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Monday, May 19, 2014

"Iron Mask" The story of Harry Bensley's "Walking Round the World" hoax

On 1 January 1908, in London's Trafalgar Square, a man in an old-fashioned iron helmet began an adventure that was to take him to 172 towns and cities in the United Kingdom before heading overseas to visit another 118 cities in Canada, USA, South America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan, China, India, Egypt and seven European countries.

Although independently wealthy, the man in the iron mask was allowed to finance his trip only through the sale of postcards and pamphlets relating to his journey from a pram that he was to push for the duration of the journey and at no point was he allowed to reveal his identity. The final challenge was that, despite keeping his face hidden, he had to find a wife.

This astonishing journey was the result of a $100,000 (£21,000) bet between the Earl of Lonsdale and steel and banking magnate J. P. Morgan and the daring masked man had almost completed the round the world trip six years later and was on the point of collecting what would today be the equivalent of £2,250,000 when the bet was cancelled.

This is the story of that journey.

This is also the story of how Harry Bensley, released from jail for fraud and bigamy, dreamed up an astonishing hoax. Disguised behind his iron mask, Bensley trekked south from London, along the southern counties and into the west country, visiting towns, attracting crowds and selling his postcards. He claimed to have met and married a woman, although she was already known to him. He was even tried in a court of law without once giving his real name.

Iron Mask is the story of that journey, too!

This fully-illustrated book takes a look behind the legend of the "Walking Round the World" hoax, revealing the impoverished origins of Bensley and his family and documenting a criminal path that was the lead to his most audacious deception.

"Iron Mask" The story of Harry Bensley's "Walking Round the World" hoax is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 42 b/w pages with a colour cover. ISBN: 978-1907-08179-8

Publication Date
Published on 24 May 2016.

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