In 1821, Gregor MacGregor invented a fictional Central American republic called "Poyais", convinced hundreds of people in his home country of Scotland to invest in the nonexistent country, and even oversaw the deployment of a ship of 250 people hoping to start a new life in Poyais. They expected to find a thriving city, complete with a cathedral, theater and opera house, surrounded by fertile farmland.
When their ship arrived, they found nothing but undeveloped, inhospitable jungle. They attempted to start a settlement there regardless, but over half of them died, in part due to diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
Gregor MacGregor not only did invent a fake country but invented a fake currency and had people exchange all their money for it, invented fake banks and issued fake land grants and bonds to investors. Not only did MacGregor raise £200,000 directly, the bond market value over his life ran to £1.3 million, or about £3.6 billion today.Previous Fact Next Fact