Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sale! Sale!

I remember a scene in a Tamil play where one of the characters would manage to sell the Chennai Central Station to a gullible villager visiting the city. When the buyer showed signs of hesitation, he would sweeten the deal further by offering the adjoining Moore Market at no extra charge.

This is not such a novel idea, as there are reports of enterprising salesmen in New York who perfected the art of selling public property, as early as 1900. According to Carl Sifakis, who tells his story in "Hoaxes and Scams: A Compendium of Deceptions, Ruses and Swindles," George C Parker produced impressive forged documents to prove that he was the owner of Brooklyn Bridge, then convinced his buyers that they could make a fortune by controlling access to the roadway. "Several times," Mr. Sifakis wrote, "Parker's victims had to be rousted from the bridge by police when they tried to erect toll barriers." (source).

Not that Parker was a one-trick pony. He was also adept at selling the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Statue of Liberty and Grant's Tomb.

Maybe this Parker was the one who sold the lighthouse at Massachusetts to some sucker. And, for good measure, also threw in a 4000-year old Egyptian pyramid for free. Both these monuments that were presumed lost have been found recently. (via)

Anybody interested in buying the Taj Mahal? I can give it to you at a good price. And add some freebie too, the Agra Fort.


mekie said...

And there was Victor Lustig who sold the Eiffel Tower.. and twice. :)

Usha said...

I'd rather have the RAJmahal - interested?

Raj said...

mekhala, thanks for the link. Looks like there have been many con-men and an equal number of suckers in this world.

Usha, Sure. You can also have the Vidhan Soudha as a freebie.

Hawkeye said...

were those victims standing on the brooklyn bridge shouting

"aiyya - intha kattidam ennuthu, intha kattidam ennuthu"

Anonymous said...

In Patna (Bihar) during the mid 70's, we heard of loans being obtained from a local co-operative bank against mortgage of Platform 1of Patna Rly. Station as well as Gandhi Maidan in the centre of town.But then, nothing was impossible in Bihar those days :-)

Raj said...

hawkeye : quite possible.

james mylaporean : Why, only those days. Even now!