The Fake King
August 13, 1913 - This is the day on which a German acrobat named Otto Witte was crowned King of Albania...or so he claimed.
Albania had just broken away from the Ottoman Empire and the newly independent country was looking for a leader with princely pedigree. One name that was being floated was Halim Eddine, a nephew of the Turkish Sultan.
Meanwhile, Otto Witte happened to be traveling through the Balkans with a circus group. One of his buddies commented that Witte was a dead ringer for Halim Eddine, and thus an inspired scheme was launched.
A telegram was quickly dispatched with some exciting news:
Prince Halim Eddine arriving Albania, will assume command all troops stationed there.
Along with his friend the sword swallower, Witte presented himself to the nearest outpost of Albanian troops where he was quickly hailed as their leader. One of his first acts was to declare war on Montenegro.
For 5 days the ruse worked like a charm. Witte indulged in a harem, he offered amnesty to Albanian prisoners and he handed out generous gifts to the locals. But then news starting leaking in that maybe this guy wasn't who he claimed to be.
Sensing the gig was up, Witte and his circus buddies slipped out of town in the dark of night.
For the rest of his life, Witte would proudly share this tale - along with other far-fetched adventures. He died at age 87 in a German old folks home and received a king's burial. His tombstone proudly reads, "Ex-King of Albania."