The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History

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?

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  • Heinrich Himmler
    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
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    60 VOTES
    Adolf Hitler
    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S33882 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE
    Adolf Hitler is known to have employed at least one double and it has been alleged that he employed as many as six. One of these men, Gustav Weler, was later knowingly executed by guards as part of a disinformation strategy and his corpse was found by Allied forces who initially believed it to be Hitler. However, the British surgeon and historical writer W. Hugh Thomas reported in his 1996 book “Doppelgangers” that Gustav Weler was found alive after the war and that Allied troops interviewed Weler following Hitler’s death.
    • Birthplace: Braunau am Inn, Austria
    • Nationality: Germany,Austria
  • Saddam Hussein
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    In 2003, German television network ZDF broadcast claimed that Iraq's former president Saddam Hussein was frequently replaced with doubles for TV appearances. This analysis was based on sophisticated measuring techniques, which detected discrepancies in the position of Hussein's facial features and blemishes from appearance to appearance. It was supported by the opinion of Jerrald Post, the man who created the CIA's Psychological Profile Unit.[22] It was also alleged that Austrian politician Jörg Haider had actually met a double when he thought he was meeting Hussein.[23]

    This claim is however disputed. Dr Ala Bashir, Saddam Hussein's former personal physician stated "The stories about Saddam Hussein having body doubles, to foster the impression that the Iraqi dictator was everywhere, are nonsense."[24]

    • Birthplace: Al-Awja, Iraq
    • Nationality: Iraq
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    Pope Paul VI

    Pope Paul VI
    Photo: uploaded by Switchdoctor

    It has long been claimed that Pope Paul VI was impersonated during the last years of his pontificate. Contemporary commentators pointed to what appeared to be height discrepancies during balcony appearances at St Peter's Square.

    It has also been noted that after 1975, Pope Paul's facial appearance changed markedly. One photo comparison appears to show a disappearing birthmark on the Pope's left cheek [27]. Another photographic comparison shows that the Pope's alleged 'double' apparently had a narrower cranium, a fatter face, a shorter nose, larger eyes, slightly more hair and a wider jaw [28], although these photographs were taken years apart and the changes may be byproducts of the aging process. More difficult to dismiss are apparent differences in the shape of the Pope's ear and nose, also visible [29][30].

    A voiceprint analysis of Paul reciting the Orbi et Urbi blessing on two different occasions has also been cited as evidence indicating impersonation [31].

    Theories about why the Pope might have been impersonated range from the dramatic (imprisonment of real Pope by evil Cardinals) to the mundane (a chronic health condition preventing public appearances). Many religious fanatics have put forward claims which involve such esoteric theological concepts as the antiChrist, the Third Secret of Fatima, etc [32].