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Identity/Imposters
In 1954, Syed Hassan Osman Mustapha was a young man from Pakistan studying in London. One day he was invited to attend a "knighthood" ceremony at a Rover Scout Group meeting, and while he was there he mentioned that he happened to be part of the royal family of Afghanistan. In fact, he was a prince.

He later said that he had intended the remark as a joke, but everyone took him at his word, and he enjoyed the attention so much that he decided to continue the ruse.

Soon word of his princely status had spread around the affluent London district of Osterley where he was living, and he found himself being feted as visiting royalty.


"Prince" Syed Hassan of Afghanistan

The Rotary Club made him guest of honor at a luncheon. Sir Rob Lockhart, former British military attache to the Kingdom of Afghanistan, called upon him to pay his respects. And finally the mayor received him with an elaborate ceremony at the town hall.

But after he had been living eight months as a prince, the Afghan embassy got word of him and sent an inquiry to find out exactly who he was, and which branch of the former royal family he came from, since they had never heard of him. At which point, Syed Hassan confessed that he was no prince.

Scotland Yard briefly looked into the matter, but decided to let him off with a fine of 25 pounds.

References
  • "Pakistan student poses as prince," (May 29, 1955). Pacific Stars & Stripes.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 17, 2014
Comments (0)

St. John's College in Cambridge is inviting the public to view a famous artifact from the history of hoaxes — a first-edition of The History of Formosa written by George Psalmanazar. [link: Belfast Telegraph]

Back in the early 18th century, Psalmanazar posed as a native of Taiwan and had many of Britain's educated elites believing the ruse, even as he invented bizarre stories about the customs of Taiwan.

If there was a real Museum of Hoaxes, this would be a great artifact to have on display. But it also shows the difficulty of ever having such a museum, because it turns out these artifacts are incredibly expensive, making the cost of acquiring them prohibitive.

Unless the museum were full of fake copies of these artifacts. Fakes of fakes.
Categories: History, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Sat Mar 15, 2014
Comments (2)

After Justin Bieber reportedly looked at a few houses in the Buckhead community of Atlanta, Georgia, a group calling itself the Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition formed to protest him moving to the area.

And since the media loves to cover anything related to Justin Bieber, the protest group was soon making headlines, reported on by the BBC, CNN, Daily Mail, Time, Atlanta Journal Constitution, etc.

Harold White, leader of the group, told CNN: "We're concerned he'll bring the wrong type of element into a quiet, residential area. It is our position that a person with his means could certainly find a neighborhood more suited to his eclectic lifestyle."

On its Facebook page, the group further explained:
As a community here in Buckhead, we have worked hard to achieve our goals and get to where we are. Justin Bieber's relocation to Atlanta can be nothing but bad for our children, as well as the community. Some can't even let their children play in the driveway without fear; he has raced vehicles under the influence, before. What's to say he won't do it again? As a home owner down the street from this residence, one can assume many people will be contacting real estate agents soon enough.


When asked if the protest was excessive, given that Bieber hadn't actually bought a house in Buckhead, White replied: "This is sort of a warning to say 'We don't need you here we don't want yellow Lamborghinis driving around our roads at 90 miles an hour'."

The coalition staged a rally Monday in front of an on-the-market mansion.

But after the rally, an Atlanta morning show called The Regular Guys, broadcast on Atlanta station Rock 100.5, admitted that the protest was actually an elaborate joke engineered by them. The "protesters" were interns at their show. And 'Harold White' was actually one of the Regular Guys hosts, Tim Andrews.

An accidental victim of the phony protest was former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, which is a genuine neighborhood group, totally unaffiliated with the faux Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition. He had been receiving hundreds of phone calls from the media, inquiring about the Justin Bieber protest, about which he was entirely clueless. [link: accessAtlanta.com]
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 25, 2014
Comments (0)
Four days ago an ad appeared on Craigslist (Pittsburgh) seeking someone to take their place at Harvard in return for $40,000/year. The ad has since been removed, but screenshots of it are still floating around the web:


You must have either a 4.0 GPA in high school, or a 3.5 or higher GPA from a university to get hired for this.

Your age does not matter, but you must be a male since I have a male name.

I am looking for someone to attend Harvard University pretending to be me for four years, starting August 2014. I will pay for your tuition, books, housing, transportation, and living expenses and pay $40,000 a year with a $10,000 bonus after graduation. All you have to do is attend all classes, pass all tests, and finish all assigned work, while pretending you are me.

