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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Petrified Man Hoax


In January 1926, according to the Rusk County Journal, two loggers felled a large basswood and were sawing it into segments when they hit something hard. Splitting the log apart, "there, staring up at them, was the ashen face of a man." 

They rushed into town, horrified. Witnesses followed them back and confirmed that "encased in the living trunk of the tree was the entire body of a man, fully clothed in coarse homespun and buckskins, which fell away when touched." Alongside the corpse were a musket, French coins dated 1644, and a paper signed "Pierre D'Artagnan." The reporter concluded this was "Captain D'Artagnan, who was lost from Marquette and Joliet's party on their trip down the Mississippi in 1673" and said the petrified remains would be shipped to Madison for analysis.

The author presumably believed that readers would get the joke. After all, Marquette and Joliet went nowhere near Rusk Co. and they reported nobody missing. Common sense would ask if the body was petrified, why not the clothes? If they crumbled, why not the paper? The byline, too, gave everything away: the piece was signed, "Rusk County Lyre." Perhaps it was a slow news day in Ladysmith.

But following the story's appearance, so many people contacted the Wisconsin Historical Society that it issued a press release saying, "no petrification of the kind described has been received, nor are we expecting such a trophy." Because we still occasionally receive sincere inquiries about the so-called "petrified man," we've made this entry in the online Dictionary of Wisconsin History. You can also view more information elsewhere at

[Source: Rusk County Journal, Jan. 21, 1926; Wisconsin History Bulletin, vol. 12 no. 11 (March 1926).]

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115 records found

Packing-the-rigging (logging)
Packs (logging)
paczki (food)
pad (farming)
paddock (farming)
Pail and Shovel Party
Paleoindian culture (archaeology)
panary (farming)
Panic of 1837
pantograph (railroads)
paper industry in Wisconsin
Paramount records
parfleche (Fr.)
Parkman Club
parole (military)
parterre (farming)
pastern (farming)
pasteurization (dairy)
pays d'en haut (Fr.)
Pearl Fishing
Pearl-diver (logging)
Peavey (logging)
peavey (logging)
Peckatonica River
pelleterie (Fr.)
per diem (railroads)
perche (Fr.)
period revival (architecture)
Perryville, Battle of
Peshtigo Fire
Petersburg, Siege of
Petrified Man Hoax
Pewit's Nest
Phoenix (shipwreck, 1847)
piastre (Fr.)
Piastre (Fr.)
Picture(d) Rocks, Michigan
Pie-fork (logging)
piece (Fr.)
pied (Fr.)
Pike Creek
Pike-pole (logging)
pillage (Civil War)
pilothouse (maritime)
Pine Bend
pinte (Fr.)
pirogue (Fr.)
pistole (Fr.)
piston (railroads)
plank road
plants, native
plate (maritime)
Platoon (Civil War)
pledget (farming)
plomb (Fr.)
Plumb Plan
plunder (Civil War)
plus (Fr.)
Pokelogan (logging)
Pole-ax (logging)
Political Equality League
pollard (farming)
pontoon (Civil War)
pony boiler (maritime)
Poor-box (logging)
population of Wisconsin, 1820-1990
port (maritime)
Port Gibson, Battle of
Port Hudson, Siege of
Portage City Guards (Civil War)
pot (Fr.)
Potosi Badgers (Civil War)
Potter Law (1874)
pottery and earthenware industry in Wisconsin
pouce (Fr.)
Prairie du Chien, Battle of (1814)
Prairie Grove, Battle of
Prairie School (architecture)
Pre-exemption Law (1841)
Presidential Visits to Madison
primary elections in Wisconsin
primary rocks (mining)
prisons in Wisconsin
private (Civil War)
Prize-logs (logging)
probang (farming)
Progressive Movement
Project Sanguine
Puan, Puans, Puants
puddingstone (mining)
Punk (logging)
put about (maritime)
pyrites (mining)

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