Friday, June 27, 2008

Lies I Have Told

One day in college, a friend and I decided to park ourselves on the couch in the dorm lobby and tell nothing but lies to everyone who walked past. Not a single utterance of truth permitted! (Now I work in marketing. Odd.)

The only lie I can remember was this: The Iliad chronicles the adventures of Ileas. It makes sense, we explained to the hapless freshman. The Aenead has Aeneas; the Odyssey has Odysseus; the Iliad has Ileas. O how we laughed later! What cards we were! How clever!

My sordid history of lies neither began nor ended there. I used to tell my younger sister stories that started with "Hundreds of years ago ... this was an ancient Indian burial ground." Usually this was intoned in a hollow whisper.

One evening I capped the story (and my career as a big brother) by tying a Halloween mask to a stick and thumping it on her window after she'd gone to bed. What was even better was that her window was two floors above the ground. It was a long stick. For some reason she now lives 3000 miles away from me. On an ancient Indian burial ground!

More recently I worked hard to convince my wife that every 52 years we have what is known as "Leap Week." This was originally conceived during WWII as a way to conserve energy. But every 52 years the week is 12 hours shorter ... and they set the clocks back ... or forward ... and nobody, uh, ... notices. She was starting to doubt so I pulled out my trump card:

"I read about it in Time Magazine."

She was unconvinced.

When I was very young I convinced my best friend I had been given a lightsaber by aliens, and that I'd stuffed it under my bed. Later I told my brother I'd been selected for a moon landing mission in 1999, a year that seemed unimaginably distant and therefore perfect for my story. I should point out that these were both, sadly, untrue.

My most recent lie was pretending that I came up with this topic on my own. Never! Credit goes to Sarah Rees Breenan's recent post on "Lying Liars Who Lie."

Details are key, I think. After all, everybody may have heard of the Tunguska blast of 1908, but outside of Kazakhstan few people know of a similar blast in 1948. See, most of the scientific records were wiped out when the Soviet Union fell apart in '89, but a doctoral student in Bucharest came across some documents while doing research. Yeah, it turned the sky green for seventeen or eighteen days, I think, but just over the impact site. It's pretty grown over now but you can still see the topography on GoogleEarth. I read about it in Time Magazine.

Plus there's this ancient burial ground there....


Peter S said...

I have many recurring lies that my wife tires of. One is that Joss Whedon not only wrote the Firefly theme song, but he sings it, plays all the instruments, and has acted as an extra on the show, playing everything from townspeople to barrels to certain steel sections of the ship’s hull. He’s unstoppable!

Lies are best when they are told with authority, spring from some seminal fact, and sound outrageous. Example: Ikea serves over 450,000 people daily in its cafeteria just in our local store! I know, isn’t that incredible?!

By the way, NASA contacted me about that moon landing thing. Turns out you were only an alternate. I was actually slotted for the top position, but they got too busy preparing for the Hubble telescope launch of 1990, so named for Edwin Hubble. Look it up!

Kenneth said...

Another key to good lies are that they pertain to arcane subjects, particularly those on which the liar has a known and real-world authority. I have done much throughout my adult life to perpetuate the rumor that 1970's folk singer and frequent Muppet Show guest John Denver was a Scout/Sniper in Vietnam with 121 confirmed kills. My status as an ex-paratrooper and professional gun wrangler has given me a leg up on doing this. While I DO NOT claim to have invented this lie (it was told to me in the service by an old timer who claimed to have served with Denver and I gleefully passed it on, at first believing it to be true--sucka!), I'm proud of my participation in the tradition and note that it has passed what I think is the ultimate test of a lie, to get its own entry on web rumor debunking sites like and Look it up-- google "truthorfiction john denver sniper" and you'll see it. Really, do it now.

If that's the ultimate or at least a good test of a quality lie, then perhaps a project for seasoned liars to embark upon. To invent out of whole cloth a story, preferably with a live witness or witnesses to the invention, and spread it so successfully that it gets added to those websites. Even more points if the entry cannot confirm or deny the truth of it. That would be sweet!

Cristina said...

As Peter points out these "patented, trademarked lies" clearly run in the family ;)

I think the key with T. may be to say that you " about it in Forbes" with a German accent.

Samantha said...

I still have to close all my closet doors and curtains and check under the bed every night. Twice.