From Private Eye, 28 May – 10 June 2004:
“Fertility doctors were baffled when a perfectly-healthy couple claimed they couldn’t have children – until they confessed they had never made love,” reported the Mirror last week, telling the story of a German couple from a very religious community who didn’t know what sex was.
Doubters immediately raised eyebrows at a story that sounded so much like an urban legend, although the story was full of quotes from the University Clinic of Luebeck – identifiable as the UniKlinik Lübeck.
The story was written by Berlin-based freelancer Allan Hall. When the Eye contacted Hall to ask him where the story came from he snapped: “It was in Bild am Sonntag [a German tabloid] and the Medical Tribune.” Er, no. There was a recent story about a Lübeck couple who sought fertility treatment in the German Medical Tribune, but the cause of their celibacy was erectile dysfunction, not ignorance. Bild am Sonntag actually reported the story fairly accurately, quoting “potenzprobleme” as the cause. He quickly changed his story to “someone at the clinic told me”.
Back in February Hall was at it again with a gruesome tale of a man in Dortmund who was eaten alive by his pet spiders. “More than “)) spiders, several snakes, a gecko names Helmut and several thousand termites gorged on their former master for days,” he reported in the Mirror. The story also appeared under his by-line in the Sun, saying “giant webs draped him, spiders were all over him”.
“That was in Bild too,” insisted Hall. And, yes, a tale of a dead man with a lot of pet spiders did appear in the German press. But Gerna, animal protection charity Arche 90, which was called in by police to deal with the creatures, said the body was intact when it was found and the man’s many pets were safely in their tanks and cages. “No freely running spiders were discovered in the house, ” they said.
In an article in the Evening Standard last year, Hall reported that “a little bit of lying is good for us, according to German scientists.” At least that story appears to be accurate.