Insane Crimes Irl That Seem Like Fever Dreams


A Broke Con Man Used Fraud To Fund His Obsessive Race Across Eurasia With An Italian Prince

In 1907, Charles Godard was a convicted con man scraping a living performing “Wall of Death” motorcycle stunts in a circus. Then the wind blew a scrap of newspaper into his face announcing the Great Peking to Paris Race, an epic car race across some of the harshest terrain in the world. Godard became determined to win the grand prize (a magnum of champagne), but he had no money and no car. Meanwhile, the hot favorite was Prince Scipione Borghese, a gun-wielding millionaire playboy celebrity who was understandably beloved by the crowds. Godard had just one choice: he would have to scam his way across Eurasia.

He managed to bluff his way into a meeting with the Spyker car company, where he claimed to be an experienced driver (in reality he had never driven a car). The Spyker brass were so impressed they loaned him a car (he immediately sold all the spare parts to buy a ticket to China) and the head of the company even lent him the entrance fee, which he promised to repay before the race (lol, no). So Godard arrived in China with no money, no spare parts, and a couple hasty driving lessons. He quickly conned the Dutch embassy out of 5,000 francs, which bought him enough supplies for like a fifth of the journey.

Fortunately, Godard turned out to be insanely resourceful. At one point, his car ran out of fuel in the middle of the desert and Godard, on foot, managed to locate a tribe of heavily armed nomads and scammed them into buying him more fuel. He patched holes in his fuel line with bacon and basically stole supplies all the way across Siberia. Meanwhile, Prince Borghese was rapidly emerging as the Snidely Whiplash of the story, The teams had all made a pact to stick together through the harshest stretch of the Gobi desert, but Borghese simply zoomed ahead in his powerful car at the first sign of trouble, leaving the other teams stranded.

Insane Crimes Irl That Seem Like Fever Dreams Funny Project Gutenberg ArchivesAdmittedly, Borghese himself had to find his way out of the occasional hiccup.

Godard, in contrast, quickly emerged as a nice guy, despite all his con artistry. When another team had engine trouble, Godard stuck around and carried their supplies. When his car broke down in Russia, he put it on a train, leaving competitors outraged that he intended to cheat. In fact, he simply took it to a mechanic in the next city, then put it right back on the train and returned to the exact spot where he broke down. In Siberia, he literally saved a baby from a runaway carriage.

Godard ended up setting records for endurance driving in a desperate attempt to catch up with the Prince. Finally, after braving incredible hardships and almost dying of exhaustion, Godard arrived in France second behind Borghese–and was immediately arrested for fraud. He was dragged from the car by gendarmes, screaming instructions to a friend to finish the race on his behalf.

Top image: Szasz-Fabian Jozsef/Shutterstock

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