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Top 10 Infamous Fake Memoirs

A memoir can hardly be expected to contain the whole truth. Memories are faulty and the authors, of course, are presenting their own personal view of themselves. But faulty memories, omission, and slight exaggeration are far different than completely warping the truth or creating an entirely imaginary life. Whatever their motivation, many people have published false memoirs and many more people have unknowingly and ardently supported them. When the memoir is revealed as false, a surprisingly common reaction is to appeal to the emotional truth of the story. It’s about how we feel in our guts, not what reality dictates. I submit that such ideas are dangerous and should be strongly opposed. The truth is important, and it should not be sacrificed for romantic notions rooted in irrationalism. We read and create true stories of triumph and tragedy all of the time, but if we have the urge to dramatize real events we can: it’s called fiction. Below are ten false memoirs in chronological order.


Long Lance


Sylvester Clark Long is probably the easiest fake memoirist on this list to sympathize with. Long soared to fame after he adopted the name Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance and published his memoir, Long Lance. Long’s book detailed his life as a Blackfoot chief’s son. He claimed that he had graduated from West Point, and had served heroically in the First World War, gaining the rank of captain after having been wounded eight times. The truth, however, was that Long had been born in North Carolina to a mother of mixed Croatan and white ancestry and a father who was black, Cherokee, and white. Rather than being a chief, Long’s father had been a humble janitor. In the segregated south, Long was classified as black and had little chance of advancement. As a child he claimed to be half Cherokee and attended an Indian Residential School in Pennsylvania, where he excelled. After graduating from a military academy in 1915, he joined the Canadian Forces and fought in the Great War. Following the war, he settled in Alberta, claiming that he was an American Cherokee and a war hero. He landed a job with the Calgary Herald, which he held for three years before being fired and moving on to a successful career in freelance writing. While in Alberta, Long took the opportunity to absorb all of the information he could on the culture and issues facing the First Nations. Long was heavily critical of the Canadian government for their unjust policies toward the natives, leading to his adoption by the Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. After publishing his highly successful memoir, Long became a darling of New York’s high society and used his fame to give expensive speeches, promote a shoe for the B.F. Goodrich Company, and even star in a 1929 Silent Film. When it emerged that Long was not a full-blooded Blackfoot and that he, in fact, had black ancestry, he was quickly abandoned by his former admirers. One of these former admirers, author Irvin Cobb, reportedly exclaimed, “We’re so ashamed! We entertained a nigger!” Although Long did use his fame for personal gain, he also used it to bring attention of the many injustices facing First Nations in both the United States and Canada. Following his exposure and plummet from celebrity, Long grew depressed and committed suicide in 1932. His will bequeathed his remaining assets to a Residential School in Southern Alberta.




Papillon is a memoir written by convicted felon, Henri Charrière, in which he related the tale of his adventures in various prisons and penal colonies throughout French Guiana and its environs. The book was a runaway bestseller when it was released in France in 1969, was translated into over 15 languages, and was made into a 1973 movie starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. When Charrière shopped the book, it was intended as a novel, but he was convinced to sell it as a personal memoir by his publisher, Robert Laffont. Nevertheless, Charrière insisted to the public that the entire book was true for the rest of his life. In a narrative brimming with self-importance, Charrière maintained that he was wrongfully convicted of killing a friend, sentenced to hard labour, and that he had a series of escapes and recaptures before being sent to the Devil’s Island Penal Colony. On Devil’s Island, the butterfly-tattooed convict maintained the he made yet another daring escape on a raft made of coconuts. After this escape, he claimed he had been sent to a Venezuelan detention camp before being pardoned and becoming a Venezuelan citizen. Among his claims, were the assertions that he had stabbed a snitch in prison, lived among natives where he had married and impregnated two teenage sisters, and that, after being recaptured, he had convinced a judge to reduce his sentence because they hadn’t hit the prison guards that hard when they had escaped. So what was true? Henri Charrière had been convicted of killing a friend, he had escaped from the French Penal Colony in French Guiana, he had been sent to solitary on the island of St. Joseph, and he had eventually escaped to Venezuela after being transferred back to the mainland. The rest of the story was embellished with the accounts of other prisoners and with fantasy from Charrière’s fertile imagination. There is no reason to believe that Charrière was innocent, his first escape was closer to a year than a week after his imprisonment, and many of the excessive rules and conditions Charrière described had been abolished before his arrival. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Charrière had ever even been on Devil’s Island as it was reserved for those convicted for treason, and, even if he had been on Devil’s Island, this French MacGyver never escaped on a coconut raft. Fellow inmates and prison records attested to the fact that, contrary to his portrayal of himself, Charrière was a rather quiet and submissive prisoner who caused few problems. Already in 1970, the claims of Papillon were overturned by Gérard de Villiers in Papillon Egpinglé (Butterfly Pinned). Charrière vehemently denied de Villiers’ claims, even trying to have his book banned. Still, if internet articles are any indication, there are those who continue to believe the events described in Papillon are gospel.


