The Pat Mahaffey Hoax
WALT WILLIS (in OOPSLA!):
The only organized hoax put through by the London Circle was one that hadn't been part of "Operation Armageddon" at all. Stuart Mackenzie's wife, Connie, was not coming up from London until the night of the first day, and they conceived the idea of passing her off as Pat Mahaffey [sister of Bea], an unexpected visitor from the States. A pre-arranged telegram was sent from London signed 'Pat', giving the time of her arrival, and throughout the afternoon the London Circle made great play of concealing the news, discussing it just within earshot of Northerners and then looking furtively around and moving away. Later on they 'carelessly' left the telegram laying around where Dave Cohen, Convention Chairman, could find it. Dave indignantly taxed them with it and they made a clean breast of it. Yes, Pat Mahaffey was coming tonight. They'd meant to keep it for a surprise, but now that Dave had been smart enough to find out he was cordially invited to join the welcoming committee.
At ten o'clock the welcomers - Dave Cohen, Stuart Mackenzie, Ted Carnell and me - went down to the station. Dave took us there by taxi. At the platform barrier Stu nudged me when his wife appeared and I went forward and greeted her, asking after Bea and recalling old times in Chicago. Dave had the taximan drive us a roundabout way back to the hotel so 'Pat' could have a look at England, and Ted and I talked to her about Bob Tucker and Robert Bloch and the rest of our mutual friends, Connie was heavily made up, chewed gum incessantly, had a TWA label on her bag, and handed round a pack of Chesterfields. Her accent was from Brooklyn, if anywhere, rather than Cincinatti, but it was quite good enough for Dave. At the hotel he introduced her to the other Northern fans, some of whom have since written her up in their convention reports.
But the most complete victim of the hoax was, curiously enough, a London fan called Ron Deacon. He had never met Stu's wife and fell for the hoax completely. In fact he fell for 'Pat' herself and, perhaps encouraged by the remarkable progress Stuart Mackenzie had seemed to make with her, started a campaign to try and date her. This went on with letters and phone calls and other advances weeks after they all got back to London, while Ron thought 'Pat' was a guest at Stu's house. Finally Stu got tired of seeing Deacon trying to seduce his wife under his nose and broke the news to him as gently as possible. Altogether it was a remarkable hoax, and one that deserves to go down in fannish history.
Ironically, of course, a bigger hoax entered a new phase at SUPERMANCON with the launch of FEMIZINE, edited by the non-existent Joan Carr. It would be another couple of years before that came to a head, however.