For most of us, the idea of being someone else every day sounds exhausting, if not impossible. Not for everyone. Some people slip into a new identity as easily as you put on a new pair of shoes. In fact, the story is full of swindlers who have disguised themselves and successfully pretended to be someone else out of pure money, power, or in some cases just for fun.
. 8 Lord Gordon-Gordon
The real name of Lord Gordon-Gordon is lost in history, but we know that he was a 19th century British fraudster who successfully faked a Scottish landowner. He betrayed many people, especially one of America's richest men, the notorious railroad magnate Jay Gould.
When the fraudster decided to take the form of a Scottish aristocrat in 1868, he became Lord Glencairn in London. With the right looks and demeanor, he slowly gained the trust of others and persuaded them to give him money loans or credit services. When the fraud was discovered in 1870, Lord Glencairn disappeared from London and Lord Gordon-Gordon appeared in America.
He was even more successful there because there were few real Scottish gentlemen. He was supported by the fact that Gordon-Gordon was able to deposit tens of thousands of dollars into a bank. It was the money left over from his British scams, but it gave him instant credibility.
He settled in Minnesota and announced his intention to invest in railroads. This is how he met Jay Gould and convinced him that he owned a lot of Erie Railroad shares. Desperate to do business together, Gould gave him half a million dollars in good faith, some in cash, the rest in stock. This was meant as a guarantee – Lord Gordon-Gordon should only keep the money, not spend it. However, when he started selling stocks, Gould realized that he had been cheated. The industrialist tried to settle the matter in court, but the "lord" fled to Canada.
This almost caused an international incident when Gould's staff crossed the border and attempted to kidnap Gordon-Gordon to bring him to Canada for justice. They were arrested and arrested, and a US militia tried to enter Canada to get them released.
The fraudster considered himself safe in Canada, but the authorities finally decided to extradite him. Lord Gordon-Gordon did not want to face the prison and shot himself on August 1, 1874.
7. Wilhelm Voigt
On October 16, 1906, a German captain entered a barracks in Berlin and commanded ten soldiers who accompanied him by train to the city of Köpenick east of the capital. There the captain arrested the mayor and the treasurer for embezzlement and confiscated more than 4,000 marks from the local treasury as evidence. At first it sounded like a typical bust of corruption, but there was a catch – the "army captain" was just a man in uniform who changed his civilian clothes and went with the money.
His name was Wilhelm Voigt. At that time, in his late 50s, he spent half of his adult life due to various crimes inside and outside the prison. In 1906 he assembled a complete captain's uniform by buying different used parts in different shops in Berlin. He looked, walked and talked like an officer, and apparently that was enough for German soldiers. They followed his orders without question, even the sergeant who allowed his men to travel with Voigt.
The fraudster was caught ten days after changing his identity and sentenced to four years in prison. Unlike most other fraudsters, Voigt's brazen actions kept the public both in the German Reich and abroad. He was considered a popular hero rather than a criminal, and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him after two years.
Voigt wanted to take advantage of his newfound popularity and performed in theaters, restaurants, amusement parks and wherever he was welcome. Decades later, the memorable affair even became the subject of a play called "The Captain of Köpenick".
. 6 John Deydras
One day in 1318, a one-eared man entered Beaumont Palace in Oxford and declared himself the true Edward II and thus the rightful king of England.
This man's name was John Deydras, who was sometimes recorded as John of Powderham. All we know about his past is that he worked as an employee and may have been the son of a tanner. However, according to his story, he was the son of Edward I, better known as Edward Longshanks. As a baby, however, a sow bit off her ear when he played in the castle courtyard. Fearing that she would be severely punished for her negligence, his nanny replaced him with another boy from the village who eventually became Edward II of England. Of course, Deydras had no evidence of this wild story, and modern historians thought the man was probably mentally ill, since such an accusation was essentially a death sentence at the time. However, Edward II is said to have been amused by Deydras, and since no one took the story seriously, the king might even want to spare the man and keep him as his court jester.
Unfortunately, Deydras really chose the wrong time for his little stunt. Edward was deeply unpopular at the time for his military failures against the Scots led by Robert the Bruce. In addition, his wife, Queen Isabella, was "indescribably upset" by Deydras and wanted him to leave. Not surprisingly, she wasn't called the French she-wolf for nothing.
As a result, Deydras was arrested and tortured. He confessed that the whole thing was a lie and claimed that he was persuaded to do so by his cat, who was actually a demon. Both humans and cats were executed.
