Clifford Irving: Hughes Hoax

"Clifford Irving perpetrated the most widely publicized hoax of the 20th century when, in 1971, he convinced his New York publisher, McGraw-Hill, that he had been commissioned to ghostwrite the autobiography of the famous elusive billionaire Howard Hughes. With Richard Suskind, a friend and author of children's books, Irving not only wrote a wildly imaginative 1200-page book 'by Hughes' which veteran newsmen and men who knew Hughes well swore 'had to be authentic,' but he forged over 20 pages of handwritten letters and contracts by Hughes to buttress his claim. These forgeries, done by a complete amateur who had never seen an original specimen of the handwriting he was reproducing, were submitted to five of the finest handwriting experts in the U.S., who, after close examination, unanimously declared them to be geniune. For Irving to have forged such a mass of material, said expert Paul Osborn, 'would be beyond human ability.'"

[Ironically, Irving began the book by noting that 'more lies have been printed and told about me than about any living man.' The hoax was discovered when a Swiss bank revealed that the holder of an account in Zurich in the name of H.R. Hughes was in fact a woman -- Irving's wife. The author returned what was left of his $765,000 advance and went to prison for 17 months.]

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