Go Ask Alice


When this book hit the market in 1971, it caused quite a stir. Here was the diary of a troubled teen who had been drawn into the drug culture, had engaged in sexual promiscuity, and who had eventually died of a drug overdose. Finally, the world had a view into the troubling world that teens inhabited, full of drugs, sex, peer pressure and depression. And what a cautionary tale for those teens that ever decided to wear hippie clothes or use marijuana! The book was promoted as nonfiction, and its cover not only declared it to be written by “Anonymous,” but also proclaimed to contain “the actual story of a desperate girl on drugs and on the run who almost made it.” The book’s editor, a Mormon youth counselor named Beatrice Sparks started to appear in the media soon after the book was published. Finally, in 1979, Sparks admitted that she had changed the original diary of a young girl and that she had embellished the account based on her experiences with counseling troubled teenagers. The real protagonist, she insisted, had not died of a drug overdose, but may have committed suicide. Rather inconveniently, she had destroyed much of the original diary after transcribing it while the rest of it was locked away in the publisher’s vault. No relative of the book’s protagonist, if indeed such a person exists, has ever come forward to verify any part of the book. Sparks holds the sole copyright over the book and, rather than being listed as editor, she is listed as the book’s author at the U.S. Copyright Office. Sparks has made various claims to hold a PhD, but this has never been substantiated. She has published a number of other books that also claim to be the diaries of troubled teens but are, in reality, veiled morality tales. The most notable of these, “Jay’s Journal” is based on the journal of a young man who committed suicide. Jay’s parents were appalled when Sparks added bizarre and clearly fictional accounts of Satanism to Jay’s diary entries. Sparks denied that she had made these accounts up, claiming that she had based them on letters and interviews with Jay’s friends. Although Go Ask Alice is now classified as fiction, Sparks’ numerous other titles are trumpeted as non-fiction. Go Ask Alice is commonly on summer reading lists, and has been banned by many school boards, not because the author is a complete fraud, but because of its depictions of sex and drugs.


The Education of Little Tree: a True Story


Asa Carter and Forrest Carter, it appears, could not have been more different. Asa Carter was a virulent racist, a man who had lost his broadcasting job in 1954 over his anti-Semitic comments. Asa founded and wrote for the polemical and racist magazine, The Southerner. In the era of segregation, Asa was a strong defender of the status quo, even taking charge of a Birmingham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. An assault on Nat King Cole, the beating of a civil rights leader, the stabbing of the leader’s wife and the brutal castration of a black man all occurred under his leadership. Recruited indirectly by George Wallace, the Democrat, Asa even wrote the governor’s famous pro-Segregation speech: “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Forrest Carter, in direct contrast, was a gentle soul, a mustachioed Stetson-wearing cowboy with a soft folksy drawl. He was the storyteller in Council to the Cherokee Nation, a descendant of the Cherokee himself who told the story of his orphaning at a young age, and his noble upbringing by his Cherokee grandparents in his memoir, the Education of Little Tree.

But, although Forrest vehemently denied the connection to his racist past, Asa and Forrest Carter were the very same man. Asa Carter had no native ancestry, and members of the Cherokee nation have heavily criticized the inaccurate portrayal of their words and customs. The book has sold more than a million copies, before the rights were snapped up in 1985 by New Mexico Press, which has continued strong sales to this day. All of this, despite the book having been exposed as fraudulent almost immediately upon its publication. The book no longer contains the true story subtitle, nor does it mention Carter’s supposed role as a Cherokee “Storyteller in Council.” Since yet another expose of the book’s lies was published in 1991, New Mexico Press has reclassified the book as fiction, although there is no mention of the author’s dark past. It is difficult to divine Carter’s motivation for the book. Some have hypothesized that he wanted to atone for his racist past, others argue that beneath the tale of the noble savage is a veiled anti-governmental polemic, while others say it is just the hypocrisy of a an unreformed white supremacist. In 1994, Oprah Winfrey promoted the “very spiritual” book on her television show. Finally, in 2007, Oprah pulled the book from her list of recommendations, after learning the truth about Asa Carter.


The Hitler Diaries


Imagine, Adolf Hitler wrote over sixty volumes of a secret diary that was finally uncovered 34 years after his death. This would be an incredible find: personal handwritten entries that would provide insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century’s greatest villains. The German journalist for Stern Magazine who uncovered the story was enthralled by the possibility, and it all seemed plausible. The diary was supposedly recovered from the wreck of a plane that had been carrying Hitler’s personal belongings southwards. The journalist, Gerd Heidemann, verified the crash and also found that Hitler, upon learning of the crash, had angrily exclaimed, “In that plane were all my private archives that I had intended as a testament to posterity. It is a catastrophe!” Furthermore, it was claimed that the diaries had been in the hands of an East German general, having been found by him in a barn. It was believable that the diary had remained hidden for so long behind the Iron Curtain. Through intermediaries, Heidemann had contacted the supplier of the diaries and, with the backing of his magazine, had paid over 9.9 million marks for all sixty-two volumes. Stern Magazine had handwriting experts examine and compare the script from three pages of the diaries with Hitler’s handwriting. The experts concluded that they matched, and the jubilant magazine broke the story on April 25th, 1983. Other magazines, including Parismatch, Newsweek, and the the London Times, enthusiastically endorsed the story. Skeptics expressed their doubts, as none of Hitler’s inner circle had ever seen him keep a diary and Hitler was known to dislike writing. The Federal Archives of West Germany examined the notebooks, and found that the paper, ink, and glue in the diaries were all too recent to have been used by Hitler. All sixty two volumes of Hitler’s supposed diaries had been expensive forgeries, the work of Konrad Kujua, a forger specializing in duping collectors of Nazi memorabilia. Kujua claimed that Heidemann had known that the diaries were fake, but Heidemann claimed that he had been oblivious. Both Heidemann and Kujua were convicted of forgery and embezzlement, serving 42 months each.


Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years


It was an incredible tale: a young Jewish girl’s parents are deported, she is adopted by an abusive Catholic family who changes her name to Monique de Wael, so she wanders across Europe searching for her parents, is adopted by a pack of wolves, eats offal and worms, and even kills a German officer with her pocketknife. The girl, Misha de Fonesca, has walked a total of over 3,000 kilometres from Belgium to Ukraine and back, sneaking in and out of the Warsaw ghetto, undetected, along the way. The story is unbelievable, it’s triumphant, it’s inspiring, and it’s entirely false. The author is actually named Monique de Wael and is a Belgian, whose Catholic parents were resistance fighters and were taken away by the Nazis when Monique was four. She was raised by a grandfather, and later an uncle, whose family may or may not have mistreated her. She moved to the Massachusetts with her husband in 1988, where she began to tell the local synagogue her incredible tale of her survival as Jewish girl searching for her parents. The story was picked up by a publisher and published to minimal success in the United States before being translated into 18 languages and becoming a European bestseller. The story was questioned from the beginning, but was definitively debunked by two genealogists who tracked down de Wael’s birth certificate and a school registry that showed de Wael at school when she was supposedly wandering about Europe. De Wael acknowledge the fraud in 2008, but qualified her apology by saying “it’s not the true reality, but it is my reality. There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world.”


Forbidden Love


In her acclaimed memoir, Forbidden Love, Norma Khouri tells the story of the honor killing of her best friend, Dalia, in Damman, Jordan, during the early nineties. Khouri told of working in the same salon in as her friend, where Dalia met and fell in love with a British army officer named Michael. Michael is a Roman Catholic, so Dalia cannot let her traditional Muslim family know of her romantic interest in him. Khouri acted as a go-between and helped Dalia keep the romance a secret. When the romance did come to light, Dalia’s enraged father stabbed her multiple times. Khouri, afraid for her life, was smuggled out of Jordan with the help of the dashing young Michael. Sold in over 15 countries, the memoir sold over 200,000 copies in Australia and enthusiastic Australians voted it among their favorite 100 books of all time. The entire story, however, had emerged from Khouri’s imagination. Her real name was, in fact, Norma Majid Khouri Michael Al-Bagain Toliopoulos, and she had spent most of her life in suburban Chicago. She had moved to the United States from Jordan with her family at the age of three, and studied Computer Science after graduating from Catholic High School. She met a Greek-American man, whom she had two children with before marrying in 1993. Records confirm that Norma was in Chicago for the entire timeline of the events that she related in her memoir. In 2000, Norma submitted her manuscript to a literary agent, who sold it to 16 international publishers. Norma Toliopoulos then moved with her family to Australia, and her memoir went on to wild success. The book raised eyebrows in Jordan, and was researched by the Jordanian National Commission for Women who found over 70 exaggerations and serious errors. They submitted their report to Random House Australia, who responded that they were satisfied with the veracity of the story, and that only names and places had been changed to protect the identities of those involved. When confronted with the increasing evidence of the lies contained in her book, Norma would deftly elaborate on her original story or blatantly lie – even flatly denying ever having been to the United States prior to 2003. When the scandal was broken by Australian journalist, Malcolm Knox, Random House pulled the book from the shelf. Norma Toliopoulos, however, stuck to her story and boldly agreed to a documentary that followed her to Jordan. With the camera on her, she did her utmost to try to prove the truth of her memoir. Her story unravels rather quickly, but Norma is a deft liar and is able to make a lot of her obfuscations and excuses sound almost plausible.


A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces-Large

James Frey wants us to believe that he is a tough but sensitive bad-boy writer with a drug problem. The truth is, he’s a sensitive but boyish bad writer with a truth problem. The memoir purports to tell the true story of his drug and alcohol problems, his rehab, prison stints, and his personal triumph over his addictions. The book was released in 2003 to mixed reviews before being picked up as a selection for Oprah’s Book Club. The book soared to the top of the bestsellers list, with a public entranced with Frey’s incredible account of his personal conquest of his addictions. The Smoking Gun, a website that routinely publishes mug shots and legal documents, after having much difficulty finding a booking photo for Frey, began a deeper investigation into the claims he made in his memoir. Months later, the Smoking Gun published their results, exposing a litany of lies and embellishments by Frey relating to his claims of criminal activity. After being exposed, Frey issued a half-hearted author’s note that admitted that large portions of the book had been fabricated: that he had never been involved in the train accident that killed a schoolmate (although he knew her), that he served a few hours in prison rather than three months, and that he had embellished his account of his arrests. Although his claim that a root canal procedure had been done without anesthesia is clearly false, Frey claims that he wrote it from memory and that he has records that “seem to support it.” Conveniently, he also claims that other patients at the treatment facility had their names and identifying characteristics changed to protect their anonymity. Frey, ever the conscientious writer, cannot reveal their identities. His apology comes off as flat and forced, especially with these lines: “This memoir is a combination of facts about my life and certain embellishments. It is a subjective truth, altered by the mind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.” Manipulating the truth has nothing to do with your point of view and everything to do with being a pathological liar. Some have tried to defend Frey by referring to his triumph over addiction as the important message and claiming that “minor” lies shouldn’t matter.


