He only ever wanted to give them what they were looking for.
There had been rumors in the art world for a very long time that the Dutch master
Johannes Vermeer had painted a series of biblical scenes, but no one knew where they were,
so Henry helped them find them.
The painting he sold them in 1937, called the Supper at a Mayus, was hardened and cracked
with age, but it was beautiful.
And it came with a sort of price tag you'd expect from a rare, lost masterpiece, something
close to $4.5 million today.
All of a sudden, Henry was a very rich man.
Over the next few years, he earned even more money, roughly 30 million today, all from
selling long lost Vermeer paintings he had found.
The truth was harder to believe.
Somehow, this man had painted all of them himself, imitating the style of Vermeer so
closely that the experts had been tricked.
Then he treated them with chemicals and heat to add what three centuries of aging should
Henry, Van Megorin's deception, came to light only after selling one of his paintings
to a well known Nazi leader.
For World War II ended, the art world assumed that he had sold a national treasure to
the enemy, and he was tried on conspiracy charges.
The only way to prove his innocence was to come clean and reveal his scam.
History is full of people getting fooled.
Honestly, I feel like daily life for us is often a lot like that.
Daging one tricky headline after another, or attempting to not step in yet one more steaming
pile of rumour on our way to work, life, it seems, is just one long exercise in avoiding
But at the intersection of folklore and real life, some events have taken place that
force us to ask a most uncomfortable question.
What happens when the one who fools us?
Also happens to be the person we trust the most.
I'm Aaron Manky, and this is lore.
In 1910, Francisco received a diagnosis that frightened him.
It was tuberculosis and his prognosis was grim.
So he visited a healer who lived and worked in his community there in Spain, hoping for
That healer referred him to another man, who told him of the perfect remedy.
But it was going to be a hard one to swallow.
You see, the healer's cure involved drinking the blood of a child, and then rubbing their
body fat on his chest, and while you'd think that no one would even consider a deed
like that as an option, Francisco was desperate.
The murder they would go on to commit in June of that year would become known as the
crime of Gador.
In fact, it became so widely known in Spain that people everywhere began referring to Francisco
or Tega as the Spanish sacman, a nod to a very old, very common branch of folklore.
You can find the stories all over the world, and all of them share some eerily similar
In Quebec, they whisper about the seven o clock man, who comes to steal children who
refuse to go to bed on time, stuffing them into a sack and taking them away.
In Haiti, he's called Uncle Gunny's sac, again he's a man with a sack whose steals misbehaving
And in the Bahamas, we have stories of Roland Cart, what does he put in his cart?
Still in children, of course.
In Europe, the sacman folklore is everywhere.
In Russia and Belarus, there's the Babika, and in Poland it's known by many names, including
the Babak, Babak, and Bobak.
There, the creature arrives with a full moon, a top of wagon pulled by cats, and, of course,
it has a sack for the children.
In Hungarian and Transylvania folklore, it's known as the Mumu, sort of a gaunt zombie
like creature that carries the Uguestet, a sack.
Oh, and who could forget the child stealing monster known as the Raysfassu Bagov, which
roughly translates as the copper penis owl, Allah let you make of that what you will.
And the list goes on and on, all of them perfect entries in the world of sacman folklore,
the Bory Baba of India, the Baba Roga of Croatia, the Amiona of Japan, all of them feature
a person who arrives to steal your child, and nearly all of them use the same tool.
But then, standing nearby, but looking slightly different, is a creature from folklore
that most of us have heard of.
It's common to the cultures of the British Isles, and is one of those folktales that
has found its way into real life actions and misfortune, mostly because of the prescriptive
nature of the stories.
You see, a changeling was believed to be a young fairy that had been swapped out for
a human baby.
At some point when the parent wasn't looking, ferries had arrived, taken their child,
and replaced them with a look alike.
But while the casual observer might never notice a difference, it was hard to fool the parents.
And naturally, they wanted their real children back, so there was a long list of things
one might try to frighten the changeling off and initiate the return of their own flesh
All you had to do was make the changeling uncomfortable.
Some believed you could set the changeling down on a pile of dung, while others thought
that placing it at the shoreline just before the tide came in would do the trick.
In some places, it was even believed that the changeling should be placed in a basket and
dangled over a burning fire.
The assumption was that the fairy child would leap out of the basket and fly up the chimney,
and then your own real child would return shortly after.
As you can imagine, that led to a lot of tragic endings.
On side note, it's clear from the physical descriptions of changeling babies throughout history
that those small differences were really the outward signs of congenital disorders, things
like down syndrome, hyperacalcemia, progeria, and others.
