Frauds, Cons and Scams

Jackson Barnett, “The World’s Richest Indian”

From Wikipedia:
With the discovery of oil on Barnett's lands in 1912, a series of court actions by interested parties litigated the control of Barnett's trust. Barnett was declared incompetent and denied access to his affairs simply because he only spoke the Muscogee Creek language and not English. Barnett was permitted a modest income and was installed in a house near Henryetta. In 1919 the courts allowed the diversion of money from Barnett's trust to the construction of the "Jackson Barnett Hospital" in Henryetta. In 1920 Barnett, then in his seventies, married Anna Laura Lowe (1881-1952), a fortune hunter whom he had met only once before. The couple had to marry in Kansas after a marriage license was denied in Oklahoma. Barnett's guardians were unable to annul the marriage and the hospital plans were never pursued. Instead, the trust was divided between Anna Barnett and Bacone Indian College.[3]

The Barnetts moved to Los Angeles and bought a mansion on Wilshire Boulevard, where Jackson passed his time directing traffic at a nearby intersection. Legal actions continued from 1923 to 1929, which provoked congressional hearings on the role of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in establishing and administering the Barnett trust and others like it. The hearings led to criticism of BIA administrator Charles H. Burke's actions, and during the 1930s, to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. In 1927 Barnett v. Equitable again proclaimed Jackson Barnett incompetent in federal court. In March 1934 another federal ruling annulled the Barnetts' marriage and Anna Barnett's rights to Jackson's trust on the grounds that Jackson had been "kidnapped" by a woman of suspect moral character, but allowed Anna to act as Jackson's caretaker. Jackson Barnett died on 29 May 1934 of natural causes: allegations that Anna had poisoned him were found to be false.[3][4]

Anna was finally evicted from the Wilshire Boulevard residence after four years, even though she had gained significant support from Los Angeles society,[5] including Los Angeles District Attorney Burton Fitts and California Governor Frank Merriam. Anna had to be tear-gassed after she threw a hatchet during the eviction,[5] and lived the remainder of her life with a daughter while unsuccessfully attempting to regain a share of the Barnett estate, which amounted to $3.5 million in 1934 ($55.4 million estimated value in 2012 dollars).


Lots more info here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Nov 10, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Crime, Unauthorized Dwellings, Forgotten Figures and Where Are They Now?, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Government, Hospitals, Twentieth Century, Native Americans, Weddings

The City of Napoleon, Washington State

Today, Chetlo Harbor in Washington State looks pretty much like the picture below, taken from the site of the Chetlo Harbor Shellfish Company.

But in 1910, the location was going to be Napolean, the biggest port in the world!

Source for ad. You can blow up the text to readable size there.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Aug 14, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, Oceans and Maritime Pursuits, Real Estate, Regionalism, 1910s

Water Walk Cancelled

The laws of physics weren't going to stop him, but a bullet in the leg did.

Failed attempts to walk on water definitely are a recurring theme in weird news. See also: When Yogi Rao failed to walk on water

The Shreveport Times - May 22, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 07, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, Religion, 1970s

Nuking the Moon

Project A119, also known as A Study of Lunar Research Flights, was a top-secret plan developed in 1958 by the United States Air Force. The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon, which would help in answering some of the mysteries in planetary astronomy and astrogeology. If the explosive device detonated on the surface, not in a lunar crater, the flash of explosive light would have been faintly visible to people on Earth with their naked eye, a show of force resulting in a possible boosting of domestic morale in the capabilities of the United States, a boost that was needed after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race and was also working on a similar project.

The project was never carried out, being cancelled primarily out of a fear of a negative public reaction, with the potential militarization of space that it would also have signified, and because a Moon landing would undoubtedly be a more popular achievement in the eyes of the American and international public alike. A similar project by the Soviet Union also never came to fruition.

Wikipedia page here.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jun 10, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Antisocial Activities, Daredevils, Stuntpeople and Thrillseekers, Explosives, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Government, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy, 1950s, North America, Russia


From the Finnish company Valkee comes the HumanCharger, aka ear lights. Ear buds shine bright lights into your ears, and this is supposed to stimulate “light sensing proteins” in your brain and make you feell more energized. Specifically, the manufacturer offers the gadget as a cure for jet lag.

Many are skeptical. Back in 2015, a reviewer for the Guardian described them as “a very expensive flashlight.” (They retail for over $150). While the website has been trying to debunk them for years, noting:

The swindle was busted in 2012 in Finland, and Valkee was awarded the HuuHaa (flim-flam) prize for the earlight device. Having lost their home market, Valkee is trying elsewhere to trick people into buying this expensive toy

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 07, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Cooking with Scraps

Good idea, or a kind of "stone soup" scheme? I add stones and water, you dump in all the veggies and meat. Now it tastes great!

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jan 06, 2019 - Comments (2)
Category: Food, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Books

When Yogi Rao walked on water

Lakshmanasandra Srikanta Rao was an Indian yogi who claimed to have such total control over his body that he could eat glass, swallow poison, eat live vipers, walk on fire, and even survive an atomic bomb. But basically he was just a stage magician who knew a few tricks and put on a good act.

He made headlines in the 1950s when he moved to America and gained heiress Doris Duke as a follower, but he returned to India after only a few months, apparently recognizing that he had gotten in over his head and promised his followers more than he could deliver.

He laid low until 1966 when he returned to headlines with his claim that he was going to publicly walk on water. Over 600 paid to see him do this, including some of the most famous people in India. But Rao took one step and plunged right to the bottom of the pool he was supposed to walk across.

What had he been thinking? Had he somehow convinced himself that he really could walk on water? Maybe. He was later quoted as expressing regret at his failure, saying, “I am so angry that I feel like drowning myself even if I have to tie a stone round my neck to do so.”

Two years later he offered to try again, to prove he was for real, but the performance never happened.

You can read more about Rao's colorful career in this interesting article by Philip Deslippe.

Tampa Tribune - June 13, 1966

La Crosse Tribune - Mar 14, 1965

Posted By: Alex - Thu Dec 06, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, 1960s

Bugsy Siegel and Atomite

One of the mobster's lesser-known rackets.

Source of text.

Di Frasso and Siegel pictured below the text.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Nov 30, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Crime, Dictators, Tyrants and Other Harsh Rulers, Frauds, Cons and Scams, 1930s, Europe, Weapons

Thérèse Humbert, Con Woman

Story with pix here.

In 1902, a political and financial scandal rocked the French nation when it was discovered that Madame Thérèse Humbert (née Aurignac), daughter-in-law of the deceased Minister of Justice, had swindled nearly 100 million francs from the French government and its citizens over twenty years. How did this woman, who was not particularly beautiful, educated, or well born, manage to defraud scores of people, ranging from the brightest and sophisticated of French society to the simplest?

Contemporary article on their capture.

Read a review of the book here, which contains a good synopsis of the case.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Nov 23, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Crime, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Europe, Twentieth Century

Alois Swoboda

His Wikipedia page tells us:

His course did not use apparatus or exercise equipment. Claims in Swoboda's courses included the ability to regrow lost limbs and heal a heart damaged by a heart attack.

Article in POPULAR MECHANICS to be found here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jul 03, 2018 - Comments (7)
Category: Body, Bodybuilding, Diseases, Cult Figures and Artifacts, Exercise and Fitness, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Twentieth Century

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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