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8:42am on Monday, 6th January, 2014:

Paradise Lost


On a cruise ship a couple of years ago, we met an older American couple and got talking. It turned out their surname was Paradise and they had a son, Jonathan, who once lived in Racine, Wisconsin. On their son's business card it said "Founder of Racine". Apparently, as a prank many years ago, one of his friends added to the Wikipedia entry for Racine a note saying that the expedition which first established the trading post that became Racine was led by Jonathan Paradise.

When I got home I checked and yes, it did indeed credit Jonathan Paradise as promised. So, knowing that one of the opening paragraphs of a Wikipedia entry on an American city was wrong, should I have corrected it or not?

Well, I didn't correct it, because I actually liked the two Americans who told me of their son's false claim to fame, so had promised them at the time that I wouldn't change it. Besides, surely it would be found out eventually anyway? It was only a matter of time.

So, today it randomly occurred to me to find out if the Wikipedia entry for Racine was still intact. As you will probably have deduced from the evidence of my telling you this, it wasn't: Jonathan Paradise ceased to be the founder of Racine on 14th November last year when a fact-checker checked the fact and couldn't find anything to substantiate it. Oh well, it had a good run.

I don't know how many people the real Jonathan Paradise gave his business card to, but he must be quite likeable if none of them tipped off Wikipedia about it.

I don't suppose that many of the 1,880 web sites that copied the prank text verbatim will be making changes, though. The legend lives on!

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).