For years historians have been trying to locate the original version of a copied photo of the CSS Georgia, a Confederate warship sunk off the coast of Georgia in 1865 by Confederate soldiers determined to keep it out of Union hands, the AP reports. Now a North Carolina man has confessed the photo—which would be the only known one of the ship—was a hoax he and his brother orchestrated 30 years ago. John Potter originally told people he had found the photo in an antique frame at a yard sale, didn't have the cash to buy it, so instead he took a photo of it and mailed copies to several historical societies. The real story: A young Potter and his brother Jeffrey decided to shoot an 8mm movie about the lost ship, so they built a 2-foot model boat, then adorned Jeffrey with a straw hat, overcoat, and fishing pole and sent him out into the water, where Potter captured the first image.
He took a second photo of the model boat, which he then glued down on the pic of his brother, rubbing the entire image with dirt and grass to make it seem weathered, the AP explains. Potter says he decided to confess in the wake of his brother's March suicide. He tells the AP the original was ruined long ago, but he did hand over some 8mm movies that show the model ship and his brother in the aforementioned outfit: "I'm not in good health. I didn't want to drop dead and carry that to my grave," he notes. He says he never made money off the faux photo, though a bartender at a "bites and booze" joint Potter used to frequent says Potter once told him he planned to sell the photo—leaving open the possibility that it does exist and, as the AP puts it, maybe he's "pulling an elaborate double hoax." Read the full story here. (Read more Civil War stories.)