Political decoy
A political decoy is a person employed to impersonate a politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, in order to draw attention away from the real person or to take risks on their behalf. This can also apply to military figures, or civilians impersonated for political/espionage purposes.

The political decoy is an individual who has been selected because of their strong physical resemblance
A look-alike is a person who closely resembles another person. In popular Western culture, a look-alike is a person who bears a close physical resemblance to a celebrity, politician or member of royalty. Many look-alikes earn a living by making guest appearances at public events or performing on...

 to the person they are impersonating. This resemblance can be strengthened by plastic surgery
Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the correction or restoration of form and function. Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic: plastic surgery includes many types of reconstructive surgery, hand...

. Often, such decoys are trained to speak and behave like their 'target'.

Decoying: theory and practice

The practice of decoying is essentially little different from the profession of celebrity lookalike, in which people mimic famous entertainers whom they resemble. The only difference is that the 'lookalike' presents an acknowledged artifice. The decoy must conceal his or her imposture from the 'audience'.

In 2001, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 hosted the first-ever doppelganger convention, to which lookalikes from across the country turned up, offering the unlikely spectacle of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 hobnobbing with Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
Dame Elizabeth Rosemond "Liz" Taylor, DBE was a British-American actress. From her early years as a child star with MGM, she became one of the great screen actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age...

. Nearly all the doppelgangers at the event had complemented their resemblance to a famous person by costume.

The famous incident in which Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 (at the height of his fame) failed to get through to the final selection in a 'Charlie Chaplin Look-alike' contest suggests that preconceptions by observers can be just as important as any physical resemblance when it comes to impersonation.

Some 'lookalikes' actually stop mimicking their targets and start pretending to be them. Comedian Robin Williams
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams is an American actor and comedian. Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy, and later stand-up comedy work, Williams has performed in many feature films since 1980. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance...

 is one such victim, whose identity was allegedly 'stolen' by professional look-alike Michael Clayton, for financial reasons.

Political decoys in history

Since deception is the whole purpose of employing a political decoy, there are many instances of alleged decoying which remain uncertain.

Joe R. Reeder, an undersecretary for the U.S. Army from 1993 to 1997, has gone on record with claims that a number of figures around the world have or have had decoys, including Manuel Noriega
Manuel Noriega
Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno is a Panamanian politician and soldier. He was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.The 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States removed him from power; he was captured, detained as a prisoner of war, and flown to the United States. Noriega was tried on...

, Raoul Cédras
Raoul Cédras
Raoul Cédras is a former military officer, and was de facto ruler of Haiti from 1991 to 1994.-Background:Cédras was educated in the United States and was a member of the US-trained Leopard Corps...

, Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...

, Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

, George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...


Of Noriega's alleged four decoys, Reeder said: "They were good. They practiced his gait, his manner of speech and his modus operandi – what he did during the day and night."

Information on these instances of decoying is hard to come by. And falsely accusing an enemy of using a decoy can be an effective psyop tactic (making an enemy seem like a coward who dare not appear in person, for example).

This means that the confusion generated by the existence of real decoys is deepened by counterclaims of decoys where there may be none.

The case of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 is instructive. In the absence of confirmed sightings of the terrorist figurehead, many sources openly speculated that videotaped messages from bin Laden were in fact recordings of a double - either as part of a 'frame-up' operation, or as part of a strategy of deception on bin Laden's part.

Speculation in such situations is naturally liable to run high. For the purposes of this entry, only well-documented allegations or confirmed cases of political decoying are discussed. Instances which are still under debate will have section headings in quotes.

Bernard Montgomery/Clifton James and "Tex" Banwell (1944)

Perhaps the most famous political decoy, soldier M.E. Clifton James successfully impersonated General Bernard Montgomery ("Monty") for intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 purposes during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


In 1940, James acted in an Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 production called When Knights Were Bold and his photograph appeared in an Army newspaper with a remark about how much he resembled General Montgomery.

As a result, he was approached by actor David Niven
David Niven
James David Graham Niven , known as David Niven, was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther...

 in May 1944. Niven, then a Colonel in the Army Kinematograph Section, told James he was wanted to impersonate "Monty", as this would allow Montgomery to be somewhere else, thus confusing the Germans.

