Did a Montana Man Caught a Three-Foot Locust?


One photo shows a man holding a 3-foot grasshopper.




For several years, a black and white photo purporting to show a man carrying a giant grasshopper has been widely shared on social media:

Of course, the most obvious sign that the image is manipulated is that locusts just don’t get that big. The average grasshopper is only an inch or two tall long. Even the huge wetaa larger insect resembling a grasshopper weighs only about the same as a gerbil and grows to about four inches long.

Also, if the image were real, the grasshopper would cast a shadow on the man’s pants and on the ground, in the same direction as the man’s shadow.

An uncropped version of the photo shows it was copyrighted by Cole’s studio in 1937:


Grasshopper shot near Miles City Mont. Circa 1937 Cole’s Studio Glassgow Mont

The use of copyright and the fact that other variations of this image have been attached to different locales (such as North Dakota), indicate that this image may have originally been circulated as a postcard. In fact, giant locusts were a recurring theme on exaggerated postcards from the early 20th century. Here’s an image created by photographer Frank D. “Pop” Conard showing similarly large (and unreal) grasshoppers:


The Historical Society of Kansas explained:

When a swarm of locusts descended on Garden City in 1935, Frank D. “Pop” Conard had a vision. The photographer assembled giant insects with people and sold the postcards like “hot cakes”. “The idea,” Conard said, “came to me after a swarm of locusts swarmed into Garden City, attracted by the lights, and it was impossible to fill up a car’s tank at gas stations that night.” I went home to sleep but woke up at 3:00 am and all I could think about were locusts. In the morning I got the idea to have fun with the locusts and took my photos and overlaid the locusts with people. I didn’t do it for negative impressions of Kansas, but as an exaggerated joke.” A master retoucher, Conard continued to print Hopper Whoppers until his retirement in 1963. Locusts were enlarged to fight a man, toward the back of a pickup truck pass and stop a train.

The postcard offered inventive photographers the opportunity to extend the traditional tall tale to the photographic plate and beyond to invent entirely new forms only possible through photography. It resulted in visual effects that legend tellers over the centuries had only seen in their fertile imaginations.

“They say pictures don’t lie,” Conard explained, “but from the sales of these postcards — the fastest-selling novelty cards on the market — it seems that Kansas people like a little bit of fun, untrue stuff.”

Although Conard was the giant locust guru in the 1930s, he did not create the postcard of the hunter holding a three-foot locust. However, we found two others examples of work from Cole’s Studio:


Instagram user Blake Nass shared an interesting, albeit unconfirmed, story about the photo in 2015. Wet claims to be the grandson of the man in the photo, Joseph Nass, and said the picture was taken after an unsuccessful hunt:

I’m happy to pass on the story. @benshap is pretty close. Grandpa Nass was out shooting prairie dogs/gophers near Miles City. Then came a truck loaded with a photographer traveling cross-country, and asked Mr. Nass to “hold out his left hand like this, and his right hand and gun the same way.” A few exposures were taken and the photographer (who is believed to be associated with Cole Studio) said “Thank you, appreciate your time!” and drove on. Grandfather Nass was a little unsure of what had happened, but continued. A few months later, the “edited” photo surfaced in some tabloids. Especially postcards that made fun of country types. At one time the media gave the photo a run with the story that an Australian was the one posing with a trophy “hopper”. An original photo kept within the family is coming soon!!

At least part of Nass’s story is verifiable. In September 1937 the Tomah Moniror Herald published a story claiming that giant locusts were terrorizing a local farmer’s land. Leland Gregory told the story of the hoax in his A book stupid story: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Myths Through the Ages:

On September 9, 1937, the Tomah Monitor Herald front-page headliner warned people, “Huge grasshoppers invade Butts Orchard East of City.” The article explained that locusts had eaten special plant food grown on an apple orchard owned by farmer AL Butts was used, and had quickly grown to a length of three feet. Accompanying the article were photos of hunters with shotguns tracking down mutant insects and an image of Farmer Butts holding up a dead grasshopper like a prized fish. The citizens of the city became nervous and almost hysterical at the thought of giant locusts hopping through the city, destroying their crops, frightening livestock and generally causing chaos. The article was a hoax, of course, and Monitor-Hearld editor BJ Fuller, along with Farmer Butts (yes, there was a real Farmer Butts), admitted to making the townspeople the butt of their elaborate and annoying joke.

The image showing a man holding a three foot long grasshopper is not real. This image was created as a prank in the 1930s and continues to deceive viewers to this day.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/enormous-grasshopper-montana/ Did a Montana Man Caught a Three-Foot Locust?

Brian Ashcraft

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