September 9, 1937, one of the pages of Tomah Monitor Herald – a man with a rifle in his hand is holding one metre long grasshopper. The story tells how a farmer hunted this insect down after noticing a lot of them. People in the area get scared and start looking out for giant grasshoppers. Fast forward to today and we have no giant grasshoppers here – where did they go?
The obvious answer is that the picture is fake. It may be too obvious actually to some, but there are so many people who believe it might be real. They think that photo editing techniques didn’t exist back in a day and if they did they wouldn’t have done such a good of a job. However, the truth of the matter is that the picture is retouched – grasshopper doesn’t even have a shadow. And it is quite interesting that such a joke works through generations for more than 80 years.
The story in Tomah Monitor Herald said that some grasshoppers got into Mr. Butts’ fertilizer. They ate the fertilizer and started growing at an unbelievable pace. Normally the largest grasshoppers grow up to be 10 centimetres long. But on that special autumn of 1937 grasshoppers grew to be around 1 metre in length. And men had to go shoot them – you cannot let mutant grasshoppers run free. People who read the story actually got scared for a second. But soon Mr. Butts, who wasn’t even starring in the picture, and the editor of the Tomah Monitor Herald had to come clean and apologise for bizarre scary joke. But who jokes like that?
Well, the picture was at least partially real – there really was a man with a gun posing for picture. But there was nothing in his hand. A giant grasshopper was added later. In fact, grasshoppers were a common these for various postcards and photo manipulations. It was because various insects like a grasshopper were threatening crops of the farmers and so they became this reoccurring theme. It is also not that surprising that people believed the picture is real back in the day.
Newspapers used to be the main source of information. That means that people used to believe at least most of the things they read. That is a problem nowadays as well, because information can be manipulated. And in 1937 it provided an opportunity for a joke. It is more surprising that sometimes this picture is presented as documented evidence that there used to be giant grasshoppers long time ago.
Gut giant grasshoppers have never been a problem to humans. And no one ever had to hunt them with rifles. They always were these tiny insects that didn’t really bother people that much, except when they were eating too much crop.