James had to learn Montgomery's gestures, mannerisms, gait and voice and had to give up smoking.

Because James had lost his right-hand middle finger in the First World War, a realistic replacement was made.

Even his wife had to be deceived and was both kept in the dark and sent back to Leicester. Once he was trained, his trip as "Monty" was to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and from there to Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

. "Monty's" presence succeeded in confusing the Germans in regard to the invasion plans.

James was later the subject of a biopic called I Was Monty's Double
I Was Monty's Double
I Was Monty's Double is a book by M. E. Clifton James, first published in London in 1954. It was made into a film in 1958, directed by John Guillermin, from a screenplay adapted by Bryan Forbes...

starring James himself in (of course) the double role as Monty and himself.

The second (and less famous) 'Monty's Double', Keith Demer Banwell was serving with the land-based Long Range Desert Group
Long Range Desert Group
The Long Range Desert Group was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".Originally called...


Banwell was captured in a raid on Tobruk, but with a friend managed to steal a German vehicle and escape. During a subsequent raid on Crete he was taken prisoner at Heraklion and put under the personal supervision of former world heavyweight boxing champion Max Schmeling
Max Schmeling
Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in the late 1930s transcended boxing, and became worldwide social events because of their national associations...

, who was serving in the German Army.

Banwell and a few of his comrades managed to slip away from their captors and then acquired an assault landing craft. With the help of some Cretan fishermen they made their getaway, but the craft ran out of fuel and drifted for nine days before reaching the North African coast. The privations of this voyage put Banwell in hospital for 12 weeks.

When he had recovered, someone noticed that he bore a resemblance to General Montgomery. It was decided that he participate in deception ploys, and so Banwell was sent to Cairo to meet Montgomery, given the appropriate clothing, insignia and General's badges and sent on trips around the Middle East to confuse enemy spies.

However, as he was considerably taller than Montgomery, he was told that on no account should he get out of the car. Banwell, finding the assignment boring, sought a return to the infantry.

Adolf Hitler/unknown (?–1945)

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 is known to have employed at least one double and it has been alleged that he employed as many as six. One of these unfortunate men, Gustav Weler
Gustav Weler
Gustav Weler was a political decoy of Adolf Hitler. At the end of the Second World War, he was executed by a gunshot to the forehead in an attempt to confuse the Allied troops when Berlin was taken. He was also used "as a decoy for security reasons"...

, 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.

Heinrich Himmler/unknown (?–1945)

Hugh Thomas claims that the man who committed suicide after his capture in Lüneburg
Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs...

 in May 1945, was not in fact Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...


This claim is based on a number of physical discrepancies, including the apparent lack of a dueling scar
Dueling scars
Duelling scars have been seen as a “badge of honour” since as early as 1825. Known variously as "Mensur scars", "the bragging scar", "smite", "Schmitte" or "renommierschmiss", duelling scars were popular amongst upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th...

  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
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

, did not believe the Lüneburg prisoner was Himmler. Thomas's book on this subject SS1- The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler - sets out the alleged deception in great detail.

This theory is not generally accepted by historians.

Joseph Stalin/"Rashid"/Felix Dadaev (1940s–50s)

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 is alleged to have had a double, identified only as "Rashid". Officials at the KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 allegedly learned that Rashid was a 'double' for Stalin and employed him to replace Stalin for some public functions after World War II. Rashid spent two years studying with Alexei Dikiy, an actor who played the role of Stalin in propaganda films. Rashid claimed there were other Stalin lookalikes employed by the KGB, although he never met any. He claimed to have heard of another Stalin double who was hired to live in the dictator's dacha outside of Moscow in the late 1940s and 1950s when Stalin was dying. This double filled in for Stalin for media events and at times when Stalin had to meet government functionaries and others. Rashid died in 1991, aged 93.

Recently another one of Stalin's doubles came forward, having written a book about his adventures as a political decoy. At age 88, Felix Dadaev has been given permission from the Putin government to tell his story.

