This isn’t a list of myths or folklore. These people are all relatively recent inventions, sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional hoaxes, and occasionally a public misconception. These are only ten examples of people who never existed.
Yasusada was allegedly a Hiroshima survivor whose son discovered his poetry shortly after his death. The eventual publication of his pieces in the late 80s and early 90s caused a big splash.
Unfortunately, the work itself held the clues that it wasn’t authentic, referencing things that either did not exist or would be unknown to someone living in Japan at the time they were written. The real writer is believed to be Kent Johnson, though he maintains it wasn’t him.
In ’96 Esquire magazine ran a piece on a non-existent celebrity, the upcoming starlet Allegra Coleman. The piece, however, was intended to satire celebrity gossip pieces of the time, and eventually, Esquire revealed this, though not until after agents came looking for Coleman. On the upside, it helped to launch Ali Larter’s acting career. She was the model for Coleman.
This legendary Vietnamese fighter pilot resulted from a misunderstanding of radio call signals as a name and, more heavily, the Vietnamese practice of awarding victory stars to a plane independent of who pilots it.
To date, there are no records of a Colonel Tomb within the Vietnamese army, even for use in propaganda within the country itself.
Donald Trump didn’t exactly “need” a spokesman in the 1980s, but there were several instances where he wanted to make a statement without directly associating himself with it. Enter John Barron, who would speak on behalf of Trump when he was out of town and (coincidentally) facing heavy criticism.
Barron was used for a decade to spin things in Trump’s favor before Trump himself testified under oath that he “believed” he had used the name at least once before.
In 1999 internet users around the world were moved by the blog Living Colours, which described a teenage girl’s struggle with leukemia up until her death the following year. The incredible details of the story convinced many it was real; those same details also proved it was a hoax.
Many of the images Kaycee posted identified a real school, eventually linking back to Debra Swenson. Swenson adopted parts of the story (and some of the images) from her own daughter.
5Margaret 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.
2Anthony 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.
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.