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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 81, Summer 1999

C. S. Lewis and the Great American Hoax Original Article

THE QUESTION: Is It True?
On 19 March 1963, C. S. Lewis wrote to an American lady:

I am thrilled to hear that San Suez [her pet dog] has a sweater! Is this
part of the demarche (it’s in all our papers) which a body of American
women are making to the President [Kennedy] to get animals properly clothed
“in the interests of decency”? Can it be true? If so, not only what
insanity, but also (as in all super-refinements) what fundamental
foul-mindedness! But also, what fun! The elephant looks as if he wore
trousers already, but terribly baggy ones. What he needs is braces
[suspenders]. The Rhino seems to wear a suit much too big for him: can it
be “taken in”? What sort of collars will giraffes wear? Will seals and
otters have ordinary clothes or bathing suits? The hedgehogs will wear his
shirts out terribly quickly, I should think.

THE ANSWER

Alan Abel’s “heavily-endowed” Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA)
lasted for six years. In 1966 he wrote an entire book, The Great American
Hoax, telling how easy it was to hoax much of the United States and England
about a crusade to defend morality by putting clothes on animals. (“A nude
horse is a rude horse.”) His telephone number was MOrality 1-1963 and his
swanky office address was on Fifth Avenue in New York City. On a door
there he had a sign that said SINA NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS; G. Clifford Prout
Jr., President; Alan Abel, Vice-President. Abel could afford the rent,
because all he rented was the outside of a door to a locked broom closet.
His followers picketed the White House, and he was interviewed on major
television shows.

People who were outraged by Abel’s various organizations seemed to enjoy
thinking that they were real. He has posed on television interviews as the
dean of Omar’s School for Beggars; as the organizer of affluent women who
join “Females for Felons” and supply heterosexual service to prison
inmates; and as a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in plastic surgery to
beautify dogs. In 1987 the Daily News announced, “A shadowy Iranian who
claims to have made a $6 million commission in the Iran arms deal turned up
here yesterday and repeated his promise to return the money to the United
States government — after deducting $200,000 for dinosaur research.” Abel
twice helped his wife run for president disguised as Yetta Bronstein, a
Bronx housewife with the motto “Put a mother in the White House.”

At least half the information in Alan Abel’s obituary was false, including
the claim that he had died. He says he pursues his media-hoax career to
shake people up and add a little levity to life.