You do not need to worry about being accepted, I have already taken care of that.

If interested please email me a little info about yourself, and we can meet in person to discuss further.

When we meet you will be asked to sign a non disclosure agreement, so you can not reveal who I am or any further information, whether you're selected or not.

I'm assuming the ad was a joke, but it's an interesting concept. Like a more elaborate version of paying someone to take the SAT for you.

The problem I see is what happens four years later? How do you make the switch back? And what if the imposter doesn't want to switch back? They'll have four years of documentation suggesting that they're the real person (yearbook photos, etc.). The craigslist poster could end up having paid someone to steal his identity forever.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 20, 2013
Comments (0)
Dave Wilson insists he didn't get elected to the Houston Community College System Board of Trustees by "pretending to be black," though many people are now accusing him of doing exactly that. He says he merely ran a smart campaign and used "targeted marketing" to appeal to voters in the majority black neighborhood where he was running.




Yes, he avoided putting a photo of his own white face in his campaign literature, but included lots of stock photos of smiling black people. But there's nothing illegal in that.

And yes, he did prominently claim to be endorsed by Ron Wilson. People might have assumed that was the well-known black Houston politician called Ron Wilson. But if they did so, that was their own fault, because it was made clear somewhere (in the fine print at the bottom of the campaign flyer) that the Ron Wilson in question was Dave's (white) cousin in Iowa. [That brings to mind the "Subways Are For Sleeping" hoax from 1962 in which the newspaper ad for the Broadway play trumpeted the rave reviews it received from people who happened to have the same name as famous theater critics.]

Anyway, Dave Wilson is in office now, and will be for the next six years. And there's not much anyone can do to change that. [khou.com]
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 13, 2013
Comments (0)
The surprise guest at this year's Andy Kaufman Awards, which took place in NYC over the long weekend, was Andy Kaufman's 24-year-old daughter. The surprise is that Kaufman died 29 years ago. And Andy didn't store his sperm, or anything like that, in order to facilitate post-mortem conception.

Andy's brother Michael explained that Andy faked his death because "Andy wanted to go into hiding and live a normal life, that he'd met and fallen in love with a woman and had a daughter, and that he didn't want Michael or anyone to say anything while their own father was still alive. Andy's and Michael's father died this summer. " [via The Comics Comic]
Categories: Death, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 12, 2013
Comments (2)
Writing in Sweden's Metro newspaper, Jack Werner describes his effort to track down the identity of someone using a set of online aliases — TheIneffableSwede and Veronika Larsson. It started with him simply wanting to interview this person, because back in July they had left a provocative comment on a Guardian article. But as his search progressed, Werner realized that this person, over the course of the past six years, had created an elaborate fake online persona, with photos showing herself as an attractive young blond woman, and claiming to be a graduate of UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics, and fluent in five languages.

None of her story checked out upon investigation, and the photos were actually those of an unwitting Orange County woman. But Werner never was able to identify who the real person behind the persona is.

The story has shades of the Kaycee Nicole Swenson case from 2001, except that the motives of the Kaycee Nicole Swenson hoaxer were fairly clear. She wanted to get sympathy and attention by pretending to be a cancer victim. But the motives of whoever created TheIneffableSwede/Veronika Larsson remain much more murky.

Who is Veronika?
metro.se

For six years, the young Swede Veronika Larsson used social media to get into political discussions, books, respected newspapers and casual chitchat. But there was always something off about her. Today, Metro tells the strange story about Veronika.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 21, 2013
Comments (3)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has issued a press release warning the public that an imposter Bucky Badger is at large. (Bucky Badger being the university's mascot.) This imposter has been showing up at political rallies, waving protest signs. UW-Madison says that the imposter can be spotted by its "puffy features, odd coloring and sloppy sweater."

But the "imposter" is fighting back, noting that Bucky costumes can be bought at the campus book store. So who has the right to say which is the real Bucky and which is the fake one?
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 16, 2013
Comments (0)
The Miss World Competition (set to begin Sep 28 in Indonesia) seemed quite pleased to have its first-ever representative from Uzbekistan. But perhaps not anymore, because the young woman, 18-year-old Rakhima Ganieva, is attracting more attention than any of the other contestants, and not for the right reasons.

