It is never very nice to be on the receiving end of a scam or a hoax but we all do enjoy hearing of such deceits. Sometimes we are so amazed at the sheer scale of these scams and hoaxes that we cannot get enough of the juicy details.
Then again there are some scams that are so simple we cannot believe they were actually successful.
Here are 5 Amazing Hoaxes You Won’t Believe Were Real.
The Man Who Jumped the Brooklyn Bridge
Back in the late 1800’s newspapers were not that interested in checking their facts. Actually fact checking was not something that newspapers were that interested in until world war 2.
This was something that Steve Brodie took full advantage of when on July 23rd, 1886 he made the claim he had jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and survived. Since newspapers in that era did not check facts, a media frenzy began as newspapers reported Brodie’s claims as fact. They even went as far too affectionately name Brodie as the world’s greatest champion bridge jumper.
Obviously the claims that Brodie had made were completely false and he had only made the claims so he could whip up free publicity. Once the media circus was in full swing Brodie opened up a new and hugely successful tavern. The name Brodie is still used to this day by stunt people who use the phrase “pulling a brodie.”
Selling the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower was never meant to be a permanent structure and after World War 1 it had become very expensive to maintain. Because most people knew that the structure was never meant to be permanent in 1925 it was no real hardship for Victor Lustig to offer the tower for sale to six metal dealers.
It was a man named Andre Poisson who finally agreed to make the historic and lucky purchase hoping that such a deal could help him to the top of the scrap metal world.
Once the sale was agreed Lustig swore Poisson to the utmost secrecy claiming that he needed to wait for the right time to announce the sale to the public who were opposed to any sale. Poisson agreed to keep everything a secret and even handed over a large quantity of cash in the process.
By the time Poisson realised that he had been conned Lustig had already fled the country with the money and Poisson was so embarrassed he decided not to report the con to the police. Poisson obviously did not realise that Lustig had broken the law just by posing as a government official and would have served some pretty serious jail time.
Lustig was eventually arrested in 1935 for a totally unrelated counterfeiting scheme. Shortly after his arrest he even tried to sell the Eiffel Tower a second time but was unsuccessful.
The Big Donor Show
The Netherlands is well known for some strange television shows but one of the most controversial was the 2007 reality show named, The Big Donor Show. The basis of the show was centred on a terminally-ill woman who had made the decision to donate one of her kidneys to one of three contestants who happened to be waiting for a kidney transplant.
The viewers of the show were encouraged to send text messages to the terminally ill woman and suggest to her which of the contestants were most deserving. The show was one of the most controversial shows to ever air and because of this controversy it was also one of the most viewed.
At the end of the shows production it was revealed that the terminally-ill woman was actually just an actress who was not ill at all. The contestants who were hoping for the new kidney were however all genuine.
The producers of the television show donated all the profits made from the text messages to the Dutch Kidney Foundation. Producers also claimed the show was created to raise awareness of the lack of organ donors in the country.
The Estate of Francis Drake
Some people are more gullible than others and in 1915 few were more gullible than Iowa farmer, Oscar Hartzell. He was so gullible he was actually conned out of six-thousand dollars ( a massive sum in 1915) by a man who told him he could invest the money in Sir Francis Drake’s fortune.
Once Hartzell realised that he had been conned he did not hold a grudge and decided that the best way to deal with his loss was to begin conning other innocent individuals.
The scam that Hartzell pulled was simple yet effective. He began contacting anyone in Iowa with the surname “Drake” and claimed to be a distant relative who was to inform them that the British government was holding Sir Francis Drake’s estate. He promised these people that with a small investment he would sue the British government and turn every one dollar invested into five-hundred. The scam was met with huge success in Iowa so Hartzell soon decided to expand his operation. Before long he had thousands of investors all over America.
By 1925 Hartzell moved himself to London and told all of his investors the reason behind the move was so he could negotiate with the British government. The only snag was that he needed more money from his investors to carry on the negotiations. The investors were quick to hand over more money even after the British government informed the American Embassy that the estate in question had actually been claimed by Drake’s wife.
Once the stock market collapsed in 1929 Hartzell received even more investments from people desperate to rebuild their fortune and it was not until 1933 that he was finally deported from British shores. The only reason why he was not arrested was because he had not actually broken any British laws.
Once Hartzell was back in America he soon was put on trial for fraud and amazingly he paid for his defence using money that had been invested by his victims. Even after he had been found guilty of fraud there were people who continued to invest in his scam.
The Cardiff Giant
On October 16, 1869 William Newell hired two men to dig a well on his property. The task of digging a well at first seemed to be rather dull until they had dug only a few feet to find the skeleton of a ten foot giant in the exact location the well was to be.
Newell went about making sure everyone thought he was shocked and surprised to learn of the discovery and decided the best course of action was to charge people 25 cents to view the giant.
Newell made a small fortune (25 cents was a huge amount in 1869) from charging people to view the giant but archaeologists were quick to decide the whole thing was a hoax while geologists were quick to point out that the site chosen for the well was probably the worst position to have a well.
The whole scam was properly exposed when a showman made a replica of the giant skeleton. At this point Newell refused to sell or to offer his skeleton for examination but both the replica and the supposed original were proven in court to be fake.
It turned out that Newell’s cousin, George Hull, was the man who planned the whole scam for some bizarre reason to do with proving the existence of giants.