07/01/2013 08:12 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

5 Literary Hoaxes: Lies Are Stranger Than Fiction

Public Domain

Thomas Heise is the author of Moth; or how i came to be with you again ($15.95, Sarabande Books)

From Dionysius the Renegade to Jeremy "Terminator" LeRoy, the successful hoaxer must concoct the right combination of elements to make the work believable.

When it comes to a false attribution, mastering another's style is essential. But instead of stealing someone else's letters and peddling them as their own, hoaxers hawk their own words as another's or, in a modern variant, fabricate a past for themselves--and the more outlandish, the better.

Whatever the motive--fame, money, envy, or malice--the act is at heart a desire to recreate the world. For the literary prankster, this world and this life are never enough. While preying upon human gullibility, s/he also caters to our need to have faith in a world different from the one we know. The hoaxer liberates us a little and permits us to imagine that with the right story we too might be someone else entirely.

Here are five famous literary hoaxes:

5 Literary Hoaxes