SF & Fantasy

Locke Lamora’s Historical Counterparts: Casanova, Caraboo and the Magical Land of Poyais


Locke Lamora’s Historical Counterparts: Casanova, Caraboo and the Magical Land of Poyais

Scott Lynch’s legendary rogue Locke Lamora has charmed his way into the hearts of many, many fantasy fans over three books (and counting!). In honor of Lynch’s newest novel Republic of Thieves, we present this list of historical rogues, thieves and scoundrels, any of which would be proud to call Lamora a partner in crime

Giacomo Casanova: (1725 – 1798)
When your name becomes synonymous with seduction, you must be doing something right. Or wrong. very wrong. This Italian adventurer and scoundrel gambled and romanced his way across the continent, along the way developing a reputation as an occultist, serial seducer of married women and con man par excellence. He hobnobbed with the rich and powerful, served as a diplomat and a spy, and eventually wrote a scandalous memoir. There’s never been another Casanova. Thank goodness.

William Chaloner: (1665 – 1699)
This incredibly skilled forger, counterfeiter and “doctor” of audacious ambition cheerfully minted fake coins, scammed the Bank of England and even forged lottery tickets. Traveling throughout the kingdom and swindling anyone and everyone he could, it took the efforts of no one less than Sir Isaac Newton, then Master of the Royal Mint, to bring Chaloner to justice – which in this case meant the short end of a long rope.

Gregor MacGregor: (1786 – 1845)
Gregor MacGregor was a Scottish adventurer, soldier and total con man. After a tour of duty in South America, MacGregor returned to London and announced that he was now the “Cacique of Poyais”, a small nation on the bay of Honduras. He claimed a native king had given him the land, and now all he needed was investors and settlers to reap the guaranteed profits. A few boatloads of people took him at his word. Upon arriving in “Poyais”, they discovered nothing but jungle and ruins. Many of them died upon arrival. Meanwhile, MacGregor high-tailed it to France where he continued his scam. The authorities caught up with him and a couple of associates. Somehow, MacGregor was found not guilty. You’d think that would be enough to drop the Poyais act, but nope – he kept it up. Eventually, MacGregor relocated for good to Venezuela.

Mary Baker A.K.A. “Princess Caraboo of Javasu” (1791-1864)
In 1817, an English cobbler encountered a young, disoriented woman speaking in a language he couldn’t understand. He took her to the Overseer to the Poor, Samuel Worrall, who in turn remanded her to the local magistrate. While she was imprisoned a Portugese sailor “translated” for her. She claimed to be “Princess Caraboo” of the island of “Javasu”. Poor Cariboo had been kidnapped by pirates and taken far from her native land. She had jumped overboard in the Bristol Channel and was now wandering England. Charmed with her story, Worrall and his wife took Caraboo into their home, where she wore exotic clothing, swam naked and prayed to a god she called “Alla-Tallah”. Caraboo soon became the talk of the town; a favorite of the media and local dignitaries. All good things come to an end, and in Caraboo’s case, the end came when a boarding house-keeper recognized her as Mary Baker, a servant girl from Withershire, Devon. Embarrassed, the Worralls arranged for Baker to travel to Philadelphia. Once in the new world, the “Princess” tried to keep the scam going for a while, eventually giving up.


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