Tag: fraud

Lives of the Necromancers: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head

Lives of the Necromancers: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head


northcote20portrait20-20col1More from Lives of the Necromancers (1834) by William Godwin. See Orpheus for an introduction to Godwin and the book.

Alexander the Paphlagonian

“At about the same time with Apuleius (note: the Numidian writer in Latin, circa 124 – 170 AD) lived Alexander the Paphlagonian, of whom so extraordinary an account is transmitted to us by Lucian (note: also alive during the events he recorded, circa 125 – 180 AD). He was a native of an obscure town, called Abanotica, but was endowed with all that ingenuity and cunning which enables men most effectually to impose upon their fellow-creatures. He was tall of stature, of an impressive aspect, a fair complexion, eyes that sparkled with an awe-commanding fire as if informed by some divinity, and a voice to the last degree powerful and melodious. To these he added the graces of carriage and attire. Being born to none of…

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Named for the Italian con artist Carlo (or Charles) Ponzi, who in the 1920s relieved investors of about $420,000 (equivalent to about $4.5 million if he’d done something similar in the 21st century). The main characteristics of what’s now called a Ponzi Scheme is that it pays “profits” to investors from their own money, or from the money provided by subsequent investors. They rarely make any legitimate profits. They’re often based on vague promises and unrealistic projections, as indeed are many of the originally legal schemes like hedge funds; hedge funds can also very easily degenerate into illegal Ponzi schemes when they go wrong, and this has happened with particular frequency since the turn of the last century. Ponzi Schemes inevitably collapse either on purpose– because the fraudster makes off with all the money, as they always intended to– or when investment stalls.

Of course Ponzi was neither the first…

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