1Fredrick Bourdin – 23-Year-Old French Algerian Poses as a Missing 16-Year-Old American
Fredrick Bourdin is what's known as a serial impostor – someone who consistently takes on new identities. However, one of his frauds has given him the crown of #1 impostor. In 1997, Bourdin was apprehended in the small town of Lineares, located in Spain. As was his standard ploy, he pretended to be someone else, usually a young boy. This time, however, he said he was an American teenager. As he was held overnight by authorities at the unmanned police station, he got access to an international lost children's hotline and was able to pull a name and other information from the list. The next day, he claimed he was Nicholas Barclay, who had gone missing in Texas some 3 years earlier; Bourdin claimed to have been kidnapped and brought overseas. Now, this is where the story gets really crazy. Even though he had a thick French accent, brown hair, and brown eyes (Barclay had blonde hair and blue eyes) he was able to not only convince U.S. and Spanish authorities he was the child, but also the members of the boy's family! Bourdin was “returned” to Texas and lived with his “family” for 5 months. This con was so amazing, it was turned into a documentary in 2012 called, appropriately enough, The Impostor. But Bourdin's story doesn't end there – in 2004, he attempted to pass himself off as a Spanish boy who had gone missing after the Madrid terrorist attacks, and he was jailed again a year later for impersonating a French orphan.
2“Emperor” Norton – Claimed to be Emperor of the United States
3Christopher Rocancourt – Fake Rockefeller Married a Playboy Model, Duped the Rich
4Frank William Abagnale – Famous Confidence Man Who Inspired a Movie and a Broadway Show
You probably know Frank William Abagnale from the Steven Spielberg film Catch Me if You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and he is the only repentant impostor on our list. In the early 1960s, starting at the age of 16, Abagnale assumed the identities of an airline pilot, an attorney, a pediatrician, a college professor, and several others to pull of a series of ruses (and women's undergarments). He also cashed a ton of fraudulent checks totaling $2.5 million US, and escaped from custody – twice. I think you can see why his life was made into a movie and now a Broadway musical of the same name (which are both named after his ghostwritten autobiography). When they finally did catch him, he changed his ways and became a consultant on fraud for the FBI as well as opening his own firm. Sometimes, being an impostor can pay off. Here he is on To Tell The Truth in the 1970s, already cashing in on his notoriety.
5Casanova de Seingalt – Lover, Scoundrel, Impostor
The name Casanova is synonymous in English with “lover.” However, Casanova de Seingalt, as he was known at the time, was more than just that. In fact, his entire life and background was a lie. He was born to actor parents in 1725 so, in that respect, it was quite natural that he follow in their footsteps. He was abandoned at an early age and began a series of menial careers, until he realized he had the charm and the wit to present himself as an aristocrat. So began a life that not only included excessive womanizing (with a few men thrown in for good measure) and excessive gambling, but also turns as a physician, a spy, and an alchemist. Many fell in love with Casanova and he was able to live much of his life at a strata high above his actual lineage. However, he also gained many enemies, and had numerous brushes with the law that included both a prison sentence and an escape. It was the Count de Saint-Germain who called out Casanova's lies. “This very singular man, born to be the most barefaced of all imposters, declared with impunity, with a casual air, that he was three hundred years old, that he possessed the universal medicine, that he made anything he liked from nature, that he created diamonds," he wrote. Casanova eventually died a lonely death, but was made immortal through his lengthy memoirs, which went into great detail about both his chicanery and his sexual exploits. "Deceiving a fool is an exploit worthy of an intelligent man," he stated.
6Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter – Murderer Who Also Claims to be a Rockefeller
7Wilson Raj Perumal - Created an Entire Fake Football Team
8Mathurin Bruneau – Pretended to be the Son of Louis XVI
9Jean-Claude Romand Pretended to Be a Doctor, then Murdered His Family
This is by far the darkest of our deceptors. Jean-Claude Romand, a respectable French doctor and family man, told just one lie, but it turned out to be a whopper. He pretended to pass a medical exam which he did not take. From there, everything snowballed. For 18 years – that's right 18 YEARS, Romand managed to continue this charade, fooling friends and family alike. Whenever he went off to “work” he wandered about the small town in France where he lived, instead. Everyone believed he had scored a lucrative job as a researcher for the World Health Organization, who had an office nearby. (The family unknowingly lived off of his wife's assets as well as the money friends would give him to “invest.”)
However, one can only keep a secret for so long and Romand knew his time was (finally) running out. On January 9, 1993 he went on a calm, methodical killing spree of his entire family, bludgeoning his wife in the morning and then casually killing his children later that evening. He then killed his parents and their dog before allegedly attempting to take his own life by setting his house ablaze. He was rescued and his ruse was discovered. Romand was tried and convicted to life imprisonment for his crimes, but will be eligible for parole in 2015.