Weird History
46.5k readers

First Lady Nicknamed 'The Iron Butterfly' Is The Coolest Alleged Thief You've Never Heard Of

Updated July 26, 2018 46.5k views12 items

Imelda Marcos was once a simple girl with dreams of becoming a singer. Using her undeniable good looks and charm, she became a beauty queen and snagged a rising politician, Ferdinand Marcos, who later became the 10th president of the Philippine Islands. Her husband ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, making Imelda its First Lady for 20 years.

During that time, she lived a lavish lifestyle while many Filipinos remained in poverty. She accumulated a massive amount of personal wealth. Additionally, she owned thousands of pairs of designer shoes; hoarded artwork and jewelry; and collected European aristocrats and Hollywood actors as friends, all while allegedly transferring millions of dollars into offshore accounts under the alias “Jane Ryan.”

The Filipino people finally ousted Marcos in 1986, which led to the couple's exile in Honolulu, HI. Ferdinand died soon after, leaving Imelda to deal with the backlash. Despite having to go on trial for offenses committed under her husband’s regime, Imelda and her family still have numerous supporters holding them in high esteem.

She continues to charm her way back into the national spotlight of the Philippines through her children’s political endeavors. To this day, she remains known as the "Iron Butterfly."

  • Photo: JAY DIRECTO/Stringer / AFP

    When She Fled To Hawaii, She Left Behind Thousands Of Pairs Of Shoes

    During her husband’s rule, Marcos received shoe samples from top designers. Whichever patterns and styles she liked, she got a custom-made pair with a matching handbag.

    When the Marcos family fled the Philippines, protestors discovered more than a thousand pairs of shoes - the exact figure is unknown, but the rumored total was between 1,060 and 3,000 pairs - as well as other luxury items left behind. To many, this exemplified the level of excess the Marcos family enjoyed while many citizens suffered.

    Marcos supposedly said, "They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God all they found were shoes - beautiful shoes."

  • Photo: Reagan Presidential Library / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Allegedly Had A Swiss Bank Account Under The Name 'Jane Ryan'

    In 1968, Marcos reportedly selected the pseudonym "Jane Ryan" to open a secret Swiss bank account, while her husband allegedly posed as "William Saunders." The account supposedly became a repository for funds funneled away from the Philippines. Ferdinand's presidential salary amounted to $5,600; his offshore account, however, held a $950,000 balance.

    It seemed like more than enough to satisfy Marcos's reportedly insatiable appetite for glamour. By the time the Marcos family fled the Philippines in 1986, they allegedly followed protocols to transfer stolen funds into obscurely named foundations, ensuring their safety.

  • Photo: Government of Philippines / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She And Her Husband Reportedly Used Secret Codes With Their Swiss Banker

    Supposedly, every time Marcos and her husband sent the message “Happy Birthday” to their banker in Zurich, Switzerland, Marcus Geel, it disguised their true intentions. The phrase was allegedly a code to let Geel know the two wanted money withdrawn from one of their many “foundations.”

    Geel would reportedly notify a secondary contact in Hong Kong, who would then travel to Manila to appease the couple. The estimate of their combined holdings was anywhere between one and five billion dollars.

  • Photo: JAY DIRECTO/Stringer / AFP

    A Lone Assassin Tried To Kill Her And Failed

    With the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, many people were on edge. During a televised ceremony on December 7, 1972, a man named Carlito Dimahilig took out a bolo knife from under his sleeve. He attacked the First Lady.

    Marcos avoided stabs to the chest, coming away with wounds only on her arms and hands. In an interview, she revealed her initial thoughts about the encounter:

    If there’s somebody who’s going to kill me, why do they have to [use] a bolo that is so ugly? I wish they put some kind of yellow ribbon or some kind of a nice thing. Why such an ugly instrument?