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Man Sells Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans (1937)

The world is full of dreamers and Arthur Dean Lindsay was definitely one of them.  He later described how his vision came to him: “On a May night in 1936, I was watching the full moon. It seemed so large and beautiful that I thought of it as real estate, and said to myself, ‘Nobody owns it!’ Then I decided to acquire it by original claim deed.”

He pondered this thought for the next year and on June 15, 1937, accompanied by witness Laurence J. Dignam, he presented himself before Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania notary public Harry Heeg, with documents claiming “[a]ll of the property known as planets, islands-of-space or other matter, henceforth to be known as ‘A.D. Lindsay’s archapellago’ is located in all the region visible (by any means) upward, (or in another direction) from the city of Ocilla, Ga, together with all the planets, islands-of-space or other matter (except this world, the Moon and the planet Saturn) visible from any other planet, island-of-space or other matter” Separate papers would be drawn up for the Moon and Saturn. 

In other words, he claimed ownership of everything in space except for Earth itself. When questioned as to why he did so, he responded, “No one else has done it. Why shouldn’t I?” And why didn’t he claim Earth? He explained, “Someone got it first,” but quickly added, “I wouldn’t want it anyway.”

His next step was to pen a letter to R. K. Brown, the clerk of the Superior Court in Ocilla, explaining that no one had claimed ownership of all of these properties, so he would be the one to do so. And with that, on June 28, 1937, in Deed Book 11, pages 28 and 29, Lindsay’s deeds were recorded at the Irwin County courthouse in Ocilla.

As crazy as this all seems, Lindsay had previously laid claim to the world’s oceans and had already sold off some of those holdings.  He was able to produce receipts showing that he had sold the Atlantic to Francis W. Hanley of Pittsburgh, the Pacific to Albert E. Anstis of that same city, and the Indian Ocean to Mrs. Flora Fisher of New York City. The selling price of each of these oceans was never disclosed, but a United Press article described Lindsay as having been “financially embarrassed,” although Lindsay himself preferred to say that he was “the richest man in the universe.”

One thing that he made clear was that he planned to keep all of the planets off the market for the time being.  “After all, the planets are tax-exempt. I won’t have to pay the Government anything to keep them.”

Lindsay had no plans of visiting his distant properties and wasn’t too concerned about infringing on the property rights of those little green men living on Mars.  He compared his acquisition of the planets to the displacement of Native Americans by white people, but denied any intention of engaging in “terrestrial imperialism.”

Luckily for all of humankind, Lindsay thought ahead and drew up a will detailing how each of his holdings should be distributed upon his death. And this may explain why he made up his claims to the Moon and Saturn separate from everything else in the sky above us.  “…that the portion of my property commonly called ‘The Moon’ and located in “Lindsay’s Archipelago’ (commonly called ‘The Sky’) shall at my death become the property of all persons who bear the name of ‘Lindsay’ and to their heirs forever.” (Which makes me wonder: Is he referring to those with the first name of Lindsay or those who have it as their last name or both? And does the spelling of Lindsay matter?)

He also reserved Saturn as a wedding gift for some unnamed future bride, because “it is the most beautiful of all planets.” I found no evidence that he ever gave Saturn away, so I, from this moment on, put in a claim for my beautiful bride, my wife Mary Jane.

As for the remainder of his celestial holdings, Lindsay declared that they “Shall become the private property of all mankind.”

Lindsay’s claim would soon be the subject of the syndicated “This Curious World,” by William Ferguson, basically a clone of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Under a rectangular sketch of the Sun, five planets, and the moon, the text reads, “One man, A. Dean Lindsay of Ocilla, Georgia, holds original claim and general warranty deeds to the Sun, the Moon, the stars, and all planets except our Earth! Papers are recorded at Irwin County Court House, Ocilla, GA.”

What’s interesting is that Lindsay had already been the subject of a Ripley’s newspaper panel, but for a completely different reason.  Just two years earlier, in August 1935, Ripley penned, “A. Dean Lindsay, founder of ‘Young Americans’ succeeded in taming and domesticating a porcupine.”

While not as outlandish as his claim for the oceans and everything in the sky, Lindsay would make the news fairly frequently for the next five years as he took his trained porcupines to various schools around the country.  He claimed that at one time he had caught live porcupines and then sold them to zoos. Then, after reading in an encyclopedia that porcupines could not be tamed or trained, he took it upon himself to prove the experts wrong.  So, in 1930, he caught an adult female near Lake Erie, named her Smoky Lady, and tamed her.  “She is affectionate with others, too. I visited many schools and hundreds of boys and girls have handled her as they would a doll. She gets as much fun out of it as they.”

This AI image was created using the Bing Image Creator powered by Dall-E.
This AI image was created using the Bing Image Creator powered by Dall-E.

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