The Berner Street Hoax¹
At around 5am there was a knock on the door of 54 Berners Street, London. It was a chimney sweep, but the maid suggested he had the wrong house. A few moments later another sweep arrived, then another until the exasperated maid had sent away 12 in total. Next came the cake makers carrying wedding cakes. Vicars and priests arrived to minister last rites. By now the streets were clogged, aided by the arrival of fishmongers, boot-makers, shoemakers, haberdashers, hatmakers, butchers’ boys and a queue of pianos.
Opposite 54 Berners Street stood Theodore Edward Hook. Hook had just won a bet: that, within a week, he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about in the city. He had sent out 4,000 orders or requests, to tradesmen, professionals and dignitaries, requiring them to present themselves at Mrs. Tottenham’s. In the process he brought a large part of London to a stand-still and triumphantly won his wager.