. 5 Cassie Chadwick
Elizabeth Bigley was a 19th-century Canadian swindler who had the disadvantages since her youth. She started with a little fake before moving to the United States, where she pretended to be a clairvoyant in various cities. She also married twice, each under a different pseudonym, but none of the marriages lasted long and Bigley was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison for falsification in 1889.
She was paroled in 1893 and went to Cleveland, where she adopted the adopted name Cassie Hoover. A few years later she became Cassie Chadwick after she remarried, this time with a wealthy, respected doctor named Leroy Chadwick. This new relationship gave Cassie access to some of the richest and most influential people in Ohio, and with the unwitting help of a friend of her husband's, Chadwick started her most ambitious relationship.
In 1897 she made a trip to New York City. There she met a friend of Dr. Chadwick, an attorney named James Dillon. Cassie asked him to accompany her on an errand, and the man committed. Together they drove to Fifth Avenue and stopped in front of one of the city's most elaborate buildings. It was the villa of Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world. Chadwick went in while Dillon was waiting in the carriage, confused about what kind of business she could have there. In fact, Chadwick just asked to speak to the housekeeper on the pretext of checking references from a maid she wanted to hire. She never met Carnegie, but that was irrelevant to the person concerned – all that mattered was that she spent some time in his house.
When she left, Dillon was obviously asking about her business. Chadwick admitted that she was Andrew Carnegie's illegitimate daughter, and even showed the lawyer some (of course, fake) promissory notes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. She swore confidentiality to Dillon, knowing that the lawyer would tell everyone in Ohio.
When her story was published, Chadwick found it easy to get massive loans from every bank she entered. She expected no one to be brave enough to ask Carnegie about an illegitimate daughter, and she was right … for a while. Chadwick maintained her fraud for seven years. In 1904, a banker requested the repayment of a loan worth nearly $ 200,000. She was unable, so the banker asked Carnegie, who said he had no idea who Cassie Chadwick was. She was convicted of fraud and died in prison a few years later.
For Andrew Carnegie we made a full video about him on our sister channel Biographics, the description if you want to learn more about him.
. 4 Lambert Simnel
The death of King Edward IV of England in 1483 led to one of the most enduring mysteries in English history – the fate of his two sons, the so-called princes in the tower. When they were 12 and 9 years old, they were locked in the Tower of London by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who took over the throne for himself and became King Richard III. He was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field two years later and ended not only his reign, but also the House of York and the Rose Wars. After him came Henry VII, the first king of the Tudor family.
Regarding the two princes, it is generally believed that the two died in the tower, but there were people who claimed to be one or the other and therefore the rightful heirs to the throne.
One of these people was Lambert Simnel, who, strangely, was not celebrated as one, but as two different heirs. As a boy, Simnel was under the care of a priest named Richard Simon, who was convinced that his student came from a king. First he explained that the boy was Richard von Shrewsbury, the younger of the two princes who survived his imprisonment in the tower. He later changed his claim and said that Simnel was indeed Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, another member of the House of York, who had been imprisoned by King Henry VII as a young boy.
Unknown to most people, including Simon, the real Edward Plantagenet still lived in the Tower of London and it would take over a decade to be executed. However, Simon's claim was convincing enough that Lambert Simnel was brought to Ireland, where he was crowned King Edward VI and an army formed to dethrone Henry. The two sides met in 1487 at the Battle of Stoke Field, where Simnel's followers were decisively defeated.
Fortunately for Simnel, King Henry understood that the boy was just a puppet that people used to campaign for the rally of the Yorkers. So he pardoned Simnel and allowed him to work in the royal kitchen. As he grew older, he became a falconer before disappearing from the history book.
. 3 Fred Demara
Known as "The Big Cheater", Fred Demara took on numerous identities and spent most of his life pretending to be someone else. His alter egos included a psychologist, a biologist, a law student, a Trappist monk, a teacher, a dean of philosophy, a prison guard and, most shockingly, a naval surgeon who actually performed medical interventions during the Korean period.
You will not be surprised to learn that we do not know much accurate information about the lifelong fraudster, since most of the details surrounding him were provided by Demara himself after he sold his story to Life . He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1921 as Ferdinand Waldo Demara. He was said to have a very high IQ and photographic memory, which helped him take on identities that often required higher education. His family started rich, but lost everything during the Great Depression, which convinced a teenage Demara to run away from home and start his life as a professional fraud.
It seems that the two career paths Demara were really pleased like a monk and a soldier. He joined several monasteries and military branches throughout his life, but never lasted more than a few years before running away and starting over.
