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scamopedia

Welcome to the Scamopedia, a repository of the greatest scams, swindles and deceptions from history and the headlines. It is also the home of Scamapalooza, Nicholas’ podcast in which he interviews con artists, magicans, scam historians and other reprobates.

46 – Women In Magic with Carisa Hendrix

I have always assumed that it must be hard to be a woman in magic. It’s an industry dominated by men and populated by old guys with outdated ideas of gender, young boys who got into magic to pick up girls and antisocial men of all ages who struggle to talk to ANYONE, let alone members of the opposite sex.

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45 – The Ethics of Mentalism with Jon Archer

What’s the difference between a con artist and a magician? A great magician tells you they’re about to lie you. They admit it out right. And then fool you anyway.

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44 – The Doctor Will See You Now with Vyom Sharma

How do working GPs deal with alternative medicine? These frontline healthcare practitioners have to deal with constant red tape, constant education, strict laws and pesky professional ethics. Alternative medicine practitioners, on the other hand, are so unburdened by professional oversight, rules and regulations that they can sell remedies that have little to no benefit and face few ramifications.

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43 – OzLockCon and Lockpicking with Topaz

OzLockCon is Australia’s first conference dedicated to locksport and physical security. From the amateur lockpicker to the professional security expert, the conference has something for everyone interesting locks. On this week’s episode OzLockCon organiser Topaz talks about the event and explains how to pick a lock.

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Episode 42 – The Gullibility Test with Alessa Teunisse‏

Why, given the constant need for people to measure everything from their personalities to their intellect, is there no test for gullibility? , a pHd student at Macquarie University’s Department of Psychology, has spent several exploring gullibility and its relationship to scams. On this week’s episode, Alessa discusses her work while Nicholas tries to convince her to help him get rich with a GQ test. You can help Alessa with her survey here.

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Episode 41 – Fake News with Toby Halligan

We are living in a golden age of bullshit. Nowhere is this more evident than in the media where fake news is now almost indistinguishable from the real deal. So how do you spot fake news? How do you spot it spreading? And how do you deal with that weird relative wanting to spread pizzagate conspiracy theories on Facebook? On this week’s episode, satirist Toby Halligan explains how to defeat lies in the era of fake news.

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Episode 40 – Paper Moon with Sarah Baggs

It’s only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea. And this week’s episode is only pop culture queen Sarah Baggs exploring the whimsical and heartwarming world of Paper Moon. From the Peter Bogdanovich film to the Joe David Brown novel to the Jodie Foster starring TV series, Sarah and I explore what makes this rare con artist film a classic.

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Episode 39 – The Annals Of Gullibility with Stephen Greenspan

Stephen Greenspan has dedicated a large part of his career to explaining why people act gullibly. As a psychologist and author, he’s drawn from research, literature and his own personal experience as a victim of Bernie Madoff to help explain the psychological underpinnings of why otherwise smart people do stupid things.

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Episode 38 – I Love You FOCUS with Martin Dunlop

There are no two con artists films less alike than I Love You Phillip Morris and FOCUS. One is a true story, the other fiction. One is slick and cool, the other bright and slapstick filled. One features two men falling in love in prison while the other features a run of the mill Hollywood romance.

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Episode 37 – The Laborastory

The Laborastory is a science storytelling event in Melbourne that comes to tell the stories of science – the heroes, the egos, the breakthroughs and the mistakes of genius. From forgotten history and lonely laboratories, science and scientists quite literally take centre stage.

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Episode 36 – Brain Magic with Tony Barnhart

Anthony “Magic Tony” Barnhart is a cognitive psychologist at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He studies the psychological processes underlying handwritten word perception and the psychological foundations of magic and illusion. On this week’s episode of the podcast Tony discusses his work while I try to sell Tony on my crackpot theory connecting magic and autism.

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Episode 36 – Brain Magic with Tony Barnhart

Anthony “Magic Tony” Barnhart is a cognitive psychologist at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He studies the psychological processes underlying handwritten word perception and the psychological foundations of magic and illusion. On this week’s episode of the podcast Tony discusses his work while I try to sell Tony on my crackpot theory connecting magic and autism.

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Episode 35 – Now You Seem Mean 2 with Nick Mason

Nick Mason, from the Weekly Planet Podcast, returns to help me deal with my complex feelings about the 2016 film Now You See Me 2. The sequel to the surprise 2013 hit, Now You See Me 2 features more magic, more heists and more confusing plot twists than the original.

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Episode 33 – Alien Autopsy Part 2 with Spyros Melaris

In the second part of Nicholas’ conversation with Spyros Melaris about the 1995 Alien Autopsy video, Spyros discusses the fallout from the hoax video, his falling out with his collaborator Ray Santilli and the many easter eggs hidden throughout the film. Is Spyros telling the truth? Or is he creating a conspiracy inside a conspiracy?

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Episode 32 – Alien Autopsy Part 1 with Spyros Melaris

In 1995, the world was captivated by the Alien Autopsy video, a grainy 17 minute film supposedly depicting the dissection of an alien “Grey” in Roswell, New Mexico. A decade later, the film was exposed by British man Ray Santilli who claimed he had masterminded the hoax. However, in recent years, another man, Spyros Melaris, has claimed that he was responsible for the lion’s share of the work. Where does the conspiracy end and the truth begin?