Love and Consequences

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If there were a literary version of blackface, this would be it. Author Margaret B. Jones wrote this memoir based on her life as a gang member in south-central L.A.. Claiming to look dark “like a Mexican” and to be half-native and half-white, Jones writes the entire memoir laced in her own unique version of ebonics. The book’s jacket clearly depicts a white woman, but it seems the publisher never questioned this minor inconsistency. Jones claimed to have been taken from her parents at the age of six and placed in a black foster home in L.A.’s toughest neighborhood because this is, after all, social services’ standard practice for all half-white half-native foster children. She wrote of her membership in the Bloods and her life’s struggles, with all of the knowledge and experience of an outsider who owns several rap albums and has watched Boyz In the Hood at least twice. She even makes the incredibly ludicrous claim that the first white baby she ever saw was her own child (conceived with the first white man she had ever slept with). The memoir received critical praise, with the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and O Magazine loudly endorsing it. The book was poised to sell millions, when Jones was recognized, by her sister, as one Margaret “Peggy” Seltzer. Seltzer, it turns out, is an entirely Caucasian suburbanite whose affectation of ebonics is made all the more clownish by her private school education. Seltzer had managed to sell the story to the publisher by parading a series of people posing as her foster siblings, using the published accounts of her experiences from the book of an author she had duped, and presenting other fake evidence consisting of photos and letters. Seltzer defended her book by saying she was giving “a voice to people who people don’t listen to.” Margaret Seltzer, the voice of the ghetto.


Angel At the Fence
2009 (cancelled)

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Full title: “Angel At the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived”. Herman Rosenblat, a Holocaust Survivor, wrote his memoir recounting his time at Schlieben camp, Buchenwald. In his book, Rosenblat claimed that a girl had passed him food through the fence of the concentration camp. One day in 1945 he had told her that he would not be able to take her apple the next day because he was scheduled to be gassed to death. Against all odds, he survived and this same girl was the one he met on a blind date in 1957 and who later became his wife. Wow, Oprah enthused, this “is the single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we’ve ever told on air.” The problem? The entire central premise of the book was a complete fabrication. As Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust scholar and activist against anti-Semitism pointed out, Buchenwald had no gas chambers and, even if it did, there is no way the author would have had his impending gassing announced to him. She further argued for the importance of pursuing historical truth, especially in the face of Holocaust deniers, who love exploiting inconsistencies. Furthermore, researchers found that Rosenblat’s wife was, in fact, hidden over three hundred kilometers away during the war. Not only that, but there would have been absolutely no way for a civilian to approach the fence and pass food to a prisoner, as the only accessible point was immediately beside the SS Barracks. Rosenblat initially defended his memoir before admitting that it had been embellished and that he had never met his wife at Schlieben. The book’s publisher, Berkley Books, withdrew it from publication, but not before the film rights were bought by Atlantic Overseas Pictures for $25 million. The movie, which was set to star Richard Dreyfuss, appears to have been cancelled. Still, its producer, Harry Saloman, defended it by claiming that Rosenblat’s story has been censored by an overzealous publishing industry and that “Rosenblat’s story of survival, and its message of love and hope will not be silenced.”

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • nepratini

    Interesting list.

  • thetaxcollector

    2ND COMMENT! OMG! now let me read d list!!

  • 82o8

    They’re not all that bad… I myself have written dozens of my own fake memoirs for me to read, detailing the things I want to do with my life and how I want to be remembered. It’s good motivation and goal-setting IMO

  • cdete

    Fascinating list. I can’t believe the nerve some people have, writing things that can clearly be disproven.

  • myndela

    Why do people do this? When there is evidence that proves that plots in your story are fictional, why would you shop it around as a memoir? If some of your life is in there, but much of it is embellished, why not say it’s a novel that is loosely based on your life? If someone interviews you about your book, you can tell them what parts of the book were real, and which were fake.

    I read the “Million Little Pieces” book months before it was outed as a fraud, but I could tell beforehand that is was a load of crap. All of the people he supposedly met in rehab that he listed at the end were all dead, maybe in jail, or never heard from again. How do you verify his stories with people that were basically ghosts? There were other parts that sounded fake to me, and I thought he was a terrible writer. I’m one of those people who can’t not finish a book, but his writing was so tedious, and I kept saying to myself “Okay, only 70 more pages. Okay, only 54 more pages.”

    I also take the book “Running With Scissors” with a grain of salt, too. Much of that seemed embellished at the very least.

  • The most well known one in Australia would probably be the Helen Demidenko book, “The Hand That Signed The Paper”.

    >>Helen Dale (born 24 January 1972), also known as Helen Darville and Helen Demidenko, is an Australian columnist and writer. While studying English literature at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, she wrote a novel The Hand that Signed the Paper, about a Ukrainian family who welcome the German Nazis as liberators. In 1993, the novel won the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. It was first published in 1994, and won the Miles Franklin Award the following year.

    Darville wrote the book under the pseudonym Helen Demidenko, and at the time of its publication represented herself as being of Ukrainian ethnicity. It was later revealed that her family background is not Ukrainian. The misrepresentation has been described as a “literary hoax” in the Sydney Morning Herald.<<

  • choosilicious

    Not the best one, This list may not be interesting to those who dont read at all.

  • I am surprised that “Michelle Remembers” isn’t on here, especially considering the way that it kicked off the Satanic Panic in the 80s.

  • tarachowski

    Good list, bit too opinionated but that’s just to taste I suppose. I’m of two minds about this kind of thing – on the one hand, saying a story is true (even when it isn’t) does add a frisson of something which I think is rarely achieved in typical fiction. Possibly it relates to the subject matter – “The Blair Witch Project”, I think, was successful because it was promoted as true (anyone remember that documentary?), but like the author said, fabricating holocaust stories may just lead to ammunition for those deniers. The other thing is, why bother? That holocaust love story bit, while sounding a bit too soppy and saccharine for my taste, probably still would have flown off the shelves even if it was marketed at fiction. Also surprised “Roots” wasn’t on here – can’t remember the authors name, but it was made into a film that most people have seen (I was shown it at school where it was represented as an account based on fact). Thanks for taking my mind off my raging hangover!! x

  • oouchan

    It’s sad when people are duped into believing stories such as these. What could have been an inspiration for someone, turned into disappointment.
    Great list, Scratch (aka Skeratch) :)

  • creamkr


  • mordechaimordechai

    That kind of literature was a bestselling behemoth.
    Everybody loved to read about child abuse, under-age sex and the like. Morbid. That is revolting not the lies they wrote but the fact that people stood in line to read that garbage!

