Arthur Ferguson

Posted on Mar 9, 2022      222

What only tricks, frauds and deceptions do not go crooks to get into someone else’s purse! And in another person's disguise, and dust in their eyes, and play on feelings! But, it must be said, they all bet on human stupidity, the limit of which is not seen...

Victor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal. However, he was not the first to sell the landmarks of large cities. In the 20s of last century, sold similarly several monuments in England and the White House in the United States (the sale of the Statue of Liberty, unfortunately, did not take place - the cheater was arrested).

Arthur Ferguson: The criminal career of the Englishman Arthur Ferguson (pres. 1883-1938) began, as do many crooks, with an innocent hoax: he sold tourists ancient coins, most of which were, of course, counterfeit, made round eyes and whispered, “in confidence”, that the coins were the remains of a treasure his grandfather had once found. The gullible tourists believed and bought. Fergusson laughed at the simpletons and marveled at the stupidity of man. He soon realized that people would believe anything if presented correctly. It did not cost him an actor by profession and vocation.

In 1925, Fergusson noticed a solid man in London’s Trafalgar Square. He looked at Admiral Nelson’s column with such envy and admiration that it was clear without words: he was a tourist. It was indeed an American from Iowa, a wealthy man. Fergusson approached him and began a conversation... In between, he told him he was a government official and that Britain owed so much to the United States in war debt that Nelson’s column was planning to sell. And he, a mere official, must find a buyer. Would Mister be willing to purchase it?

Mister wished he could. Apparently, in the rich man’s mind, he had already formed an idea of how wonderfully the monument would fit into the landscape of Iowa. Fergusson, we must admit, played his role brilliantly: after apologizing, he temporarily left (“to coordinate with the management”), then returned and reported that the decision was approved and the price of the column - 6 thousand pounds sterling, plus an English company to dismantle the monument and deliver it directly to Iowa. The American gave Fergusson a check for the full amount, and the latter gave him the address of the firm. By the way, here Fergusson was telling the truth: there was indeed a construction firm dismantling buildings at this address. But, of course, Nelson’s column was never on their list of orders.

The American did not know that. He was furious when the builders refused to fulfill his “legitimate” order. The “owner” of the column only realized that he had been conned when he was in one of Scotland Yard’s offices.

Fergusson, meanwhile, continued his research into the limits of human stupidity. It was like a supermarket sale: in a few weeks the crook “sold” to the Americans almost all the architectural monuments and family estates of England. The property of good old England was at auction as a lot more than once. However, Arthur was cautious: he took only a deposit, not the entire amount. For example, for Big Ben and the Tower, he took 1000 pounds, Buckingham Palace cost the new owners in 2 thousand, and the same amount emptied the purse of those who gained Westminster Abbey.

Suddenly the sale stopped. The detectives concluded the swindler had left London. They were right. Fergusson understood the possessive American view of the world around him and decided: why wait for a sheep to be sheared when you can go to the pen? Fergusson went to America and began selling already American sights.

In America, the crook decided not to be petty. The first to hit the “market” was the White House. Fergusson leased it for 99 years with the right to buy. The lucky owner of the presidential residence was a banker, whom Fergusson could convince that it was too expensive for the government to maintain the presidential family, so he had to get out of the situation by renting out the White House... The naïve banker (what an oxymoron!) paid Fergusson 2 million dollars.

Then it was the turn of the Statue of Liberty. And an Australian millionaire found a buyer for it. Fergusson was just unlucky: the buyer was too enterprising. Before giving the money, he, as a man of action, asked the administration when he could cut the sculpture and transport it to Sydney.

The swindler was arrested. His trial had long been awaited by both the press and the public, so the hall was full. And Fergusson gave them a show: when asked by the judge what motivated him to cheat people, the swindler replied, “only the desire to know where the limit of human stupidity lies!”

Under American law, he was facing life imprisonment. One fact saved him, which was confirmed in court: he once gave all his money to a Texas widow whose farm had burned down. She believed Fergusson was a Hong Kong prince. The court favored him: He was given five years.

Released in 1930, the monument and architectural sales agent did not continue his endeavor. He died in 1938 in complete poverty, but his case was picked up by many other swindlers.