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Episode 31 – Small Time Criminals with Ben McKenzie and Kevin Turner

Ben McKenzie and Kevin Turner just want to play. As two members of Pop Up Playground they create fun, immersive game experiences that feel like real live computer games. So why has their latest project, Small Time Criminals, attracted the ire of tabloid media and victims of crime groups. Is it an ultra-realistic bank heist simulation that mocks the victims of real robberies? Or is it a media beat up? On this week’s episode Ben and Kevin talk games, cheating and bank heists while Nicholas tries to make the two most laidback men in Melbourne angry.

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Episode 30 – The Bullshitters Book Club with Vinny DePonto

Everyone wants to be a good liar. Or at the very least, be able to spot a good liar. But what do you do when all of the books on the subject are written by authors who are experts on doing just that? On this week’s episode, mentalist and writer Vinny DePonto talks about five of his favourite books on lying and Nicholas wonders whether Mark Twain would be doing burlesque if he was alive today.

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Episode 29 – Dom and Dumber with Dom Chambers and Bayden Hammond

Dom and Dumber have taken on a mammoth task, combining magic and sketch comedy into an entirely new genre. In this week’s Scamapalooza, Dom Chambers and Bayden Hammond sit down and talk about their favourite comedy, magicians and how you manage to jam the two of them together.

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Episode 27 – The Million Dollar Challenge with Richard Saunders

“Prove it.” It’s the catch cry of skeptics and critical thinkers around the world. Presented with fraudulent claims of psychic powers and paranormal abilities, scientists and rationalists are always quick to demand proof. On this week’s episode of the podcast skeptic and podcaster Richard Saunders explains how to empirically test these extraordinary claims and what happens when you offer a cash prize.

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Episode 25 – F Is For Fake with Simon Caterson

Orson Welles’ last project before the descending into a life of frozen pea commercials and voicing Transformers was F Is A Fake. The film is a magician’s bag, full of cinematic tricks and double bluffs. On this week’s episode of Scamapalooza, Simon Caterson returns to explore Orson Well’s final great trick, a pseudo-documentary about an art forger and the hoaxer who wrote his biography.

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Episode 25 – Romance Scam Survivor with Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall is an extraordinary woman. Having studied psychology, sold computers in the early days of personal computing and travelled the world, Jan is tech-savvy, well-spoken and understands how the mind works. So why did she give over a quarter of a million dollars to online scammers? On this episode of the podcast, Jan tells the story of how she lost the money and how she overcame the experience.

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Welcome To 2016

Scamapalooza returns this week with a miniepisode that, while it doesn’t have a guest, is packed full of news, stories and the tired ramblings of a man desperately trying to cope with the new year. As promised, here is a link to all the stories, movies and tales I mentioned.

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5 Most Popular Scamapaloozas of 2015

After years of procrastinating, Paul Culliver from Mammoth Audio and I finally launched the podcast Scamapalooza in July. Since then, we’ve released 24 episodes talking to con artists, magicians, authors, comedians and pop culture critics from around the world about the latest con artist news and best moments from swindling history.

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Episode 24 – Houdini and The Medium with Jon Cox

In his time, Harry Houdini was known not just as the world’s most famous magician but also as a hoaxbuster, exposing fraudulent psychics and spirit mediums. On this week’s episode of the podcast, Jon Cox, creator of Wild About Houdini, explains what happened in 1924 when the death obsessed Houdini went head-to-head with Mina Crandon, a Boston medium known for her hypersexual seances and bizarre methods.

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Episode 23 – The Sun and The Moon with Matthew Goodman

On 25 August, 1835, The Sun newspaper printed a series of hoax articles claiming they’d found life on the moon including man-bats, two legged beavers and ball beasts. On this week’s episode of the podcast, Matthew Goodman, author of The Sun and The Moon talks about the hoax and its place in the history of journalism and astronomy.

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Episode 22 – Piff The Magic Dragon with John Van Der Put

Of all the magicians I’ve met, Piff The Magic Dragon is the most unique. After all, he’s a dragon who has appeared on Las Vegas casino stages, American’s Got Talent and Penn and Teller’s Fool Us. On this week’s episode, Piff aka John Van Der Put explains how he become the world’s most famous magical dragon and what it’s like being an internet sensation.

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Episode 21 – The Sting with Matthew Specktor

There are two types of con artist movies: those made before The Sting and those made after The Sting. The 1973 George Roy Hill film won seven Oscars, cemented Paul Newman and Robert Redford as screen legends, sent turn of the century ragtime music to the top of the charts and conditioned audiences to expect a twist in every film featuring a swindler. (It even inspired a little novel called Chasing The Ace.)

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Episode 20 – Sucker with Lawrence Leung

On a cold wet Scottish night over five years ago at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I had a quiet drink with comedian Lawrence Leung in a small pub just off the Royal mile. Lawrence told me about his attempts to write a feature film based on his one man show, Sucker and I talked about the book I was writing, Chasing The Ace. Half a decade later and Chasing The Ace is in all good bookstores (shameless self promotion be damned) and Sucker is showing at cinemas around Australia.