  • ianz09

    Why the name change Skeratch?

  • melnve

    Another interesting one was the Jack the Ripper diary, a very interesting read but proven fake.

  • Lady Sings The Blues by Billy Holiday should be on that list…

  • Moonbeam

    Oprah must be pretty gullible. You would think that after being duped once she would be more vigilant in which books she would endorse.

    It makes me wonder about the publishers, too. Don’t they verify facts before printing a book purported to be a true story?

    The only one of these that I read was The Education of Little Tree. What was weird about the book was that there was a section that was nothing like the main story. It was jarring to read because it was so out of place compared to the rest of the book. It was all about Josey Wales (Yes, the same one from the Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales ). (Carter has also written Josey Wales: Two Westerns : Gone to Texas/The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales. ) To me it seemed like two different authors had written a book and just stuck them together.

    Even with all that, I have to admit I was fooled into believing that the parts about Little Tree were true. It was a touching story, although fiction. Deceiving people like this is a type of violation of emotions. My heart broke for the little boy – to then find out it wasn’t true felt like a small betrayal.

  • wicket18

    Great list. It is amazing how people are able to do this. Some of these books would have been great fiction, but I think because of the dirt behind them, they’re snubbed.

  • Lifeschool


    What lengths authors will go to to have their works published. A little lie here, a little exaggeration there. Interesting to know Papillon was said to be true at one point – I never would have believed it.

    The list reminded me of Steven Spielbergs account in his autobiography of how he first got into the universal (studios) back lot by sneaking in and pretending he had an office there. At least four separate stories have appeared which contradict this claim – some have him already working there, some say he only had a summer job, while one says he never went there at all.

    I remember the Hitler Diaries. When the lie came out they made a multi-part serial about it on UK TV. I soooo wanted them to be real. What a read that would have been!

    @Moonbeam (16): Interesting, Josey Wales? I wouldn’t have known that – good link to yesterdays list too.

  • What about “A Child Called It”? I remember when it came out that it was fake. I was shocked.

  • tzopilotl

    …gee, we’re duped by our gods, our churchys, our
    govenments, our newspapers, our foxy news, anybody
    in the public domain, but i guess the big lie is ok,
    it’s only when the single author, often desperate,
    poor, disadvantaged tries it the hammer falls. then
    there’s the case of history books, one of the biggest liars on a long list, censored to tailor the facts
    of what suits the particular fog-bound requirements
    of the country in question. assume everything is a
    fraud is my motto, besides entertainment shouldn’t
    have a truth requirement. people just don’t like it
    pointed out they are fools. let them get used to it.
    no amount of righteous indignation will change that
    i am definitely against fettering the imagination
    when it is the signpost to the future, makes people
    think. what about the yose(Jap)=the endgame;vaudeville,
    story, that became the orphan orphic myth of resussitation
    prefiguring christ, who came much later to fufill the
    role confabulated so long age, cf., (goodgle):lego jesus:
    comment under, carlos lascoutx.
    @Moonbeam (16):
    emotions will always betray you, it’s called love, if
    a book can play with you like that i see nothing wrong
    with having the feelings, it’s to your credit, whether
    the medium is true or not, as in the case of christ,
    the redactor has done his job well. look how many people
    admire the bible, torah, koran and take it for fact
    simply because it stirs them. is there a difference
    between them and the books on this list? good is found
    in lies, and lies are found in good.

  • thetaxcollector

    My Sympathy goes out to LANCE!A man who had 2 claim the nearest most interesting race 2 get accepted.U know how people love all these INDIAN AMERICAN heroic tales…so ironic how d publisher wuld listen 2 him as a white skin and not as a negro.PEOPLE SHOULD LEARN!! Rascism sucks!! As 4 the PAPILLON GUY, sounds lyk Prison Break! Exaggerated tales of dull moment indeed! As 4 ASA,He’s just an a**.why would u spend your whole life antagonising a race yet u turn around 2 sell this tell-tale based on the race.A FRAUDSTER!! THIS GOES A LONG WAY TO DEBUNK ALL MEMOIRS AND REALITY SHOWS WE KEEP SEEING! Put a memoir or show filled with normal evryday life,u probably wont sell enough to buy ur pals Soda.but fill it with adventures and lies! U BECOME A STAR! D world loves sensation.A NORMAL LIFE IS BORING!

  • handrejka

    Good list, I’d heard of quite a few of these but some were new. Here is another which intrigued me

    • becd85

      Hmm how 'ironic' that Vicki Johnson ended up marrying a child abuser…weird

  • ldux

    Make your escape, you’re my own Papillon

  • Lifeschool

    Holocaust deniers: Just before I go, it always surprises me that there are some who, perhaps born too late, deny something which was (and still is) blatantly and horrifically true.

    Now, I don’t mind folks using their creative licence to fabricate some things. That’s what sells books! And God knows it’s hard enought to get a name for yourself these days. But to deny the holocaust is a bit like denying the Dinosaurs – it’s just blindness.

    It creates barriers; in a world sick to death of ever more relentless social, ecconomic and political barriers!

