Weird History

The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History  

Switchdoctor
315 votes 144 voters 8.2k views 15 items

List Rules The most compelling & mysterious political decoy cases in history.

A political decoy is a person employed to impersonate a politician, to draw attention away from the real person or to take risks on their behalf. The political decoy is an individual who has been selected because of their strong physical resemblance to the person they are impersonating. This resemblance can be strengthened by plastic surgery. Often, such decoys are trained to speak and behave like their "target".

Some of the stories surrounding the use of doppelgangers for high profile political figures are so fantastical that they seem like they could come out of a comic book. Because some of these figures are known to have used decoys, conspiracy theories continue to swirl around them. While some of these instances rely primarily on anecdotal evidence and the credibility of witnesses, key moments of the historical narrative would be open to huge possibilities if certain voices had the chance to utter the words, "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

What cases of political decoy use are the most compelling or mysterious?

back to page 1
George W. Bush is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History
Photo: via Wikimedia Commons
According to Joe R. Reeder, the under-secretary for the United States Army, he confirmed that George W. Bush has used a decoy.

Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Party (if partisan): Republican Party

Agree or disagree?
see more on George W. Bush
Heinrich Himmler is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/Public domain

Hugh Thomas claims that the man who committed suicide after his capture in Lüneburg in May 1945, was not in fact Heinrich Himmler.

This claim is based on a number of physical discrepancies, including the apparent lack of a dueling scar on the corpse. Himmler was known to have a 'Y'-shaped scar on his left cheek, left by an epee; the corpse had none. Thomas claims that the substitution was deliberate, in order to throw the Allies off Himmler's scent. It is known that British intelligence agents, including Kim Philby, did not believe the Lüneburg prisoner was Himmler. Thomas's book on this subject, SS-1: The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler, set out the alleged deception in great detail. This theory is not generally accepted by historians.

Birthplace: Munich, Germany

Nationality: German Empire, Germany

Agree or disagree?
see more on Heinrich Himmler
Fidel Castro is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History
Photo:  Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

Stories have long been circulated that the Cuban dictator used dopplegangers to counter foreign assassination plots. In '634 Ways to Kill Castro', the documentary film revealed many CIA attempts to kill Cuba's leader from exploding cigars, poisoned wetsuits, femme fatales, LSD radios, and poison fountain pens.

According to Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, a former member of Castro’s elite security team, he confirms the use of decoys in a tell-all book, 'The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Body Guard to El Lider Maximo'. However, his stories involving the use of decoys describe times when the Cuban leader was in recovery over an illness. In 1983, Sanchez realized Castro was ill when the leader wandered into the garage “with a stain on his rear end.” It turned out to be a cancerous ulcer in his intestine. While Castro was convalescing for months, a body double was used. In 1992, Sanchez again discovered Castro was ill when he saw him in the garage with blood staining his behind. Sanchez does not know, however, what the illness was. A body double was again used.

Birthplace: Birán, Cuba

Nationality: Cuba

Agree or disagree?
see more on Fidel Castro
Rudolf Hess is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/Public domain

In 1973, British military surgeon Hugh Thomas was called upon to examine Rudolf Hess at Spandau prison, Berlin. Thomas was acquainted with Hess's medical records, which included a set of notes on a major wound Hess sustained during World War One. This was left by a rifle bullet passing through his torso, breaking two ribs, collapsing a lung and producing unavoidable entry and exit wounds on the chest and back.

Thomas did not find any such scarring on the man's body and therefore came to the belief that the man was not Hess, since (in Thomas's words) "The torso cannot lie."

Thomas also records other differences: eye colour, hair texture, bone structure, dentition, and Hess's chin, which (as can be seen from the photographs featured in this entry) appeared to lose its symmetry after his flight to Britain.

In his 1979 book The Murder of Rudolf Hess, Thomas set out a theory in which Hess had originally been impersonated by another German acting under the orders of Goering. This double had then flown to Britain in Hess's place and ended up in prison. Much of Thomas's theory is, by his own admission, tenuous or unclear. However, his original observation about the lack of a scar remains tantalising. Critics of this theory suggest that Thomas simply missed the scar when he examined Hess [9].

In 1997, it was again alleged that Hess had been replaced with a double. This time, the claimants were a military historian and a former British intelligence officer. Their claim, apparently based on contemporary documents, was that Hess had been killed after landing in Britain and 'doubled' by British intelligence. [10]


Birthplace: Alexandria, North Africa, Egypt, Alexandria Governorate, Africa

Nationality: Germany

Agree or disagree?
see more on Rudolf Hess