Margaret B. Jones
Sometimes a story is too good (or depressing) to be true. In this case a well-off Caucasian woman who lived with her parents posed as a half Native-American foster child who grew up in gangs, only to overcome her hardships and put her past behind her. Margaret Selter played the act to sell a memoir that was highly regarded before the hoax was revealed.
This one is the result of mass hysteria, though some continue to insist that it really is an unidentified criminal. Back in November of 1939 people in Halifax reported being attacked by an eccentric man with a knife. An intense investigation by detectives and citizens fizzled out later that month when a victim confessed that they had caused their own injuries, sparking a series of similar confessions. Investigators regarded the whole thing as a hoax and closed the book on it.
For the casual consumer a critic is merely a name. Realizing this, Sony created a fictitious persona to generate positive reviews for films that would ultimately fare very poorly with professional reviewers and fans alike. To make this more believable they attached the fake reviewer, David Manning, to an actual newspaper, which tipped people off that he didn’t exist: a simple investigation found that David Manning’s reviews had never been printed there, or anywhere else.
Anthony Godby Johnson
Johnson was the focus of the heart-wrenching memoir A Rock and a Hard Place. The book recalled the harsh abuse his biological parents subjected him to before he was adopted by his foster mother, Vicki Johnson. Coincidentally, no one besides Vicki had seen Anthony—including his publishers. Though Vicki has passed away, all the investigations before her death led to the same conclusion: the boy never was.
Some corporate mascots are actual people (Col. Sanders and Chef Boyardee, for example), but Aunt Jemima isn’t one of them. But what muddies up reality is her origin as a minstrel character; some people believe that the actress who popularly portrayed her is her. Confusing matters even more, a separate actress, Lillian Hawkins, was hired to promote the brand for over twenty years in the southern United States, advancing the idea that Aunt Jemima was at some point a real person before becoming a character.