The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Sandpaper Test, 1960
Paul Krassner's Stereophonic Hoax, 1960
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Iceberg floats into Sydney Harbor, 1978
Eccentric's last prank, 66 years after his death, 1900
The Lovely Feejee Mermaid, 1842
The Diaphote, a television hoax, 1880
Life discovered on the moon, 1835
The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
Cassie Chadwick, 1904
Between 1897 and 1904, Cassie Chadwick scammed millions of dollars from Ohio banks by claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie. The banks, believing they could charge Carnegie high interest rates, happily loaned her the money without asking too many questions.

Chadwick had used a simple ruse to lay the groundwork for her scam. She had asked a Cleveland lawyer to accompany her to Carnegie's house. He waited in the carriage while she went inside to conduct her business. On the way out, she "accidentally" dropped a promissory note for $2 million, signed by Carnegie. When the lawyer saw the note, she told him her secret — that she was Carnegie's daughter — but swore him to secrecy, confident he would immediately break his vow and tell every banker in Ohio, which he promptly did. In reality, the note was forged and the only business Chadwick had conducted inside Carnegie's house had been to chat with his maid.

Chadwick's con fell apart in 1904 when a bank demanded she repay a loan of $190,800. She couldn't repay, and finally bankers thought to ask Carnegie if she really was his daughter. Carnegie's reply: "I have never heard of Mrs. Chadwick."

Chadwick was sentenced to over ten years in prison, but died in jail after two and a half years.

Links and References
  • "The story of Mrs. Chadwick, the high priestess of fraudulent finance." (Dec 25, 1904). The Washington Post.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.