The Big Hector Hoax

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The Hoax of "Big Hector" the cannibal.

In October of 1844, the following article appeared in the Ross-shire Advertiser;


We last year took notice of a maniac belonging to Strathpeffer, known by the name of Big Hector, and the abominable manner in which he behaved during the sacramental fast days in Ferrintosh, and the danger to the public of his being left at large. We are now informed that he lately visited Edderton, in the eastern portion of this county, where having taken hold of a child (a girl), he ate the flesh off her arm and the poor sufferer, when relieved was, and still is, in a very painful and dangerous condition. The full particulars we have not as yet ascertained.."

Thankfully not a word of this was true! but for the next month, an almost hysterical fear of "Big Hector" grew in the towns and villages north of Edderton who awaited his arrival.

"The good folks of Dornoch were the first to learn that " Big Hector" had crossed the waters of the Meikle Ferry, and there and at Golspie, the report was circulated that he had literally torn several sheep from limb to limb, and had in the most voracious manner devoured them at a meal!
At Helmsdale, several barrels of herrings suddenly disappeared, and "Big Hector" was declared to have been the aggressor. The folks of Lybster and Dunbeath hearing of the monster, were in the most dreadful terror, conjuring up before their minds, a huge human, seven feet and a half high, all covered with hair like a kangaroo and feeding like a cannibal upon human flesh.
The whole countryside was in arms, no person was seen out of doors after dusk, and when a single gust of wind was heard," Big Hector" was announced. One old woman sitting by the roadside tending her hawkie, actually fell into hysterics on hearing the cow lowing, thinking that" Big Hector" was making his approach! On her recovering, she was roused into still greater terror, when, on opening her eyes, she observed a huge monster standing over her, and ready as it were to devour her at a gulph. It turned out fortunately to be her own cow, a whiff of whose tail in her face set her all to rights.In Wick, the whole town has been in a state of absolute fermentation.
The very name of "Big Hector" is enough to set all the children home in a twinkling. One evening as a number of them were playing near the Bridge, they observed a tall moving mass coming across it. They soon set to their heels, imagining that the much-dreaded madman was just approaching. Fortunately, it turned out to be a shopkeeper in Pulteney- Town on a love excursion.
At Staxigoe, Broadlinven, Ackergill, and Keiss, it is actually declared and asserted he has been seen, and in the most voracious manner devouring everything that is of an eatable nature. The Keiss people have had their musketry in order for an attack during the last fortnight!"

By November, the newspapers realised the story about Big Hector was fake news so printed an article informing their readers. But rumours still circulated in Caithness and the John O'Groat Journal had to repeat the article stating;

We really can do nothing more than we have already done, than by repeating our assurance that "Big Hector" has never yet crossed the waters of the Meikle Ferry, and that it is not his intention to do so this season, as he has an abundance of food in store for the winter months! The good folks need therefore stand in no dread of themselves, or their cows, sheep, dogs, cats, ducks, or hens, all of which are at particular seasons extremely savoury to the palate of "Big Hector."