When Demara joined a religious education group known as the Brothers of Christian Instruction, he met a Canadian doctor named Joseph Cyr. He later assumed Cyr's identity and secured a position as a trauma surgeon aboard the Canadian destroyer HMCS Cayuga during the Korean War. Apparently he was successful in performing surgery, minor surgery and on one occasion even pulling a bullet out of a chest wound.
After becoming a small celebrity in the late 1950s, Demara found it much more difficult to adopt new identities. Instead, he tried to live as Fred Demara and brought his newly discovered fame to several television appearances and even a role in the horror film from 1960 (19459017) The Hypnotic Eye (19459018).
. 2 George Psalmanazar
George Psalmanazar is the only known pseudonym of a Frenchman who is said to be from Formosa and who amazed and horrified London in the 18th century with stories from his homeland.
The man was born sometime around 1679 in southern France. On his trip to Europe, he took the form of an Irish pilgrim. However, one often noticed that he had lied and decided that he needed something more exotic. At that time, he pretended to be a Japanese pagan, but later moved to a little further afield, claiming to be a native of Formosa Island, now known as Taiwan. He even started practicing strange rituals and eating unusual foods, which convinced most Europeans that he was somewhere far away. During his travels he met a Scottish chaplain named Alexander Innes, who converted him to Christianity, baptized him George Psalmanazar and brought him to London. The stranger's story proved popular in England. He claimed to have been kidnapped by Jesuits from his homeland who detained him for refusing to convert to Catholicism. This has proven itself in a country where the anti-Catholic mood was high, which was only reinforced by Psalmanazar's conversion to Anglicanism.
In 1704, the Formosa wrote and published a book entitled "A Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island Subordinate to the Japanese Emperor". It was a hit, though most of the facts were either invented, exaggerated, or taken from travel reports from other civilizations. It contained fake language, a fake calendar, and fake religious ceremonies to worship the sun and moon.
The most shocking were Psalmanazar's claims about how widespread cannibalism and human sacrifice were in his society. According to him, the Formosan high priest ordered Gnotoy Bonzo to kill 18,000 boys under the age of 9 annually so that their hearts could be sacrificed. The rest of their bodies were eaten. In order to ensure a constant supply of children, men were allowed to take in as many women as they wanted.
Of course, the fascination of the Formosans only lasted for a few years before people switched to the next high. This eventually led Psalmanazar to confess that the whole thing was a fraud, but he had no serious consequences for his deception. He even had admirers, especially the playwright Samuel Johnson, who appreciated his success as a fraud.
. 1 The False Dmitris
The late 16th century brought with it a succession crisis in Russia known as the time of trouble. It started in 1598 after Fyodor I died without heirs. This caused several pretenders to appear on the throne, all known as false Dmitry because they all claimed to be the same person – Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible.
The real Dmitry died in 1591 when he was only 8 years old under controversial circumstances. He was stabbed to death – some say he was murdered, others that the young prince accidentally stabbed himself in an attack. A third story emerged a few years later, claiming the alleged assassins had killed another boy while the real Dmitry was hidden and waiting for the opportunity to return. This version opened the door for people to act as the rightful heir to the throne.
The first false Dmitry appeared around 1603 in Poland-Lithuania. He was the most successful of them all. He won the support of the Polish gentlemen and also found many Russian followers. He raised an army and wanted to challenge Tsar Boris Godunov, but that was not necessary. In 1605 Godunov died of an illness. His young son, Fyodor II, became the new tsar, but only lasted a few months before he was murdered and replaced by Dmitry.
The fake Dmitry ruled for almost a year, but he had his own enemies who were planning against him. One of them was Vasili Shuisky. He convinced the Muscovites that Dmitry wanted to massacre them with the help of his Polish followers. They stormed the Kremlin and killed Dmitry. According to legend, they burned his body and shot the ashes from a cannon to Poland.
Shuysky became Tsar Vasili IV. In 1607 the false Dmitry II came, that of Tsaritsa Marina, the wife of the first false Dmitry, who would probably have accepted everyone to regain their power when the real Dmitry was accepted. He actually assembled a large army and had several military successes, but was killed in 1610 when he was drunk by one of his own followers.
Last came False Dmitry III. He became loyal to the Cossacks, but was betrayed by a group that kidnapped him and brought him to Moscow in 1612, where he was executed. The crisis and the line of the false Dmitris ended a year later when Michael I became Russia's new tsar and the 300-year reign of the Romanov family began.
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