Sukarno/unknown (1950s)

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) had planned to bring down Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

's first president Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

 by portraying him in a pornographic film in the late 1950s.

The agency put together a pornographic film starring a Sukarno look-alike in bed with a blonde playing a Soviet agent. The humiliation caused by circulating the film was supposed to drive Sukarno from office but the plan was unsuccessful.

Lee Harvey Oswald/unknown (1950s–1963)

Impersonation of Oswald has featured in various John F. Kennedy conspiracy theories for decades, based on Oswald's apparent use of aliases and conflicting eyewitness accounts of Oswald's behaviour. The first such claim was made in Professor Richard Popkins' The Second Oswald, published in 1964.

Some conspiracy theorists cite an alleged Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 (FBI) memo dated June 3, 1960, from J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

, stating that "there is a possibility that an imposter is using Oswald's birth certificate."

In 2004, conspiracy theorist John Armstrong published a book entitled Harvey and Lee, which claimed to have identified a Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald was, according to four government investigations,These were investigations by: the Federal Bureau of Investigation , the Warren Commission , the House Select Committee on Assassinations , and the Dallas Police Department. the sniper who assassinated John F...

 double who had impersonated Oswald as part of an intelligence operation. Armstrong bases his claims on photographs which appear to show discrepancies in Oswald's physique and facial features. Armstrong cites contradictory eyewitness testimony
Eyewitness testimony
Research in eyewitness testimony is mostly considered a subfield within legal psychology, however it is a field with very broad implications. Human reports are normally based on visual perception, which is generally held to be very reliable...

 from the Warren Report, placing Oswald in two different locations at the same time.

Armstrong has given lectures on his theory for years; however his Harvey and Lee theory lacks acceptance even among other conspiracy theorists.

Henry Kissinger/unknown (1971)

A former aide to Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

 has gone on the record with claims that Henry Kissinger was impersonated at least once during his secret visit to China in 1971. Since no-one was allowed to examine 'Kissinger' at close quarters, the resemblance of the impersonator to his 'target' must remain under some doubt.

Uday Hussein/Latif Yahia (1970s–1991)

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

's son Uday Hussein
Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti , was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and...

, from an early age, is known to have used a body double—Latif Yahia
Latif Yahia
Dr. Latif Yahia al-Salihi is an Iraqi born author, blogger, Ph.D in International Law, and former military officer in the Iran-Iraq War. Latif was forcibly recruited to be the body double of Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday Hussein....


As a child, from about age 12, Yahia attended the same school as Uday. It is alleged that, around the same time, he was forcibly recruited and "groomed" as Uday's double. It is also claimed that, as Yahia grew older, he underwent extensive plastic surgery to enhance his resemblance to Uday. After surviving eleven assassination attempts targeted at Uday, Yahia successfully fled Iraq in December 1991. He wrote a book detailing his life and the life he lived as Uday's body double, I Was Saddam's Son. Yahia's story never received much media attention until after the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...


Boris Yeltsin/unknown (1996–2000)

In 1998, Duma
A Duma is any of various representative assemblies in modern Russia and Russian history. The State Duma in the Russian Empire and Russian Federation corresponds to the lower house of the parliament. Simply it is a form of Russian governmental institution, that was formed during the reign of the...

 deputy Aleksandr Salii asked the office of the Russian Prosecutor-General to investigate claims that a double had been impersonating Yeltsin for official purposes since the real Yeltsin's heart surgery in November 1996. Salii told journalists that he and colleagues had examined some 1,500 photographs and gathered evidence showing that a "New Yeltsin" had appeared after 1996, with the supposed decoy frequently displaying his injured hand, whereas the real Yeltsin had always tried to conceal that hand. Yeltsin had frequently disappeared from public view in preceding years, sometimes in circumstances that aroused widespread suspicion. In July 1995, Yeltsin disappeared from public view for weeks following a heart operation. A photograph of Yeltsin was released to dispel rumours about his health, which actually inflamed the situation when it emerged that it appeared to be a staged photograph based on a photograph taken some months earlier.

