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The mysterious missing 18 pages of John Wilkes Booth’s diary are a favorite story starter. Everyone is curious: would they reveal a conspiracy behind the Lincoln assassination? Disney even used the unsolved absence as the premise for the 2007 sequel film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. In it, Nicolas Cage jets from Paris to Buckingham Palace to the Oval Office in grand pursuit of the pages. If the special effects and suspenseful music in the movie are not enough to remind us, Edward Steers will: it is just a story.
In Hoax, Steers debunks the 1975 attempt of rare books dealer, Joseph Lynch, to claim he had discovered the missing section of the diary. In the end, though, Steers says that individuals like Lynch can successfully pass off these well-crafted tales about the diary because there are people out there wanting to hear them. Disney knew that—even though they were producing a fictitious adventure film and not an elaborate hoax. See for yourself how they played up the conspiracy back in 2007: