery closer to hand would have been that of Luray Caverns whose existence first became know to the world in 1878. The Caverns were frequently in the newspapers in the 1880's as they were promoted as a tourist attraction. Poe himself had perpetrated, not an April Fool's joke but an outright hoax in 1844 when he claimed in the pages of the New York Sun that men had successfully crossed the Atlantic by balloon from Norfolk, Virginia. Interestingly that same year, Poe's old employer, the Southern Literary Messenger had published an article about The Stone House, from which story many of the legends mention in the "The Seal Broken" appear to spring.

The Stone House survives today in the name of the Stonehouse magisterial district in northwestern James City County.

No comments:

Post a Comment