Bizarre Hoax: 54 Berners Street

Sometimes, there is some fun to be had in analyzing the most bizarre things we can find in history, the present and nature. Among the best lighthearted bizarreness are hoaxes. Sure, they are not so much fun for the victim(s), but, in my opinion, it sure beats writing about murderers and poisonous plants. I lied, I love writing about poisonous plants, but I'm getting off topic. I'm here to tell you about the Berners Street Hoax and that is what I am going to do.

Back in 1810, gentlemen weren't exactly the stiff pains in the butt you may imagine them to have been. At least, Theodore Hook wasn't stiff. He was definitely a pain. He bet a friend, legend has it this friend was Samuel Beazley, that he could turn 54 Berners Street into the most famous home in London in a single week. He won the bet.

On November 27 or 26, depending on the source, the chaos began with a chimney sweep knocking on Mrs. Tottenham's door at 54 Berners Street at a very early hour. She hadn't ordered one, but that didn't stop this service provider and countless others from arriving that day. Before the day was over, people were delivering wedding cakes and pianos, offering condolences for a death that had not occurred and the mayor even arrived to have a meeting with the homeowner, but left when he realized that his summons was a lie. It was an easy assumption to make, given that the street was so crowded as to be blocked and even was officially blocked at one point.

It turns out, Hook had sent between 1,000 and 4,000 letters to the people and workers of London asking them to come to the house under a variety of pretenses. The sheer number of letters points to an accomplice, but exactly who helped him is not certain. In fact, police never even apprehended him in the case. He was suspected, but never arrested. You may say he would have deserved it. No doubt people lost money on the prank, but it is remembered more than 200 years later, so his prank had its merit.