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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Category Archives: Fraud & Deception

Pretended to be an Astronaut

On June 13, 1963, comedian Milton Berle was performing in a Houston, Texas nightclub when he decided to introduce astronaut Lt. Commander Jerry Clayton to his audience.

Perhaps you have never heard of an astronaut named Jerry Clayton. You are not alone. Neither had the four other astronauts or the NASA public affairs officer who were also seated in the audience that night. They quickly pointed out that Clayton was an imposter.

28-year-old Jerry G. Tees was arrested and charged with impersonating an officer for credit purposes, since he had obtained credit at a cafe. Bail was set at $5,000, which is approximately $40,000 today.
It turns out that Tees had been impersonating an astronaut for about a month and used it to his advantage. He was given food and drink, taken on fishing trips, and was offered cars, boats, and jobs. Over the previous ten years, he had impersonated other military officers, doctors, and businessmen.

He was quoted as saying, “I don’t know why I do it.” He added, “I just live in a dream world, I guess.”

Jerry G Tees - Astronaut Imposter
The real Jerry G Tees in handcuffs. This image appeared in the June 21, 1963 issue of the Star Tribune on page 47.
 

Where There’s a Wilby, There’s a Way

Useless Information Podcast

Between 1942 and 1943 Ralph Marshall Wilby appeared to pull off what appeared to be the perfect crime. An incredible story which has many of the elements of an international thriller: deception, false identities, international kidnapping, and the drop dead gorgeous woman who brought his capture.

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Silent Susan

Useless Information Podcast

On October 6, 1946, not far from the former site of the Palisades Amusement Park, on US Route 9W of New Jersey’s Palisades Park, a young woman passing through town made the fateful decision to hitch a ride. Fateful because she made the mistake of thumbing a police car… Continue Reading

 

Brassiere Brigade

Useless Information Podcast

Here’s the story of a number of women who worked for Southern Bell in Miami back in 1950. Poorly paid and dreaming of a much better life, they figured out a unique way to smuggle money out of the coin counting room at the company’s headquarters. It was such a profitable operation that they were able to pay their legal fees in quarters.

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The Shoeless Hillbilly

Useless Information Podcast

When Peter Grainger walked into a US Army recruiting center in San Antonio, Texas back in 1951, he had quite the story to tell.  He had spent nearly his entire life living high in the mountains of New Mexico with virtually no contact with the outside world. But was there more to this story than what he was telling them?

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The Great Venus Swindle

Useless Information Podcast

In 1953 Harold Jesse Berney, head of a Washington, DC television antenna manufacturing operation, was chosen by the US government to be its main contact with Uccelles, a prince visiting our planet from Venus.  If that sounds a bit bizarre, check out this story to learn about one of the most fantastic swindles ever conceived.

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Operation Bodysnatch

Useless Information Podcast

At the end of World War II, the United States was faced with the task of reburying four bodies of former German nobility. Three members of the Monuments Men were assigned this task and ran into obstacle after obstacle.

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