Howard Hughes Meets Clifford Irving

A lot of people know a little something about Howard Hughes. Whether he’s a famous aviator, a famous movie producer, or a famous batshit crazy person, he occupies a certain space in the American consciousness.

Hughes as he appeared in the 1940s.

Hughes as he appeared in the 1940s.

From the 1920s to the mid-1950s, he was incredibly famous, and considered a brilliant man, light-years ahead of his time – the Steve Jobs of the early 20th century, if Steve Jobs had also driven race cars in his spare time. He was the archetype of the American businessman-hero.

Of course, his life was complicated – and eventually destroyed – by obsessive-compulsive disorder, an affliction that was pretty much unknown and untreatable until after his death.

He retreated from public life after a series of setbacks – the controversy over his infamous Spruce Goose, a horrific, fiery airplane crash that almost killed him. The last authenticated photo of him was taken in 1954.

The aftermath of Hughes' 1946 plane crash in Beverly Hills, California.

The aftermath of Hughes’ 1946 plane crash in Beverly Hills, California.

By 1970, Hughes hadn’t been heard from in over a decade. Surrounded by “associates” who assured the American public that he was alive and well, everything about his life was subject to rumor and conjecture. The common wisdom had him barricaded in a room, emaciated and unshaven — a prisoner of his illness.

This horrifying image is based on witness/doctor's accounts.

This horrifying image is based on witness/doctor’s accounts.

A man named Clifford Irving decided to exploit Hughes’ silence by committing what he thought would be the perfect crime: a fake autobiography of the reclusive icon.

“I was on a train of lies. I couldn’t jump off.” — Clifford Irving

 

Clifford Irving jumping of the train of lies.

Clifford Irving jumping off the train of lies.

What happens next is what we’re talking about this week. From homemade motorcycles to the Mormon Mafia, from Swiss bank accounts to Mexican pyramids – we’ll cover it all.

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