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In an earlier post, I wrote about the history of local hoaxes and the story of a San Diego Union columnist who convinced the nation that she’d stumbled across love letters between Abraham Lincoln and his first love.

It turns out that The Atlantic magazine, which printed the letters, revisited “one of the most notorious journalistic forgeries of the twentieth century” in 2005.

The magazine’s editor was indeed smitten when columnist Wilma Frances Minor came forward with her supposed treasure trove of mash notes between Lincoln and his gal pal.

“What a collection! Here is the human Lincoln, before the sterility of his deification,” the editor wrote. “Picture an orderly and prosaic office when Aladdin’s treasure was dumped on the editor’s desk!”

The letters were lies. But Minor put up a good fight, or at least her mom did:

… the magazine received a handwritten note from [Minor’s] mother, explaining that her daughter’s health was in decline due to the scandal. “She is a very high strung and supersensitive girl who does not seem to understand how to cope with the rebuffs of this crass world.”

Eventually, Minor and her mother claimed they heard the stories in the letters through an unusual source. A medium, they said, had facilitated communication with Lincoln, his love interest and others.

Meanwhile, a reader writes to suggest the story of rainmaker Charles Hatfield as a preeminent San Diego hoax, although he acknowledges it really depends on one’s definition of hoax.

I wrote about the incredible Hatfield saga last year.


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