Saddam Hussein/several unknowns (1990s–2003)

In 2003, German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 television network ZDF broadcast claimed that Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

's former president Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 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. It was also alleged that Austrian politician Jörg Haider
Jörg Haider
Jörg Haider was an Austrian politician. He was Governor of Carinthia on two occasions, the long-time leader of the Austrian Freedom Party and later Chairman of the Alliance for the Future of Austria , a breakaway party from the FPÖ.Haider was controversial within Austria and abroad for comments...

 had actually met a double when he thought he was meeting Hussein.

Voice-only decoys

These are generally exceptionally good impersonators, who are used to give the impression that their 'target' is conducting a radio interview, telephone call or other vocal assignment.

Winston Churchill/Norman Shelley (1940s)

A recurring rumour holds that some of Winston Churchill's most famous speeches to Parliament during World War II were subsequently recorded for radio broadcast not by Churchill, but by Norman Shelley
Norman Shelley
Norman Shelley was an English actor, best known for his work in radio, in particular for the BBC's Children's Hour. He also had a recurring role as Colonel Danby in the long-running radio soap opera The Archers....

 impersonating Churchill. Churchill is known to have commented that Shelley's impersonations were excellent. Although the rumour has been promoted by some historians, there is a lack of supporting evidence and it is best classified as an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

. Shelley did however record a performance of Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, but that was several years after the speech was originally made.

Harry S. Truman/unknown (1947)

Edwin Wright served the U.S. federal government under President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 as General staff G-2 and Middle East specialist, Washington (1945–46); on the Bureau of Near East-South Asian-African Affairs, Department of State (1946 onwards); country specialist (1946–47); advisor U.N. affairs (1947–50); and advisor on intelligence (1950–55).

According to Wright, an unknown individual impersonated President Truman's voice on the telephone in order to sway foreign leaders into voting in particular ways at the United Nations.

There are two documents from Truman himself alleging this, both currently lodged at the Truman Presidential Library.

In the first, Truman wrote:
"Something's going on and I don't know what it is. Somebody called up the President of Haiti and he said that it was I.... He said, 'We want you to vote for the Zionist program.' As a result the President of Haiti changed his vote to satisfy what he thought was me. I don't know who this fellow was that called him up."

Wright comments: "In other words, somebody impersonated President Truman and threatened the President of Haiti. There were people who used President Truman's voice and name and he didn't know who they were."

Indira Gandhi/Rustom Nagarwala (1971)

On 24 May 1971, a Parsi
Parsi or Parsee refers to a member of the larger of the two Zoroastrian communities in South Asia, the other being the Irani community....

 ex-Indian Army Captain and serving intelligence officer, Rustom Sohrab Nagarwala, was able to take out 6 million Rupees from the State Bank of India
State Bank of India
The State Bank of India is the largest Indian banking and financial services company with its headquarters in Mumbai, India. It is state-owned. The bank traces its ancestry to British India, through the Imperial Bank of India, to the founding in 1806 of the Bank of Calcutta, making it the oldest...

's Parliament Street branch by mimicking the voice of the then serving Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

 to chief cashier Ved Prakash Malhotra. The reason for the unsuccessful fraud remains unknown. Nagarwala was arrested, however, after Malhotra went in person to collect a receipt from P. N. Haksar, Indira Gandhi's personal secretary, informing him that the requested payment was done. A stunned Haksar informed Malhotra that Mrs Gandhi had instructed nothing of the sort and urged him to inform the police immediately. Later that year, Nagarwala died of a heart attack in prison.

Political decoys in fiction

Many stories feature the replacement of a known figure with a lookalike. These may be conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

, proving the swap with the discrepancies, real or fictional, between the earlier and later personalities of the political figure. For example, there is a movie where the inner circle
Social network
A social network is a social structure made up of individuals called "nodes", which are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.Social...

 of Communists finds Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

's decoy better than the original, so the leader is murdered and the Balt decoy replaces him. A story by Jaakko Okker draws heavily on President of Finland
President of Finland
The President of the Republic of Finland is the nation's head of state. Under the Finnish constitution, executive power is vested in the President and the government, with the President possessing extensive powers. The President is elected directly by the people of Finland for a term of six years....

