As the papers picked up the Princess Caraboo story, Willcocks was eventually outed by a Bristol woman who recognized her. But it didn't really matter; the papers and the working class both praised her as a hero who had managed to rise above her designated lot in life and thumb her nose at the rich and powerful. She was even played by Phoebe Cates in a movie about her life, and back in 1994, that was a huge honor.
Related: The 6 Most Effective Ways To Lie On Your Resume
Clifford Irving Faked An Autobiography Of Howard Hughes
You probably know a dozen people who claim to know a dozen famous people, but Clifford Irving's dedication to his scheme was genuinely impressive. Back in the 1970s, he was set to write an autobiography for Howard Hughes. First he convinced his publisher's editor that Hughes was into the project by forging letters from him based on real letters written by the reclusive billionaire. After that, he flew around the world, making sure to call the publisher at each stop to convince them he was jet-setting with the Aviator. It didn't hurt that he picked the perfect subject, a figure who famously refused to speak to the press ...
Until he didn't. Right as the book was headed to print, Hughes finally broke his silence and held a conference to tell Irving to get his name out of his mouth. Because this was a more innocent time when it was actually illegal to publish lies, Irving served 17 months in prison. It was really everyone else's fault that they got duped, though -- Irving's previous book was about an art forger, and titled Fake.
Related: 15 Famous People Who Lied Their Way To Fame
Helen Darville Tried To Cash In On The Holocaust
In the 1990s, Australian Helen Darville had a great idea for a story about a Ukrainian family that participated in the Holocaust, and she was going to get it published no matter what. Turns out "no matter what" didn't mean "pluck and perseverance" -- it meant "pretend to be Ukrainian and tell everyone that it was heavily based on her own family's experiences." So that's exactly what she did.
She published The Hand That Signed The Paper as "Helen Demidenko," and the publicity material stressed that her Ukrainian ancestry was the source for her story. In interviews, she even made it a point to mention her family's personal connections to the Holocaust. To her credit, she didn't personally claim to have experienced the horrific event. "I depended very heavily on my dad's memories of what the famine was like," Darville/Demidenko said, "and his brother and some of my other relatives as well." She knew a guy who knew a guy who knew the Holocaust.
Allen & Unwin PublishingIt was poised to rocket to the very theoretical edges of what "Based on a true story" could encompass.
The Hand That Signed The Paper was the book everyone was talking about. Of course, they were mostly talking about how its Jewish characters were basically cartoon bad guys who'd jumped straight out of an antisemitic fever dream. It didn't exactly alleviate tensions when it eventually emerged that "Demidenko" was in fact Darville, an Australian with British parents and zero Ukrainian connections.
Of course, this ruined Darville, and we never heard from her ag- wait, she simply moved to UK, got married, changed her name to Helen Dale, and became a conservative pundit with a regular columnist gig? And she claims that she wrote the book under a pseudonym in the first place to protect a source, who was totally an elderly Ukrainian war criminal with terminal cancer? And she almost revealed her true identity to her publishers, but decided otherwise after receiving some criticism from them? And it was also a deliberate hoax against the left, somehow?
We guess the moral of the story is that even if you suck at lying, if you're persistent enough (and change your name often enough), you can still waltz away from the smoking ruins to spend your time happily plagiarizing other people's tweets.
Chris Scott co-owns a bookstore in a small Midwestern town and regularly contributes to Prairie Dog and Planet S Magazines. E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature Is The Worst: 500 Reasons You'll Never Want To Go Outside Again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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