Originally posted on Strange Company
In the late 19th century, Dr. Morgan Dix was one of America’s most active and respected churchmen. For over fifty years, he was associated with New York’s Trinity Church, first as minister, and then as rector. He also wrote a number of religious works. He was a genuinely godly man: kindly and tolerant, if somewhat on the stodgy side.
What makes this otherwise uncontroversial man of God relevant to this blog is that he was also once the victim of a bizarre and long-drawn-out hoax that was a considerably more sinister variation of the famous “Berner Street Hoax” of 1810.
Rev. Dix’s ordeal began on the morning of February 18,1880, when he answered a doorbell ring at his rectory. Standing outside was a respectable-looking man in clerical garb, who presented himself as a head of an academy for young ladies. He was there in response to Dix’s letter asking them to take three little girls into their establishment.
Dix politely explained that there was some strange mistake: He had never sent such a letter, and for the matter of that, did not even know three girls who needed to be placed in a school. The man went on his way. Dix brooded over the matter for a moment, shrugged it off, and returned to his breakfast.
It was a breakfast he was fated to leave unfinished. In fact, he would not have a peaceful meal again for quite some time. Scarcely had he sat down again when another representative…