 Urho Kekkonen
Urho Kekkonen
Urho Kaleva Kekkonen , was a Finnish politician who served as Prime Minister of Finland and later as the eighth President of Finland . Kekkonen continued the “active neutrality” policy of his predecessor President Juho Kusti Paasikivi, a doctrine which came to be known as the “Paasikivi–Kekkonen...

's real-life use of pseudonyms in his civilian trade, journalism, and turns it upside down so that Kekkonen is replaced multiple times during his careers by several lookalike journalists.

Queen Elizabeth I

  • For many years, the story of the Bisley Boy tempted people into believing that Queen Elizabeth I of England
    Elizabeth I of England
    Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

     was really a man. According to the legend, Elizabeth (then a princess) had died aged 10 while staying at Berkeley Castle
    Berkeley Castle
    Berkeley Castle is a castle in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK . The castle's origins date back to the 11th century and it has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.The castle has remained within the Berkeley family since they reconstructed it in the...

    , Gloucestershire
    Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

    . Her minders, terrified of the retribution of her father, Henry VIII
    Henry VIII of England
    Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

    , made a substitution. A lookalike boy from the nearby village of Bisley
    Bisley, Gloucestershire
    Bisley is a village in Gloucestershire, England, approximately east of Stroud. The parish is today united administratively with the adjoining parish of Lypiatt and the two are usually referred to as Bisley-with-Lypiatt...

     was put in her place and sworn to secrecy. This legend 'explained' why Elizabeth never married or had children. In fact, the tale was invented as a joke by a local clergyman in the 19th century.
    • This is referenced in the last episode of Blackadder II, where Queen Elizabeth I is indeed replaced with a man. She is poisoned (along with the rest of the cast) and 'doubled' by the evil Prince Ludwig the Indestructible of Bavaria, a master of disguise.

U.S. presidents

  • The 1932 movie The Phantom President
    The Phantom President
    The Phantom President is a 1932 film directed by Norman Taurog, and starring George M. Cohan, Claudette Colbert and Jimmy Durante.According to Richard Rodgers, George M. Cohan deeply resented having to work with Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart on the film...

    stars George M. Cohan
    George M. Cohan
    George Michael Cohan , known professionally as George M. Cohan, was a major American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer....

     in a dual role: as a dull banker who is eminently qualified to be President of the United States
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

     but who cannot get elected because he is too boring to campaign effectively; and a fast-talking song-and-dance man who has no political qualifications but who is an excellent campaigner because of his exciting personality. A political cabal hires the latter to pose as the former during the election campaign.

  • In the 1984 Clive Cussler
    Clive Cussler
    Clive Eric Cussler is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times...

     novel Deep Six, a double is used after the U.S. president is kidnapped by Korean and Soviet agents.

  • The 1993 film Dave
    Dave (film)
    Dave is a 1993 comedy-drama film written by Gary Ross, directed by Ivan Reitman, and starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Co-stars include Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, and Ben Kingsley. Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay...

    featured a look-alike (Kevin Kline
    Kevin Kline
    Kevin Delaney Kline is an American theatre, voice, film actor and comedian. He has won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards, and has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards and an Emmy Award.- Early life :...

    ) who is hired to impersonate the President of the United States
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

    , initially to give the President a chance to engage in a tryst, but later on an ongoing basis after the President suffers a stroke and is left in a persistent vegetative state
    Persistent vegetative state
    A persistent vegetative state is a disorder of consciousness in which patients with severe brain damage are in a state of partial arousal rather than true awareness. It is a diagnosis of some uncertainty in that it deals with a syndrome. After four weeks in a vegetative state , the patient is...

    . The impostor discovers and helps take down corrupt officials in the government, including the President that he is pretending to be.

  • In the 2008 film Vantage Point
    Vantage Point (film)
    Vantage Point is a 2008 American political action thriller film directed by Pete Travis. It was adapted from a screenplay written by Barry L. Levy. The story focuses on an assassination attempt on the President of the United States as seen from a different set of vantage points through the eyes of...

    , a decoy is used to help protect the president from a possible assassination threat (the decoy is shot). The film claims that "doubles have been used since Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....


