Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History

Article excerpt

The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History. By Nate Hendley. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 380 p. $89.00 (ISBN 978-1-61069-585-5). E-book available (978-1-61069-586-2), call for pricing.

All cons require two participants: someone who lies and someone who believes. From the vantage point of someone not currently in the middle of being swindled, one can feel superior to the chumps who fall for obvious cons. But the human capacity to believe and trust is vast, and let's face it: we all have fallen for something, whether it's the belief in a miracle cream or much worse--like losing your savings in a Ponzi scheme.

In Nate Hendley's The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History, this capacity for human credulity is on display. Hendley has compiled stories about common, bizarre, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious cons and con artists. This collection includes entertaining stories of man-bats on the moon (the original fake news), goat testicle transplants (meant to boost virility), the ubiquitous Nigerian prince e-mail (originally a Spanish prisoner letter), subliminal messages in Beatles songs ("turn me on, dead man" in "Revolution 9"), and more heartbreaking stories of baby-selling rings, scams that target the elderly, and fake investments that rob people of their savings. …

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