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Episode 18 – Keeping The Bastards Dishonest with Dee Madigan

Dee Madigan is an advertising creative and political campaigner who spends her days selling politicians to the public and her nights revealing the secrets of advertising on television shows like the Gruen Transfer and in books like the Hard Sell. On this week’s episode, Dee explains the techniques campaigns uses to sell us politicians and their policies.

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Episode 17 – The Cottingley Fairies with Sarah Baggs

In 1920, five photographs took the world by storm. Taken by two young girls, Elsie Wright and Francis Griffith, the photos appeared to prove no less than the existence of fairies.

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Episode 16 – Scam School with Brian Brushwood

Brian Brushwood is the ultimate drinking buddy. A king of bar magic, propositional wagers and short cons. Since 2008, Brian has been sharing the tricks of social engineering, bar bets and close up magic in his uber-popular series Scam School. Every high school I visit, I have at least one budding magician ask me: “Hey, you know Brian Brushwood from Scam School?”

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Episode 15 – Out Of Your Mind with Art Maines

On Scamapalooza I spend a lot of time talking about how people get scammed but very little time asking why? What is it that makes some people click reply on a dodgy email while others send it straight to the trash? Are some people more gullible than others? Or do con artists have a unique skill of taking advantage of our own psychological weaknesses?

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Episode 14 – Snipe Hunts with Laura Davis

The snipe hunt, the art of sending a sucker to find something that doesn’t exist, is a grand and noble tradition. Jerks the world over from trades to the armed forces have sent apprentices and greenhorns searching for everything from striped paint to left handed screwdrivers.

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Episode 13 – The Man Who Lost Himself with Robyn Annear

The Tichborne Claimant was either a 19th century lord, long thought missing at sea or a butcher from Wagga spinning an elaborate lie to get his hands on the Tichborne fortune.

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Episode 12 – The Magic Castle with Magician Rob Zabrecky

Rob Zabrecky was once the leader singer of indie rock band Possum Dixon. Now he’s a magician on the board of trustees of The Magic Castle in Hollywood California.

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Episode 11 – Just A Little Prick with Mark Crislip MD

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield fooled the world into believing that the MMR Vaccine causes autism. Almost two decades later and his scam is still endangering lives around the world while simultaneously igniting arguments across facebook with that one girl from who posts way to many articles about home birth.

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Episode 10 – Now You Seem Mean with Nick Mason

Nicholas has a love/hate relationship with the 2013 magician heist movie film Now You See Me. On the one hand, it is a con artist heist movie about magicians using close up magic, hypnosis and pickpocketing to robs One the other hand…

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Episode 9 – An Angry Word About Puzzles with Magician David Kwong

David Kwong not only designs puzzles for the New York Times crossword, he also designs heists and illusions for movies like Now You See Me. In this episode, David explains the art of the puzzle and Nicholas tries to stump him with a cryptic clue of his own.

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Episode 8 – A Fool and A Thief with Simon Pampena

Melbourne Stand up mathematician Simon Pampena specialises in explaining complex math to simple minds. In this episode, Nicholas tries to wrap his simple mind around the Monty Hall dilemma, arbitrage and the gambler’s fallacy.

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Episode 7 – Nightmare Alley with Simon Caterson

Melbourne Author Simon Caterson shares Nicholas’ love of film noir. In this episode Simon explores the great con artist film noir, Nightmare Alley and Nicholas drools over fifties silver screen heartthrob Tyrone Powers.

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Episode 6 – Kids Today with James Munton

Identity theft speaker James Munton has the unenviable task of teach high school students how to stay safe online. In this episode James explains exactly how he does it and Nicholas ambushes his guest with surprise meth addicts.

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Episode 5 – Certifiable Genius with Pop Haydn

Magician Pop Haydn is a time traveller, confidence man and snake oil huckster. In this episode Nicholas meets his idol, gets schooled in the shell game and almost loses his shirt.

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Episode 4 – Pseu-Pseu-Pseudonym with Peter C. Hayward

Erotica author Peter C Hayward writes under four different non de plumes. In this episode Peter explains why he uses fake names and Nicholas is forced to apologise for being Nicholas.

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Episode 3 – Belly Talkers (with Sarah Jones)

Ventriloquist Sarah Jones knows how to speak without moving her lips. She also knows how to speak about the dark history of throwing your voice. In this episode Sarah reveals all about belly talking, creepy dummies and necromancy while Nicholas mocks her life’s work.

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Episode 2 – Every Child Wins A Prize (with Glenn Hester)

Police officer Glenn Hester spent 28 years shutting down crooked carnival games. In this episode Glenn teaches Nicholas how to cheat at pretty much every game on the midway.

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Episode 1 – Lose Yourself (with Lawrence Leung)

In his television series Unbelievable comedian Lawrence Leung set himself the goal of attempting to con a skeptic into believing that they had developed genuine psychic powers. In the first episode of Scamapalooza, Lawrence explains exactly how he did it and Nicholas’ bathroom reading practices are called into question.

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