Sunday, September 20, 2009 | |


paul said...

Hippo Eats Dwarf

Type: Urban Legend.
Summary: Newspapers report the accidental swallowing of a circus dwarf by a hippo.

For the past decade versions of the following news clipping have circulated around the world:
A circus dwarf, nicknamed Od, died recently when he bounced sideways from a trampoline and was swallowed by a yawning hippopotamus waiting to appear in the next act. Vets said Hilda the Hippo’s gag reflex caused her to swallow automatically. More than 1000 spectators continued to applaud wildly until they realised the tragic mistake.

This sensational news item has been reported in the Manchester Evening News, Thailand’s Pattaya Mail, and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It resurfaces periodically, kept alive by the internet (that vast repository of weird information) until it reappears in print again. In one version the circus is located in Austria; in another, northern Thailand. But whenever it’s reported, the tale is presented as fact. The catch is that it’s almost definitely not.

The story’s original reporting is often credited to the Las Vegas Sun, but when I contacted the Sun they could find no record of it in their archives. I suspect the Hippo Eats Dwarf tale was first invented, years ago, as a joke. At some point it was mistaken for news, and thus began its career as bogus fact. Credit goes to the Daily Telegraph for dreaming up the headline “Hippo Eats Dwarf” in 1999, helping to fuel the tale’s popularity. Nowadays a Google search for the term pulls up hundreds of hits. A band in New Zealand even adopted the phrase as its name.