    They say history is remembered in the eyes of the victorious – but rewriting, supressing or denying factual history is manipulation – no matter how innocently or justifiably done.

  • Scratch

    Thanks everyone,
    Good suggestions for inclusions, I missed some good ones.

    Aaand sorry for the length (you should have seen it before).

    I’d like to add that Long Lance actually declared himself a full Blackfoot in his memoir. I accidentally edited that out.

    I couldn’t write this list without inserting my opinion because I feel very strongly about it. I see no reason to justify fake memoirs and every reason to attack them.

    :) When I submitted this list, I was unaware that I could show a name that was not my registration name – that’s why I used skeratch. I guess there’s another Scratch out there somewhere so apparently my name is not nearly as brilliant and original as I thought.

    Thanks everyone for the great comments so far. I really think Jamie made the right decision with the whole registration thing.

  • thetaxcollector

    Why must people use this holocaust thing to sell ?? The same way rappers use bullet wounds 2 sell records.they keep singing about how they were convicted! How they sold drugs,street life.bla bla bla.FAKE TALES SELL BIGTIME!

  • undaunted warrior 1


  • undaunted warrior 1

    @Lifeschool(32) yesterday

    @Maggot(59) yesterday

    Thanks so much guys for your input re: the nickname swap over thing, I feel a lot better now its like Ive been re baptised.

    Its so nice to see L servers stick together and give advice when needed.

    Thanks again !

  • elwood36

    Jamie… I take my hat off to the change. Trolls BEGONE from my sight!

  • elwood36

    Now I just have to change my LV name back to what it was.

  • cheeshygirl

    @melelyssa (19): A Child Called It was never proven a fake. The author’s brother claims things weren’t as bad as he said but the case is documented as one of the worst cases of abuse in California. It is possible that he exxagerated the abuse but it’s a he said/she said type of thing so we may never know. It was definitely a heartbreaking book along with its sequels.

    Great list, Scratch! I never knew Go Ask Alice was a fraud. Lots of good researchable stuff in this list. Thanks for the new info.

  • cheeshygirl


    My fingers don’t always cooperate with my brain.

  • mom424

    Excellent list Scratch – and not too long at all. I like me some meat on my bones. Better than sound-bites by a long shot. I happen to agree with you – lying is a huge betrayal; not fair to invest all that emotion to find out it’s all a fake.

    @choosilicious (7): not interesting to those who don’t read at all? I’d say, with a fair amount of certainty, that those that don’t read at all can’t be very interesting themselves. Maybe we can encourage them to pick up a book eh? Ignorance is not bliss – it’s boring and tedious.

    @tarachowski (9): Roots was written by Alex Haley. It’s a novel. I read it when I was either a kid or very young adult. It was good. Sort of James Clavell/Shogun good if I recall. Never once was it put forth as fact, as far as I know. Some basis in fact – he was black and a descendant of slaves. Slaves from the part of Africa mentioned in the book. The slaver ships are real. So the big stuff is true but the details are all fiction.

  • amnyc

    Not exactly the same as the list above, but related: Clifford Irving’s “Autobiography” of Howard Hughes.

    Irving’s work (which was made into a Richard Gere movie in 2005) is often cited as the inspiration behind The Hitler Diaries (#5 in the list posted).

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Enjoyed the read thanks S.

  • this is another fake author, JT leroy:

  • @amnyc (34): Ah! When I was editing the list yesterday I was trying to remember that one! Thanks.

  • deeeziner

    It’s a shame when a person seeks fame so badly that they’re willing to slander themselves on a global basis. Talk about the “walk of shame” after they have been outed.

    Too bad they didn’t/couldn’t concentrate their writing efforts on a fictional story. Oh yeah, they did.

    Perhaps some of the blame for these journalistic hoaxes also lies on the publishers who desire to swim with the big fish as well.

  • nicoleredz3

    That sucks when ppl use horrible situations like the Jewish Holocaust as a crutch to make themselves rich…

    @deeeziner (38):

    My sentiments,exactly!

  • Lifeschool

    @jfrater (37): Yeah, I found this 10-year-old article from the Guardian newspaper which mentions the Hughes book Top 10 Literary Hoaxes , as well as The Day After Roswell (mosty of the rest are covered by Scratch).

  • Good list. The only thing that surprised me is that a person would give money to a residential school.
    They are so hated by the aboriginals in Canada. Children take away from their families by force, with the intention of totally wiping out their cultural identity and teaching them how to be white.
    I read Papillon years ago. I had my suspicions about the book, due to it’s descriptions of lepers. The movie with and Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen wasn’t bad though.

    Oprah is easily duped because she loves all this feel good stuff. She wants to believe it’s true and so does everybody else.

  • kennypo65

    I read “Go Ask Alice” when I was in high school. I knew it was bull s**t then and you just confirmed it. Lies are almost always harmful, but to lie to kids about drugs is especially dangerous. When the lies are discovered,there is the chance that the kids will disregard the dangers. Because they are getting a mix of lies and truth. They will assume that it is all lies. This sort of thing is inexcusable.

  • weegmc

    mom, Roots was presented by Haley as his family biography and wasn’t exposed as a fictional work until after the hoopla. Excellent story that really used the medium of television in particular to present a stark family history of slavery in the US but Haley deserves to be slimed since he profited handsomely from his lie.

  • jakeryder

    Remember the Jack the Ripper diary a few years back. Sybil being a fake biography as well.