Life has always delivered unexpected challenges to parents over the centuries, the sum it
seems, folklore was the easier way to process it all.
Taking as a whole, though, the stories from around the globe illustrate a belief system
that was designed to explain the unexplainable, the wise, and hows were answered with
story, and then those stories spread.
What's clear throughout all of them, though, is that they shared one specific common,
primal fear, the fear of losing a child.
There's was a normal middle class family.
Husband Percy worked as an insurance salesman in real estate agent in the Louisiana
town of Apolusus.
He and his wife, Lessie, were busy with work, life, and raising their two boys, four year old
Robert, and his younger brother, Alonzo.
But like so many other families before them, and since, they needed a vacation.
So in late August of 1912, they gathered up their camping supplies and headed out to
Suazy Lake in St. Landry, Parish.
Although to think of it as a normal lake might be a stretch, picture it more as a swamp,
with some large patches of water all surrounded by thick woods.
It was August, and even that far into summer back then, it could still break 100 degrees
during the day, so I can imagine having the water nearby was lovely.
And it was some time after arriving and getting all set up, that Percy and Lessie took
their eyes off Robert, who had been walking around and exploring the camp area.
And that's when little Robert, who they just called Bobby, disappeared.
Now there's a lot about this case that quickly took on the look and feel of a folktale,
reports on some of the key moments very wildly.
Some say Bobby disappeared just before lunch, after a trip to the water for some fishing.
Others claim it happened as darkness was settling over the woods.
But while those differences might impact the scene we imagine, all stories agree that
the boy was just gone.
Naturally, they immediately started looking for him, shouting his name, beating the bushes
and scouring every inch of the forest and water they could see, but it quickly became clear
that he wasn't there, so the authorities recalled and a search effort was organized at once.
Hundreds of volunteers showed up, the Dunbar family was well loved, and everyone wanted
to help out, but when it became clear that the boy wasn't hiding behind a tree like
some kind of game, they began to assume the worst.
Maybe he had drowned, or even been eaten by one of the many local alligators, they even
went as far as to kill and cut open a number of them, just to check their stomach contents.
After that they tossed explosives in the water, hoping to dislodge any bodies that might
be trapped below, but even after all that, nothing.
Searchers did notice that there were railroad tracks near the campsite though, tracks that
had small bare footprints near them, and that sparked another theory.
What if little Bobby had wandered off in that direction, and what if a drifter had been
around, following the tracks and had taken him?
With nobody in the swamp and the mysterious footprints near the tracks, a different picture
was beginning to take shape.
Bobby Dunbar hadn't been killed in the wilderness, he had been stolen by a stranger, which
meant their search area had just become bigger than anyone else could have imagined.
Soon after returning home the family had postcards printed up with a photo and description
of the boy on it.
Four years old, dark blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and a burned scar on his big left toe.
It wasn't much, but this was 1912 and they didn't have a lot to work with back then.
Thankfully the family was able to mail the cards out to a massive area though, all the way
to Eastern Florida in fact, and they offered a sizable reward.
And when that done, all they could do was wait, and not give up hope.
But the trouble with hope is that I can often lead to the unexpected.
Eight months later, they found him.
Actually, it wasn't the family who tracked him down, but helpful strangers in Mississippi.
It seems that someone spotted the boy in the company of a man named William Walters,
and they put the pieces together.
Walters did fit that drifter description, and the press did a good job of painting him
as a bum, traveling the railroad and just getting by.
But what they glossed over was that he worked as a piano tuner, and that wasn't the sort
of job that allowed for setting up shop and having customers carry in their items.
No, by nature of the work, he had to spend most of his time out on the road.
Now William claimed the boy was his nephew, Bruce Anderson.
His brother and the boy's mother weren't married, but he said she had asked him to care
for Bruce for a while, which is why they were in Mississippi together.
And you can probably understand how this story was taken, seeing as how everyone assumed
that he was just a wandering beggar, right?
Bobby was taken away from Walters, and brought back to Appalusus, to be reunited with his
And again, here's where the story veers into fairy tale territory.
Some say his mother, Leslie Dunbar, was allowed to see him while he was asleep, and
that when he opened his eyes and asked, mother, she fainted instantly.
Other newspaper accounts claim that she saw the boy by the light of a dim lantern, and
was unsure if it really was her son at all.
At this point he'd been gone so long, it was probably easy to be unsettled, but her hope
and joy won out, and she brought him home to his father and brother, a brother he apparently
knew by name.
The town rejoiced with them, in fact a parade was held in Bobby's honor, and the day of
his return was declared a holiday for everyone.
