Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The World's Greatest Imposters
I've been thinking about imposters lately. (Why? That's for me to know and for you to read about in a few months.) So I was thrilled to discover this fascinating list of the world's ten greatest imposters. At number two, there's Frank Abagnale, who managed to impersonate a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer without the benefit of a single degree. And number nine is Mary Baker, an English cobbler's daughter, who invented a new language and convinced the world that she was Princess Carabou from the island of Javasu. But I was surprised to see that the list did not include one of the most famous imposters of all.
In 1918, the last Czar of Russia and his family were murdered by Bolsheviks. But in 1920, a lovely young woman appeared in Berlin. Her name was Anna Anderson (shown below), and she claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia (shown above), one of the Czar's three daughters.
Anderson spun a remarkable tale. She'd been shot by the Bolsheviks but managed to escape with the help of a soldier. Later, she had made her way to Berlin where she tried to contact her father's sister, Princess Irene. When the princess failed to recognize her, Anderson tried to take her life. Doctors at the mental facility where Anderson had been taken after her suicide attempt confirmed that the young woman's body was riddled with bullet wounds.
For decades, many believed that Anderson was, in fact, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Even members of the royal family insisted she was a relation. Anderson's true identity remained one of the world's greatest mysteries--until 1994 when DNA testing proved that Anderson was not of royal blood. She had been an imposter after all.
Sadly, the bones of the real Anastasia were recently identified. While Anna Anderson hobnobbed with royalty, Anastasia had been lying in a lonely grave on the eastern side of the Ural mountains.