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Be careful who you’re calling gullible

POSTED: October 19, 2008 5:01 a.m.

The great P.T. Barnum is often credited with saying "There's a sucker born every minute." Yes, there is a world full of gullible people.

Every week, I get a call from a reader - almost always an older person - who has gotten a letter about winning some foreign lottery or helping somebody get their lost millions safely into a U.S. bank account.

This scam has been tried for years and you would think that the word gets around, but my phone still rings and I gently tell them that someone is trying to hoodwink them.

My favorite episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies feature guest star Phil Silvers as "Honest John," a con man who attempts, with some success, to "sell" the Clampetts an assortment of national treasures, including the White House. He has Jed make out the check to an organization whose acronym is always C.A.S.H.

For as long as I can remember, folks have been looking for Bigfoot, the giant man-like monkey or monkey-like man. They've also been looking for the Loch Ness Monster, a giant creature that is believe to inhabit a lake in Scotland.

There are folks who have made money off of both creatures, especially the writers of tabloids that specialize in headlines of the science fiction variety.

Aunt Mertice Ruth, a highly teased, chain-smoking old gal, actually had mail subscriptions to some of the tawdry tabs. She would argue out loud with the papers as she read them.

"They're trying to insinuate that Rock Hudson is a sissy," Myrt crowed one day. I'm glad she didn't live long enough to find out any different.

She would also buy copies of tabloids with headlines like "Monkey performs brain surgery." She said she bought them because they had the best horoscopes.

But Myrt had some idea that if they put it in print, there must be some truth to it.

At this point in my life, I haven't had any major surgery. But if they take me to the hospital and try to tell me that Cheeta is going to be my surgeon, I'll make a new door in that place.

But it seemed there was always something about old Bigfoot. He was usually seen in someplace like Oregon. The description was always the same: 7 or 8 feet tall, big hairy overgrown creature with a pair of feet for which you'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of shoes.

Now comes the story of Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, who got a gorilla suit and convinced a Bigfoot tracker that they had found old Bigfoot right here in our neck of the woods.

The tracker paid them $50,000 to haul in the carcass.

If you are a professional Bigfoot tracker, that's your business. But I could write you a long list of other things you could be doing with your time.

If you want to see some genuine freaky things, go down to the fourth floor of the State Capitol and see the two-headed calf or the two-headed snake. They are preserved in the state museum.

If you go between January and April, stop on the third floor and catch a side show like you won't see anywhere else. What's amazing is 9 million people in this state let those characters decide how some of their money is spent.

Did Barnum have it right or what?

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Sundays and only in the print edition on Wednesdays.



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