I think every one of us has been the victim of a hoax. Hoaxes are like a joke…a bad joke. In reality, a hoax is a cruel scheme designed to pull one over on their intended victim. One such hoax was the story of “The Patient Bullet.” As the story goes, a man named Henry Ziegland dumped his fiancé, Maysie Tichnor, in 1883 in the town of Honey Grove, Texas. So upset was Tichnor, that she actually committed suicide. Her brother was distraught and enraged, so he decided that Ziegland had to die in retaliation. He immediately went to Ziegland’s farm and shot the young man who had hurt his sister, then so as not to face prison, he turned the gun on himself.
The brother died by suicide, but Ziegland did not die. In fact, somehow, he had even escaped serious injury. The bullet had only grazed him before hitting a tree. In what seemed a gross miscarriage of justice, Ziegland went on to live a prosperous life and had a family. Then, twenty years after he literally dodged a bullet, Ziegland and his son were cutting firewood. It so happened that they cut down the tree with the bullet in it. The wood in that tree was so tough that it was almost impossible to split it with an axe. Ziegland decided to bore some holes in the fallen tree and put small amounts of dynamite in the holes. After moving about 50 feet away, Ziegland and his son set the explosions off. Shockingly, the bullet, which had waited twenty years for Henry Ziegland, was blown out of the tree with great force and the farmer was hit in the left temple and killed instantly…so the story goes anyway.
Some hoaxes are pretty easy to figure out, but others, like the Ziegland story, sort of seemed plausible. Because of that, The Patient Bullet story was fairly popular. It was posted all over the Internet, complete with a picture of the bullet and the tree. The story appeared over 100 times in the newspapers, where it was presented as legitimate news. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest the story of Henry Ziegland was a hoax. In reality, there is no record of anyone with the names Ziegland or Tichnor or anything similar that ever lived in Honey Grove. In fact, a thorough search shows no vital records for people who match these dates and descriptions in Texas or any other state, for that matter.
The story was first appeared in the Jackson Mississippi Evening News in March 24, 1905. The tale was interesting, and it took off like wildfire. It was picked up by several papers, and began, “A marvelous case of punishment on earth for the sins of the flesh occurred in Dryno township, in this county, today. Twenty years ago Henry Ziegland, then a handsome, wealthy young man, jilted beautiful Maysie Tichnor, and the girl committed suicide…” After that the story disappeared for the better part of the decade, before it inexplicably reappeared in 1913. The names were the same, but the newspapers still ran the story as current news. This time, the story’s fame grew. It ran in newspapers from Edmonton (Canada) to New Orleans to Buffalo. It’s almost a comical situation, because it was probably started by a couple of teenagers sitting around in 1905, who came up with this funny little story and decided to see if they could trick a newspaper into publishing it. Well, not only were they able to get it published, but by 1913, it was appearing in international newspapers. Now, over a century later, the story is still viewed as truth. In fact, a Google search for “Henry Ziegland bullet” produces over 5,400 results!