Many were shocked when it was revealed that Falcon Heene's fictitious balloon ride was nothing more than a fame-grabbing hoax, but this is hardly the first time that a fake tale of a high-flying balloon captured people's imaginations. In 1844, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a detailed piece about famed balloonist Monck Mason's amazing journey across the Atlantic in a gas balloon. The remarkable trip, allegedly detailed in Mason's diary, took a mere 75 hours, an amazing feat of human engineering. The piece ran in the New York Sun, along with excerpts from the journal.
The problem? It wasn't remotely true. Poe, a great lover of hoaxes, cooked up the entire thing. Poe's hoax proved to be one of the earliest works of science fiction, extrapolating existing technology to create a plausible account. And he may well have inspired other science fiction writers with his joke. Scholars of Jules Verne note that Verne was a great lover of Poe's writing (and, in fact, wrote a study of Poe's works), and have suggested that Poe's imaginary balloon voyage may have inspired Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon and Around the World in Eighty Days.
The first great balloon hoax [Guardian]