News from the Past
Newspapers Outraged
Over Twain Hoax

In The Spirit of Mark Twain
Territorial Enterprise
Virginia City, Nevada

The horrible story of a murder which was yesterday copied in good faith from the Enterprise turns out to be a mere "witticism" of Mark Twain. In short a lie -- utterly baseless, and without a shadow of foundation. The Enterprise is the pioneer newspaper of the Territory, more widely read and known than any other, and having been ably and respectably conducted has heretofore been considered a reliable medium of information. The terrible tale related in its columns yesterday, and copied into ours, was believed-true, and will be believed elsewhere -- wherever The News and Enterprise are read. It will be read with sickening horror, and the already bloody reputation of our Territory will receive another smear. When the readers of the soul-sickening story are informed that it was a mere bubble of "wit," they will feel relieved, although they may utterly fail to see the humor of "the point"!
Gold Hill News

The man who could pen such a story, with all its horrors depicted in such infernal detail, and which to our knowledge sent a pang of terror to the hearts of many persons, as a joke, in fun, can have but a very indefinite idea of the elements of a joke. It is any joke for a newspaper heretofore of undoubted veracity and reliability permitting itself to spread a story broadcast through the land that disgraces and injures the reputation of the very community that sustains it? If this is a joke we can't see the point where the laugh comes in.
Evening Bulletin

Twain published a retraction -- " I take it all back. Mark Twain" -- but the furor of incensed readers grew, and some newspapers threatened to sever business relationships with the ENTERPRISE. For a few agonizing days he thought he had ruined the paper, but as Goodman and DeQuille reassuringly predicted, the storm died down. Soon Twain was pulling everyone's leg again:

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