  • mom424

    @weegmc (43): When I was introduced to the book it was represented that the information Haley learned while researching his family tree was used in the book, the rest of the story was necessarily fiction. Maybe I read the 2nd run? Had I known he had said that it was non-fiction maybe I wouldn’t have bothered. It actually surprises me that it could ever have been taken as gospel. Thanks for the correction.

  • hillerious

    I’m curious about the part in a Million Little Pieces where you say a root canal without anesthetic was clearly false. That actually has happened to me. I’m mostly curious why he would lie about something like that and how he described it. It seems like a weird thing to bring up in the first place. I didn’t read the book because I don’t really have any interest in exploitative memoirs, but now I’m a little curious. Anyone read it that can fill me in?

  • #36 already mentioned it but the story of JT Leroy and the books Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things is fascinating. Not only are the books fabricated but the author as well.

  • flamehorse

    How come ain’t nobody commenting?! This list was great. So was yesterday’s.

  • kashmirj

    This was a fantastic list. Very interesting! As soon as I read the title I knew “A Million Little Pieces” would be on here somewhere.

    “Go Ask Alice” was a total surprise to me. I read it when I was 15 for a school project (it was actually on a list of acceptable books I had to choose from, and this was only 8 years ago) and I just loved it, and believed every word! lol

    Another surprise was “Angel at the Fence”. I had heard about the whole story and how it was supposedly true, and I hoped with all my heart that it was because I mean, I agree with Oprah, what a love story! I’m kind of disappointed that it was proved to be false.

    As for the rest of them, I have never heard of them but it was an interesting read nonetheless! :)

  • deeeziner

    @flamehorse (48):

    Jamie projected a drop in comment # due to required registration.

    I’ve always noticed a severe drop in comment # during the weekend. Perhaps people are out living their lives and sharing time with family?

  • Scratch

    @hillerious (46):

    When Frey was in rehab he claimed that the Hazeldean clinic did his root canal without novocaine because it was their policy not to give novocaine to drug addicts. Modern dentists only forgo giving anaesthesia if the patient is allergic or if the nerve is already dead. The Hazeldean clinic denied that they would ever do this or that it is their policy and produced documentation to back it up.

    Frey related this story to try to bolster his tough-guy image – he even has one of the characters, a mafia don, reacte by telling him that Frey is one of the toughest guys he knows. Riiiight.

  • thorlite

    Not quite a memoir, but i’ve encountered so many people who read the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and believe it is a true story. The cover makes it sound as such and you certainly have to search very carefully to find the word fiction anywhere in the book at all.

    people magically disappear for gods sake, nutters.

  • hillerious


    Weird. When it happened to me, it was because my dentist was.. on the edge, so to speak. I don’t really know why he thought it was the only option, but I went in with an abscessed tooth and he said anesthetic wouldn’t penetrate to the necrotic nerve. He was right, of course. That’s why most dentists will send you home with antibiotics and operate a week later. Instead, he insisted he had to get the infection out and had his assistant hold me down. I’m glad to say he has since lost his license, but not because of me. I was too busy with a new baby. Did I mention I was nine months pregnant when this happened? Yeah, good times.

    Not really, though. Really, the pain was phenomenal. I have since developed a bit of a phobia for dentists. Every time I need so much as a filling I break down in tears.

    Not exactly sure why I’m sharing this, except I think people might find it interesting, and it does feel better to talk about it. Also, worth bringing up the weird things an authority figure can put you through in this day and age. I would definitely advocate for patient choice.

    Also, what a silly thing for him to brag about! I don’t feel particularly tough. Pain doesn’t make you tough. Only people who have never really felt pain would think that. Maybe that’s why it was so obviously false. All the pain in the world, and he brags about a 15 minute toothache? What a jackass.

  • hiamn

    Great list, really really interesting! And well done with the trolling thing Jamie, it’s back to being the site it used to be. Yeay! God, you think Oprah would have done a bit more digging… one of the biggest shows on tv and no research, that’s pretty shoddy.
    @Hillerious; I share the dentist phobia, had a dentist insist he was nowhere near my nerve and I was exaggerating as a child, then look at an X-ray of my unusually large nerves and realise he’d been drilling on a 8 year old’s nerves-got told I’ve to have a root canal in the next few weeks, reacted with tears too. Very embarrassing!
    I didn’t realise A Child Called It had any questions around it, a child (or anyone’s) memory of abuse is going to be highly subjective though I suppose. I’d also throw Angela’s Ashes in as being one that has been accused of serious embellishment and falsification. The overall story is true, in that Frank McCourt was where he said he was at the time he said he was, but a lot of the events have been questioned, especially in Limerick-there’s still considerable bad feeling about the book.

  • Scratch

    @hillerious (53):

    Wow, that sounds like a horrific experience. In fact, it sounds like torture.

    Coincidentally, this weekend I went to the dentist with a friend who had fallen on her face and shattered her three front teeth. She needed a root canal, and she was incredibly nervous because her memories of a very similar injury that she sustained as a child came flooding back. Fortunately, the dentist was very good and was able to calm her fears.

    I can imagine for you, though, that your memory of your unprofessional dentist makes it that much harder to have anyone look in your mouth.

    You’re right, the toughest people I know are also the last people would would ever brag about it.

  • jhenninger

    There is a book that I read that could fit on this list. In college we had to read “The Collected Works of Billy the Kid” by Michael Ondaatje. The books is presented as though it is written by Billy the Kid. It contains recounts of different events in his life as well as little poems and songs that he penned. The entire class was under the impression that all of the items in the book were by Billy the Kid and merely compiled by Ondaatje. That was until the professor instructed us to look at the inside of the front cover which was the only spot in the book that revealed that everything was a fabrication of the author written in a style to appear as though The Kid had written it.

