The bizarre tale of a 19th century land swindle by 'Sir Gregor MacGregor', who conned hundreds of people into buying land in a country that didn't exist; a fact they didn't discover until they'd traveled half way round the world to Central America to claim their property.
Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country named Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization, and culture and was ruled by the brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, Sir Gregor MacGregor, who became its ruler after his heroic exploits in the fight for South American independence. On a cold January morning in 1823, a group of Scottish immigrants looking for a new life set sail for this tropical Eden called Poyais.
The only catch was that it didn't exist.
Two months later the ship landed on the swamp-infested Mosquito Coast and the settlers realized that they had become the victims of one of the most elaborate hoaxes in history. The land they had been sold was nonexistent, the banknotes and guidebooks they carried with them were forgeries, their documents were worthless. Poyais was a fiction. The man responsible? Sir Gregor MacGregor. Who was this eccentric, scurrilous man? And why is he such a loveable rogue?
THE PROMISED LAND
The new year of 1823 announced itself in violent fashion with a vicious storm that battered the east coast of Britain for a fortnight. Scotland suffered the worst of it, lashed by gales and snow that trapped people in their homes, brought mail deliveries to a halt, and made travelling by coach too dangerous even to think about. At sea, the weather was lethal. The American ship Elizabeth, out of Boston, running for shelter off the Scottish coast, sank with all hands, while just a single survivor was washed ashore from the Russian vessel Eolus when she went down. A local packet boat, the Betsy Crook, almost made it to the Firth of Forth, but was blown on to rocks and wrecked at the entrance to Crail harbour, below Fife Ness.
In the comparative calm of the port of Leith, on the Firth a mile from Edinburgh, Henry Crouch watched the weather with anxious eyes. He was the captain of the Kennersley Castle, an armed merchantman, due to sail on 14 January ...
If you liked The Land That Never Was, try these:
An intriguing investigation into what makes a con artist, and why we continue to be duped by them.
Amy Reading's fascinating account of con artistry in America and Frank Norfleet's wild caper invites you into the crooked history of a nation on the hustle, constantly feeding the hunger and the hope of the mark inside.
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