Great article up over at Neatorama on five of the great hoaxes in world history. Here's a blurb on the mechanical chess playing "Turk":
This might not seem so impressive in the day and age of computers, but at the time, a mechanical man who could beat anyone at chess was quite the novelty.
Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed just that. It baffled people from 1770 until 1854. It was a life-sized man from the waist up, dressed in robes and a turban (to emphasize the mystic quality, I suppose). It sat with a cabinet which opened to reveal all kinds of cogs and gears and complicated-looking machinery, which were designed to hide a person sitting on a sliding seat. The person could maneuver around in the cabinet to conceal himself as the presenter opened various cabinet doors to prove that nothing was inside but machinery. The person inside would then use various levers to make the Turk move, pick up chess pieces and even shake his head disapprovingly at opponents trying to cheat. The Turk defeated the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay on it, guessing how the tricks were done, but was largely incorrect.
Go check out the rest at the link.
Somehow, I don't think Tom Biscardi and the Georgia Bigfoot hoaxers will make a similar list in the future...