Great Canadian Liars
Canadians have a reputation for being polite, honest and well...a little bit boring. But, when it comes to lies and liars we have our fair share. Here are a couple of whoppers.
Cassie ChadwickCassie Chadwick
At age 14, Cassie Chadwick spent her first night in jail for fleecing a local farmer out of $250. It would not be her last scam, or her last day behind bars.
Chadwick's real name was Elizabeth Bigley. She was born in Eastwood, Ontario in 1857 and it is said that she was bright and skilled at manipulating and deceiving others.
"She's always portrayed as beautiful, voluptuous, very sexy, but in actual fact she was dumpy, had a speech impediment and a hearing problem," says Doug Symons, a Woodstock, Ontario writer who has profiled Chadwick in his book Giants of Oxford. "But she did have very hypnotic eyes and she had an angelic sort of aura, and that's what got people. She also had a photographic memory and a real attention to details which helped her a lot with her scams."
Chadwick left the Woodstock area, swindled a Toronto bank, then worked in a London, Ontario brothel before moving on to Cleveland, Ohio where she set up shop as a fortune teller. She married and divorced twice, stripping both husbands of their cash. In Toledo, Ohio she married again and spent time in jail for a $10,000 scam.
Upon her release she settled in Cleveland where, in 1897, she met and married Dr. Leroy Chadwick, one of the city's most respectable families. She borrowed and spent wildly, eventually spinning a yarn that she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, one of American's wealthiest men. Bankers and financiers loaned her millions, but in the end she became ensnared in her own web of deceit when a loan for $190,000 was called in.
Chadwick was convicted of multiple charges of forgery and died in prison in 1907. But she continues to fascinate us. Symons says that in her final years, the prison warden charged admission to the throng of reporters and others who asked to visit her. And today, visitors still come to stand by her grave in Woodstock's Anglican Cemetery and remember one of Canada's greatest liars.
(With thanks to Doug Symons.)
Ferdinand Waldo DemaraCassie Chadwick
Ferdinand Waldo Demara was an American citizen, but he earned the title: The Great Impostor, during his service in the Canadian Navy during the Korean War.
Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1921, Demara was a sophisticated con man, a U.S. army deserter with a spectacular ability to put on and discard identities at will. In his early life he posed as a lawyer, a Benedictine monk, a civil engineer, a child care expert and the list goes on and on. It's said that like Cassie Chadwick, he was clever and he had a remarkable memory.
In 1951, Canada was at war in Korea. Demara joined the Royal Canadian Navy, convincing recruiters that he was a surgeon named Dr. Joseph Cyr. Doctors were in short supply and he was hustled into the job without much of a background check.
Incredibly, with no medical training, Demara distinguished himself aboard the HMCS Cayuga, removing bullets from the wounded and even performing an amputation, apparently relying on his medical assistants and books for his know-how.
The Navy Brass planned to give him a medal, but the ensuing attention became his downfall. His true identify was revealed and he was disgraced and dismissed. But he continued his life as impostor, eventually serving time for posing as a deputy sheriff. He died of heart failure in 1982.
Demara's story captured the imagination of writer Robert Crichton, who penned two books about him. In 1960, his bestseller The Great Impostor was turned into a movie of the same name starring Tony Curtis.