It was a happy, joyous occasion, as any reunion like that should be.
But there were dark clouds on the horizon.
As while a lot of people smiled and welcomed him home, some of the Dunbar's close friends
whispered that Bobby wasn't the same.
He was different somehow, changed, and knowing what we know about the folklore of stolen
children, I can even see shadows of the changeling story in this experience.
It's easy for our minds to go in that direction, right?
And that's when Julia Anderson arrived.
She was the mother of the boy William Walters was supposed to have been caring for, and had
come as part of the trial for the strange man, who was up on charges of kidnapping.
Charges, mind you, that came with the death penalty at the time.
Remember, that's the narrative that almost everyone assumed was the truth.
William Walters had come across Bobby Dunbar by the campsite, taken him, and then kept the
boy with him under an assumed name as he worked his way through Mississippi.
Julia Anderson's boy Bruce, if he ever existed at all, was somewhere else, missing,
The trial lasted two long weeks.
Witnesses were called on both sides, and details about how well Bobby was settling back
into his home were used as evidence that he really was the missing Dunbar boy, but there
were problems with the trial.
For one, everyone involved, from the jury to the judge, came from the Dunbar's community,
you know, the same community that threw them a parade and held a citywide holiday in their
honor, and the people sharing those stories of his well adjusted return home were his
family and their close friends.
I guess my point is that there was a lot of bias going on, and William Walters didn't
really stand a chance.
The man was found guilty of the charges and sent straight to prison.
Thankfully his sentence was reduced from execution to life behind bars, because in a
appeal two years later found his charges reversed, and he was allowed to go home.
Two families, two missing children, and a firestorm of opinion and controversy.
It's no wonder that people still talk about Bobby Dunbar today.
No one likes to imagine having one of their children taken away, but if it happened,
everyone would wish for a happy ending.
While both families clearly suffered the tragedy of a lost son, only one of them seemed
to have their prayers answered.
Bobby Dunbar was alive and well, and he was finally home.
As a parent, I need to say this up front, the fear of losing a child, of having them
taken away by some nefarious individual and removed from our care is a fully understandable,
totally natural thing to feel.
I hope that our journey through this specific branch of folklore, along with tragic real life
events, made that clear.
Our fear is normal, but it can also be preyed upon.
Back in the 1980s, a decade I remember better than a lot of you, I'm guessing.
The concept of Stranger Danger really clawed its way into the forefront of current events.
The kidnapping and murder of young Adam Walsh, for example, not only gave us America's
most wanted, hosted by his father, but also helped fuel movements like putting photos
of missing kids on milk cartons and public service announcements from McGrath the Crime
But the fear was also misrepresented by the press.
Child abduction advocates claimed that upwards of 50,000 children were taken by strangers
each and every year, a staggering number that would make any parent nervous.
But that figure included runaways, and a 1984 FBI report listed the number of actual
child kidnappings that year at just 67.
Yes, it was 67 more than anybody would want, but a far cry from 50,000.
For the Dunbar and Anderson families in 1912 though, the odds were not in their favor.
Both families lost a child, and only one welcomed theirs back, and for decades after
words their family and descendants began to ponder what a lot of others had already been
Had the boy known as Bobby Dunbar, really gone to the right home.
And this is where it gets wild, because about 20 years ago, a few key people began to crack
First, Margaret Dunbar cut right, the child's granddaughter, started investigating the events.
It was a journey that led her to the home of William Walsh's defense attorney and a conversation
with that man's granddaughter, plus over 900 pages of documents about the case.
Then Margaret teamed up with a woman named Linda Travers, granddaughter of Julia Anderson,
and they realized that thanks to a century of medical advancement, they had all the tools
necessary to settle the matter for good.
So after taking a DNA sample from Margaret's father, Bobby Jr., and one from the Son of
Alonzo Dunbar, Bobby's biological brother, they compared the results.
The boy who had been pulled from William Walsh's custody and then handed over to Percy
and Lessie Dunbar was not in fact a Dunbar.
He was the son of someone else, most likely Julia Anderson.
Julia, by the way, went on to have seven more kids, and for decades that family told
stories of the brother who was taken from them.
At the same time, the Dunbar's told their own tales of how Bobby had once disappeared,
only to return again almost like a miracle.
Two families, with two similar tales, both stories of love and the difficulty of letting
people go, both stories of stranger danger, abduction, and loss, and none, it turns out.
Who actually got what they wanted.
The story of Bobby Dunbar might sound like a modern day changeling tale, a panicked mother
and a child that didn't quite look like the ones she'd lost, along with a community who
surrounded her with everything she needed to convince herself it would be okay.
