Bat Boy: The Millennial Superstar Created By Weekly World News

|
Cover of Weekly World News featuring Bat Boy. (Weekly World News via the13thfloor.tv)

The term "fake news" may be thrown around a lot these days, but there was a time when hilariously unreal stories were celebrated in grocery store pulp tabloids like The National Enquirer, The Sun, and of course, Weekly World News. The notorious magazine got its start when the Enquirer, owned by tabloid mogul Generoso Pope, Jr., upgraded to color print, leaving the previous black-and-white print machinery sitting in the corner, collecting dust. As Pope was not a man to let opportunity go to waste, he put the old press to use on a smaller, more niche magazine that focused less on celebrity stories and more on bizarre international "news"—the more shocking, the better.

Initially, the paper was more of a collection of strange but verified stories already printed in reputable newspapers, but as time went on and the writers grew more desperate for freaky stories, they began publishing whatever strange tales people wrote in, taking their word at face value rather than wasting time on silly things like fact checking. Even that wasn't enough to boost the paper sales, so over time, the writers began to formulate their own stories, sometimes twisting a sliver of a true story until it was larger than life. By the mid '80s, the paper was selling a million magazines full of stories of alien abductions, Bigfoot, and Elvis sightings every week. They still ran the occasional verifiable report, like that of Hogzilla, a 12-foot-long hog hybrid beast, which lent just enough credibility to the publication to plant reasonable doubt in the reader's mind.