Imagine being about 8 years old and being told that President William McKinley’s coffin had a glass lid through which you could see that his hair and fingernails were still growing.

You can imagine my disappointment upon entering his tomb as an adult and discovering ...well, go and see for yourself.

Last week, an online joke site published a wild-eyed, clearly phony and satirical claim that the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village had bought and planned to demolish the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum and the McKinley National Memorial here in Canton, Ohio.

That it spread quicker than pink-eye at a preschool proves my former pastor was right when he said, “A lie makes its way halfway around the world before the truth can even pull on its shoes.”

The National First Ladies Library probably should prepare to refute charges that it’s actually a front for smuggling black-market corsets made from elephant tusks and puppy scalps.

It shows the breathtaking speed with which a prank, a joke, a lie — even a ridiculous one — can spread. It underscores the power, scope and ability of social media to reach into people’s lives and convince some of them of virtually anything, even if it is bereft of all logic, reason and basic horse sense.

Scary, isn’t it?

Pizzagate

We saw this last year when an armed man from North Carolina was arrested outside of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor, a business that was nearly destroyed by online lies claiming it was a front for a kiddie-sex ring located in its basement.

The lunacy was abetted by tweets from Michael Flynn Jr., son of the disgraced former national security adviser.

That the building doesn’t even have a basement was of no concern to those who insisted it had to be so. The suspect could have killed someone, all because he wished it to be true.

Even when people are proved to be as wrong as two left shoes, they trudge ahead, certain that sooner or later some conspiracy theory is bound to pan out.

Even poor McKinley was pushed into war after the public was hand-fed tabloid propaganda about Spanish atrocities in Cuba. When the USS Maine mysteriously exploded in Havana Harbor, it was a wrap.

Swift Boats on Mars

That anyone fell for the McKinley monument hoax serves as a reminder we never should underestimate how badly people want something to be true, especially when it taps into their most primal fears.

We see it over and over, from Jesus’ return in 1988, to the One World Order to Sandy Hook Truthers, to NASA colonies on Mars.

Why does it work? Because we all want to believe the worst of people we don’t like, and because others who understand this have found ways to use it. It doesn’t help that we keep placing people in power who act as if they’ve never had so much as a nodding acquaintance with the truth.

Credit the McKinley Museum and Visit Canton for having fun with this fairy tale. If there’s anything positive to be gleaned, hopefully, there will be an uptick in visitor traffic.

One thing probably is true: William McKinley is very likely spinning in his tomb at how ignorant we’ve become.

That any American president’s final resting place would be available to the highest bidder is patently ridiculous. Besides, everyone knows Barack Obama already deeded it to North Korea.

— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.