  • GTT

    @Moonbeam (16): I kept thinking the same thing as I read the list… I understand the first time she was duped but she should have learned her lesson! It´s called research, Oprah, and it will avoid making you look like an ass in the future…

    Great list by the way… What amazes me the most is that some of these authors will continue to back their claims even after they´ve been outed as frauds. A little sense of shame is not a bad thing…

  • cartwheelskip

    I gotta say…I read A Million Little Pieces and I LOVED it. I don’t give shit that it’s “embellished”. And out of all the books on this list, A Million Little Pieces hurts NO ONE. These other books…using the holocaust, pretending you’re from another culture to point out the awfulness of that culture, using your religion to force feed stories of satanic drug abuse…scratch, I think your level of anger needs to be redirected at one of these other memoirs. Frey was wrong, but WOW, not nearly as wrong as these other people. Also – he admitted it, unlike that awful Chicagoan that actually tried to make a documentary about it!!

  • Scratch

    @cartwheelskip (58):

    Read the review, it might do some good:

  • Scratch

    And here’s an excellent followup by the same author:

  • Arsnl

    Hmm i dont mind a literary license. I dont get why scratch was so outraged. Its not science. You dont have to make it 100% right. What gets me mad is when scientist fudge data.

  • pithlitt

    @GTT (57): Oprah do research? LOL This is the woman that wanted everyone to believe SHE had given away a studio full of cars, AND thought Dr. Phill was a genious. You expect way too much from her. lol

  • Scratch

    @Arsnl (61):

    Awesome, I’ll put you under “doesn’t care about historical truth.” Thanks for playing.

  • oliver303

    These people have serious narsassistic personaility disorders and some of these would have been great memoirs even without all of the embelishments.

  • GTT

    @pithlitt (62): I think I´ve only watched her once so I dont really care what she does… All I´m saying is that she might actually want to have someone check out these claims before she makes an absolute ass out of herself…. :)

  • weegmc

    Sleepers is another good one. Was made into a decent movie too but a complete lie.

  • tomastomas108

    “SHANTARAM” should have been on this list too…

  • accountableaction

    Good list, but you have to wonder why they just didn’t list them as fiction and be done with it. I just finished reading a really great true memoir, in the form of love letters, called Dear Bob, Dear Betty
    , which I highly recommend.

    Also pithlitt is right. You can’t really expect Oprah to do any real research. Maybe her fourth assistant thought about doing it, but never got to it. Sad that so many people see her as a role model.

  • maggie

    sooo i may be just saying stupid but i recently read go ask alice and i dont remember there being a drug overdose in the end. she talked about how she was excited to start life clean and stuff, going to school and stuff. i may have just read it wrong or they republished it with a different ending

    and anyways who gives a shit if someone wrote a fake memoir? if its a good book does it really matter? how does someones deception affect your life? i mean yeah if you got inspiration from the book but why does something have to be real to be able to get inspiration from it?
    people need to stop making big deals out of nothing

  • Stee Marks

    This is scary to me for two reasons. First one: I have read half of these and totally believed them at the time, except Frey’s, which I knew about in advance. Second one: This one really scares the shit out of me. WHO'S GONNA BELIEVE ME? I am writing my own memoir and can back it up but now I wonder if discerning people will think it as fake as these. I too, for instance have people whose names I have to change because they insist on it. Moreover, I have really had root canal work without Novocain or gas! I have had crown prep without anesthetic as well. The root canal teeth were probably “dead” but the crown prep hurt. I just hate needles in the mouth. Shit. I had better leave all that out. The rest is incredulous enough. Wish me luck.

  • Pizzlerot

    The 18 books published over 24 years by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa (actually a British nobody named Cyril Hoskin) should rate a mention as the longest series of fake memoirs.

  • girl

    Don’t forget ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. =/

  • hesperial

    The list could have many other supposed holocaust survivor’s stories.

  • Zina

    PAPILON IS A FAKEY!?!?!?! unfreakingbelievable.

  • Jill

    Misha has to be true. Someone found her birth certificate to prove her true identity? Unpossible!

  • Horologium

    Where is “I, Rigoberta Menchu”? It’s undoubtedly the biggest fraud of all.

  • Cheetogasmic

    I still love A Million Little Pieces. It was very dry, and stark, and I believe that there are people out there that suffer through the things he wrote in his book. That book helped me through bad times, because it showed me that things can always get worse, but they can also get better. I also liked Go Ask Alice. It was a good story that prolonged the period in which I abstained from trying drugs. I don’t care I’d they’re fake, they changed my life. But then again, alot of books do that. Like Angela’s Ashes… Or even Harry Potter.. So I guess that’s not saying much. lolol

  • arourtaiz


  • darkangel

    cool list. a friend of my parents gave me #8 when i visited him….

  • defiantapple

    You forgot all about The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (and everything else written by “J.T. Leroy” for that matter ^___^)

  • Lauren

    Memoirs of a Geisha? I was so upset when I found out that was made up :(

  • Jamy

    Interestingly I know a very old Dutch woman who would give safe passage to Jews at the time of the holocaust and she claims not only that the people who claim ignorant in the surrounding countries are flat out liers she also claims everyone knew what was happening to the jews but everyone was afraid they would be next so they continued with their daily lives in denial.

    What does this have to do with the list?? Interestingly She also doesn’t believe Anne frank for a seconded which has made me question her ‘diary’ any thoughts??

  • Badillo653

    Very nice read, I always like a well-written article. I can’t wait to see more like it soon!