It's tragic and bitter sweet and deeply connected to folklore.
But it's not the only one.
I have one more story to share with you about the power of belief and personal identity, and
if you stick around through this brief sponsor break, I'll tell you all about it.
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Build something beautiful.
When they pulled her body from the canal in Berlin, the authorities feared the worst.
Witnesses had seen her jump from the bridge above, and everyone assumed she had taken
her own life.
But it turns out, she was still alive.
She wasn't however in a talkative mood.
In fact, her demeanor was so distant and unresponsive that they were left with no choice
but to take her to the nearby Dal Dorf asylum.
That was 1920, and the young woman with no voice and no name, let alone any papers or items
that could help identify her would spend the next two years there, waiting, hoping.
At some point during those two years, one of the other patients staying at the hospital
there saw something familiar in the mysterious young woman's face.
After she was discharged, this woman started telling others about the woman she met
in the Dal Dorf asylum, and some of those people included former residents of another
One person who caught wind of the woman's description and plight was a former guard
for the Russian royal family.
When he showed a photograph of those royals to the mysterious young woman, she reportedly
became angry and red in the face.
Soon after through much trial and error, those who were caring for her determined that
not only was she connected to the Romano family, but that she was very likely the youngest
daughter of the Dead Zar and Estasia.
The Romanoves, if you remember, were the family that had ruled over Russia for three centuries,
but in the lead up to World War I, tensions in the country began to ramp up into outright
revolution, and in 1917, the Zar was forced to abdicate.
Then on July 16 of 1918, the entire family, along with a number of their servants, all found
themselves gathered in the basement of the house they were being held in.
The guys of having their photograph taken, gunmen opened fire, killing all of them in cold
But the trouble was, two bodies were not found with the rest, crown prince Alexi and his
There were tests, of course.
This woman's handwriting was compared to known examples of Anastasia's script, and they
seemed to match, and an old childhood friend, a son of one of the servants of the Romano
family who had died with them, visited her and instantly recognized her.
In fact, he was so convinced that Anastasia had returned that he helped fund a legal battle
with the German court system to regain her portion of the Romanoff fortune.
Then as a side note, that case would stay open for 32 years, and to this day, it's
the longest running court case in German history.
After her identity came out, and she was freed from the hospital.
The young woman spent a few years living in a number of different luxurious homes, manners,
and castles throughout Europe.
She was royalty, after all, and a bunch of different fellow royals wanted to make sure she
was given the lifestyle she deserved.
I imagine she enjoyed it, honestly, who wouldn't?
In 1928, though, she traveled to New York City where she used an unusual name to check
into a hotel.
She said that it was to avoid the attention, and that her real name, at least the name
she had chosen for herself, was still Anastasia.
But therefore, that moment, she was yet another Anderson for us to bump into.
As so often happens, she met a man, fell in love, and settled into life as the person
everyone assumed she was.
Anastasia, long lost daughter of Zarniculus II, miraculously returned from the dead.
Except for one problem, it seems that Anastasia's uncle, the grand Duke of Hess, was still
alive, and he wasn't buying any of it for a minute.
He went as far as to hire a private investigator to uncover the truth, and what he discovered
Well, depending on how gullible her associates really were.
Anastasia was, in fact, Francesca Shenkowska, a Polish woman who had disappeared around
the same time this young woman was pulled from the waters of the canal in Berlin back
Her former co workers remembered her as having a history of mental illness, and her own
family, a family who I assume missed her all those years, quickly confirmed that, yes,
she was one of them.
The woman who called herself Anastasia lived a long and eventful life, passing away
in February of 1984 at the age of 87.
All the way to the end, though, she fought to prove her identity as the lost Russian princess.
But after her death, a DNA test of some tissue removed from her intestines in 1979, settled
the matter for good.
She was not, and never had been, a Roman of.
But the story has been told for so long, because we love a good mystery, and we love
when lost children are reunited with their former lives.
We watched that play out with the Bobby Dunbar events, and it's been the hope of countless
other families over the years.
Who we are, and who the world around us wants us to be, are challenging stories to wrestle
But it's clear that for those who desperately want to believe, the evidence will always
be clear and obvious, and just might not always be the truth.
This episode of lore was written and produced by me, Aaron Manky, the research by
Generos Nethercots and Music by Chad Lawson.
lore is much more than just a podcast.
There's a book series available in bookstores and online, and two seasons of the television
show on Amazon Prime Video.
Check them both out if you want more lore in your life.
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My production company, Grim and Mild, specializes in shows that sit at the intersection
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Music will learn more about all of those shows and everything else going on over in one
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