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Odd Wisconsin Archive

A Con Man for Connoisseurs


Back in 1886, an anonymous journalist at the Madison Democrat recalled a talented charlatan who had fleeced many of the state's residents when Wisconsin was still young. Among them was attorney Edward G. Ryan, who went on to become Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

At the time, the con man was considered just a guy who had fallen on hard times through "excessive drink and kindred vices." One evening, quite late, Judge Ryan heard the doorbell ring, and found the culprit and a police officer at his door. They entered the judge's room, where the man claimed he had gotten into a fight with an adversary who had insulted Judge Ryan's good name.

The police were called to break up the fight, and he had been immediately arrested, tried, and convicted. He said he now owed a fine of $20 to the court and if he could not pay up, he was going to jail.

Ryan handed over the money with an admonishment to "get into no more scrapes on my account." The next day he discovered that the entire story had been a hoax, and the policeman in uniform had been just a crony of the con man.


:: Posted in Bizarre Events on May 5, 2011
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