The problem is that no one can figure out how she earned the title Miss Uzbekistan. No one in Uzbekistan remembers a selection process. In fact, in her home country they're calling her an imposter. It looks like she simply showed up in Indonesia and declared herself to be Miss Uzbekistan.

Miss World officials are, so far, remaining silent about the rapidly growing controversy. Although I think it's strange that the Miss World Corporation wouldn't have realized immediately that they don't have a franchise in Uzbekistan. Unless they do have a franchise there, and it neglected to hold a competition, handing the title directly to Ganieva. [Radio Free Europe]


Rakhima Ganieva, aka Miss Uzbekistan

The whole thing reminds me of a hoax from the early 1950s, in which a PR agent invented titles such as 'Miss Perfect Profile' and 'Miss Water Conservation' in order to get publicity for the models he represented.

Update: There are reports from back in July of a "Rahima Ganieva" winning a Miss Uzbekistan competition organized by the Interalliance UZ in Tashkent. So perhaps this whole controversy about her being an imposter might be caused by miscommunication or confusion. At least, it doesn't seem to be the case that she just showed up in Indonesia calling herself Miss Uzbekistan for no reason at all.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 15, 2013
Comments (0)
On Monday, a man calling himself "Basilius," wearing a cassock, black fedora and purple sash, tried to gain access to the pre-conclave meeting of cardinals at the Vatican. He made it through one level of security before being stopped by the Swiss Guard. Spiegel Online has a profile of the guy, whose real name is Ralph Napierski. Apparently Napierski has a history of posing as a Catholic bishop, though Spiegel isn't quite sure what to make of him, debating whether he's "a joker, a church critic or simply an eccentric with strong leanings toward esotericism."

Napierski's history includes: Claiming to be the leader of the "Catholic Order Corpus Dei" (a non-existent order, but perhaps a play on the real "Opus Dei"); conducting a fake auction on eBay that "drove the price of a small digital photo to €10 million" (he said he did it to highlight a security loophole); and attending Berlin's "Venus" erotic trade fair, dressed as a priest, in order, so he said, to promote the use of sex toys by Catholics.

In the thumbnail below, Napierski is the guy on the left. You can also check out Napierski's website.

Famous Fake Bishop: Germany's Mysterious Vatican Gatecrasher
spiegel.de

In Rome, Napierski looked almost convincing in his smart black trilby, violet sash, and crucifix on a chain. Maybe the sneakers gave him away. He strode up to various eminences, shaking hands and smiling into cameras, telling people his name was "Basilius" and he was a member of the "Italian Orthodox Church" -- which doesn't actually exist.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 07, 2013
Comments (0)
On the internet nobody knows if you're a dog. And on Facebook, nobody knows if you're really a 104-year-old woman... because Facebook won't accept 104 as a valid age!

Woman, 104, forced to lie about age on Facebook
dailyherald.com

Marguerite Joseph can be forgiven for lying about her age on Facebook. The 104-year-old Michigan woman's granddaughter says Joseph is unable to list her real age on the social media site. Gail Marlow says when she tries inputting her grandmother's birth year as 1908, Facebook changes it to 1928. So for the past two years, the Grosse Pointe Shores centenarian has remained 99 — online, anyway.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 25, 2013
Comments (3)
Over in Gothenburg, Sweden, locals were puzzled by a homeless person begging for money at the train station, who, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a doll. Police thought it might be some kind of fraud (i.e. a homeless people using a mannequin to beg for him). But it turned out to be the work of a 13-year-old kid, Adam, who created it as "something fun" for a school art project. Brings to mind Alan Abel's Omar the Beggar hoax.

The english-language article didn't have a picture of Adam and his "fake beggar," but I found one at a swedish-language site.


Gothenburg teen behind 'homeless beggar' hoax
thelocal.se

Adam told GT that he made the life-size doll out of cardboard and second-hand clothing. He then placed the doll at the city's train station, before carrying it over to a park near the central thoroughfare Avenyn. The mysterious "fake beggar" went on to garner national media attention after national news agency TT wrote about the doll, quoting a police spokesman who theorized it could be a case of fraud. The doll, which even had a beer can in its hand, even attracted the attention of several passersby.
"I was standing a short distance away and filming how people reacted, that's part of the project," he told GT, explaining that the entire installation is part of a school art assignment. In the end, a passer-by had placed seven kronor ($1.10) next to the mock-up, a sum that Adam eventually chose to gave to a real life person asking for money on the street.
Categories: Art, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2013
Comments (0)
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