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Fake Newspaper Stories Killer Hawks in Chicago

About a fake news story that ran in the Chicago Journal about a killer hawk.

MEMORABLE NEWSPAPER STORIES THAT NEVER HAPPENED

7. KILLER HAWK ATTACKS CHICAGO Chicago Journal, 1927

When a Chicago reporter sighted a chicken hawk flying above the city streets, a hoax was born. The simple sighting escalated into a thriller portraying the vicious hawk as preying on pigeons around Chicago's Art Institute and downtown elevated-railroad platforms. It became headline news for all Chicago papers. The Tribune featured political cartoons, five front-page stories, letters to the editor, and an item by the inquiring reporter--all about the chicken hawk. A newspaper photograph showing a hawk holding a dead pigeon while sitting on top of the Art Institute turned out to be a fake. The Lincoln Park Gun Club appointed a group to gun down the hawk; a banker offered a $50 reward for its death or capture; the Boy Scouts hunted it. Richard J. Finnegan, then editor of the Journal, decided to capitalize on the pigeon-and-hawk publicity by running a serial on the subject. Since none of his staff would volunteer, he ended up writing it himself; he called it "trash" and said he was always "just one installment ahead of the composing room." During a social evening, Henry Horner, later governor of Illinois, hearing Finnegan complain about his tight writing schedule, offered to help him prepare the rest of the episodes. He and Finnegan introduced mutual acquaintances into the story under false names.

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