Christian Gerhartsreiter, the man formerly known as 'Clark Rockefeller,' was brought up on murder charges this week relating to a 1985 killing in Los Angeles. In 'honor' of this strange character, Metro takes a look at five other impostors who were (comparatively) harmless.
There are people who like trains, and there are people who really like trains. Darius McCollum is one of the latter. Obsessed with the New York transit system from an early age, this Asperger's sufferer has been arrested more than 20 times for impersonating transit authorities in order to sneak onto trains.
Starting at age 21, this compulsive impostor spent more than a decade posing as everything from a monk to an engineer to a lawyer to a prison warden. Demara was almost exposed during the Korean War, when, while pretending to be a surgeon aboard a Canadian warship, he was forced to treat sixteen wounded soldiers. Using his photographic memory, Demara speed-read a medical textbook, and completed each surgery successful. Soon after, he sold his tale to LIFE magazine, which made further exploits difficult.
Probably the most famous impostor of the post-war era, Frank Abagnale's compulsive impersonations were dramatized in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can." Abagnale's exploits --he posed as everything from an airline pilot to a teaching assistant -- and his skill at forcing checks soon caught the attention of police worldwide, and he was arrested in France in 1969 and served five years in prison (after escaping twice). Abagnale now works as a security consultant, advising banks in fraud prevention.
Ever had a professor who didn't live up to their sterling reputation? Maybe they were following the tradition of Marvin Hewitt, a high-school drop-out who compulsively posed as respected academics. Hewitt was finally found out in 1954, while posing as a Dr. Kenneth Yates at the University of New Hampshire; a suspicious student discovered the real Dr. Yates, working at a Chicago oil company and informed the college. He was let go and lived quietly under his real name, his former colleagues vouching for the real work the fake professor had done.
How do you make it in the big leagues? Practice, practice, practice. Or, alternatively: lie. After a middling career in the lower leagues of French and German soccer, Senegalese footballer Ali Dia hatched a plan to make it in England's Premier League. Dia got a friend to call Southhampton FC manager Graeme Souness posing as Liberian soccer legend George Weah, and convince him that "Weah's cousin" Dia was an exceptional athlete whom Souness needed on the team. The ruse worked— until Dia was actually called on to play in a game. He was, in the words of one observer, "very, very embarrassing to watch." Dia apparently agreed; after receiving treatment for an injury the next day, he was never seen at Southhampton again.