Excerpt from “Heard of These New England Impostors?” Yankee Magazine, April, 1989.
MAINE’S IGNOBLE NOBLEMAN
One cold day in March of 1863 a fair-haired English lad arrived at the Hutchings’ farmhouse in North Castine, Maine. He told his hosts to call him Sir Charles Cecil Jocelyn, for he was heir to the fortune of a wealthy uncle baronet. The story spread throughout the region that an English nobleman was in their midst, though he’d been cheated out of his fortune by an evil cousin.
He soon married the Hutchings’ daughter, Annie, and instead of working, borrowed local folks’ life savings, promising to repay them from his future wealth. Annie enrolled in an etiquette course to prepare for the day she’d be entertaining the British peerage at their uncle’s mansion in England.
Of course, the story doesn’t end well. Charles was eventually jailed and Annie, broken-hearted, had to cancel her etiquette course. But the Hutchings’ house in North Castine still stands, and residents in the area today recall the old-timers talking of Castine’s only English baronet. He was, they said, “the cleverest talker ever in these parts.”
WHO WAS PERRY JACKSON?
In the early days of the National Football League, a team from Providence called the Steamroller won the 1928 league championship. A key player was lineman Perry Jackson. Only he was not Perry Jackson. The year before, the Steamroller coach had cabled the real Perry Jackson, the star of an Oklahoma college team, to come and try out. But Jackson, who had fallen ill, sent his teammate, Arnold Schockley, in his place. Schockley made the team and played for three years.
The real Perry Jackson eventually recovered from his illness and tried out for the Steamroller, using the name Arnold Schockley. He was cut.
THE BLACK WIDOW OF MARLOW, NEW HAMPSHIRE
She has been called one of the most terrifying con artists in recent American history, but in the summer of 1980 the people of Marlow, New Hampshire, knew her only as Robbi Hannon Homan, an attractive and pleasant married woman who worked as a secretary in nearby Keene. Robbi lived among them only two years when news of her death, while visiting her sister in Texas, was reported in the Keene Sentinel. Robbi’s twin sister, Terri Martin, moved to Marlow and into the home and heart of her grieving brother-in-law.
When detectives finally unraveled a growing mystery surrounding Robbi Homan’s “death,” they found that Robbi Homan had faked her death and returned as Terri Martin. In reality, she was neither woman, but Audrey Marie Hilley, convicted of murdering her husband and suspected of poisoning her daughter, and an escapee from an Alabama prison. She became infamous as “The Black Widow.” After her unmasking and capture in Vermont, she was returned to Alabama where she died in 1987 while trying, once again, to escape.
THE REMARKABLE “CAPTAIN” HUNT
Last January Captain Robert J. Hunt of Medford, Massachusetts, handsomely outfitted in NASA’s blue jumpsuit, awed a group of flying enthusiasts in Bedford with the account of his trip into space aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. He autographed pictures he had taken aboard the craft, explained weightlessness, and told of his adventures as a Marine fighter pilot in the bombing of Libya.
In the end the exploits of Captain Hunt proved as phony as the burnt kitchen tiles he had given to friends, saying they were relics of the space shuttle Challenger. His speech to the aviators was his last trick. When he was exposed as an imposter, even his wife found she had been taken in.
He was only 27, but already he had lived in five states at seven addresses with three wives, counting among his occupations baseball player, baby powder manufacturer, a New Hampshire shopping mall developer, an Army lieutenant, and a jet pilot. On a recent trip to Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Dublin welcomed the self-proclaimed astronaut as an honorary citizen of the city, but was taken aback when Hunt bragged that the British prime minister had given him permission to marry in Westminster Abbey.