Hoax Archive: Time Periods
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Cassie Chadwick, 1904 (Exposed in 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.
The Tichborne Claimant, 1866 (1866)In 1854 a wealthy young aristocrat named Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne disappeared at sea and was presumed dead. His distraught mother, refusing to believe he was actually dead, placed ads in newspapers around the world, seeking information about his whereabouts.
In 1866 she received a response from an Australian man who claimed to be her son. What followed was one of the most intriguing and debated cases of (possible) impersonation of all time.
There were dramatic differences between Roger Tichborne and the Australian claimant. Roger Tichborne had weighed 125 pounds and spoke French as well as English when he disappeared. The Australian man, by contrast, weighed over 300 pounds and spoke no French. However, the facial features of the two men were similar.
Lady Tichborne embraced the Australian man as her long-lost son, making him the full heir to her estate. But when she died, the other heirs lost no time in bringing suit against him to stop him from gaining the inheritance. On the witness stand he proved unable to remember basic facts about the past of Roger Tichborne, and the court ruled that he was a fraud. But as he sat in jail for the next ten years, he lost a great deal of weight and began to resemble Roger Tichborne more and more. Many began to suspect that he really was the long-lost Roger.
It seems almost certain that the Australian man was a fraud, but when he died in 1898 the family allowed the name “Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne” to be inscribed on his tombstone.
Lord Gordon-Gordon, 1871 (1871-1872)Lord Gordon-Gordon was the most famous alias of a nineteenth-century imposter whose specialty was posing as a wealthy Scottish landowner. He did this so well that he succeeded in convincing many people who really were wealthy to trust him with their money, which he then spent. His most famous victim was the railroad developer/robber baron Jay Gould, for which reason Gordon-Gordon is sometimes referred to as the "robber of the robber barons". The peak of Lord Gordon-Gordon's criminal career were the two years 1871 and 1872. He spent the next two years on the run, before committing suicide in 1874. More→
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