  • In Irving Wallace's novel The Second Lady, the First Lady of the United States, Billie Bradford, is abducted and replaced by a Soviet look-alike, Vera Vavilova, in order to gain access to the President's bedroom and his deepest secrets.

U.K. prime ministers

  • In 1962, a Scottish newspaper, the Aberdeen Evening Express, accidentally used a picture of Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home over a caption naming a Scottish Baillie called Vass. The magazine Private Eye
    Private Eye
    Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

    then affected to believe that Home was an impostor whom the newspaper had unmasked, and the magazine maintained this position until Home's death in 1995.

  • In Jack Higgins
    Jack Higgins
    Jack Higgins is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers...

    's book The Eagle Has Landed
    The Eagle Has Landed
    The Eagle Has Landed is a book by Jack Higgins set during World War II. It first published in 1975. It was made into a film of the same name in 1976 starring Michael Caine...

    (made into a movie in 1976), German paratroopers try to kidnap Prime Minister Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

     from a tiny English village in 1943. It is later revealed that Churchill was elsewhere, and a political decoy was visiting the village.

Science fiction

  • Lawrence Smythe ("The Great Lorenzo") was in Robert A. Heinlein
    Robert A. Heinlein
    Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre. He set a standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of...

    's science fiction
    Science fiction
    Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

     book Double Star
    Double Star
    Double Star is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first serialized in Astounding Science Fiction and published in hardcover the same year...

    (1956) hired to impersonate the politician and leader of the opposition
    Leader of the Opposition
    The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest party not in government in a Westminster System of parliamentary government...

     Joseph Bonforte who had been injured in an attack by political opponents. During an election Bonforte died and Smythe had to keep on playing his role as the newly elected prime minister, the travesty having been discovered by the Emperor of the Solar System only when "Bonforte" failed to customarily scold him for his passion for model trains. Being an expert method actor
    Method Actor
    Method Actor is an eponymous album released in 1988 featuring American singer Eva Cassidy. It was re-released on CD in 2002, six years after her death.- Track listing :# "Getting Out" – 4:19# "Look in to My Eyes" – 4:16...

    , Smythe achieves full immersion in the role of Bonforte and comes to accept his political views (which he opposed initially).

  • Sabé, a character in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, as the first of a three-part prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the first film in the saga in terms...

    , played by Keira Knightley
    Keira Knightley
    Keira Christina Knightley born 26 March 1985) is an English actress and model. She began acting as a child and came to international notice in 2002 after co-starring in the film Bend It Like Beckham...

    , is a political decoy for Padmé Amidala
    Padmé Amidala
    Padmé Amidala is a fictional character in the Star Wars science fiction franchise. She first appeared on film in the 1999 feature film, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, as the young queen of the planet Naboo. In subsequent prequel trilogy films, Padmé represents Naboo in the Galactic Senate...

    , then Queen Amidala, played by Natalie Portman
    Natalie Portman
    Natalie Hershlag , better known by her stage name Natalie Portman, is an actress with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 French action film Léon, but major success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel...

    . Sabé is the queen's most important handmaiden. She is the first in line to become the decoy queen in times of danger. She looks quite similar to the real queen; even more so when she hides her features with the queen's trademark white makeup. Amidala has coached Sabé in regal bearing and speech. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is a 2002 American epic space opera film directed by George Lucas and written by Lucas and Jonathan Hales. It is the fifth film to be released in the Star Wars saga and the second in terms of the series' internal chronology...

    , Sabé has been replaced with a new decoy, Cordé, who is killed in an attempt on Padmé's life.

  • The 1951 space opera
    Space opera
    Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. The term has no relation to music and it is analogous to "soap...

     novel Star Kings by Edmond Hamilton
    Edmond Hamilton
    Edmond Moore Hamilton was an American author of science fiction stories and novels during the mid-twentieth century. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he was raised there and in nearby New Castle, Pennsylvania...

     involves a 20th century man, John Gordon, who has to impersonate the 22nd century Prince Zarth Arn because his consciousness has been transferred through time in the Prince's body. John Gordon falls in love with a Princess who used to dislike Zarth Arn.

Japanese examples

  • In the Japanese film Kagemusha
    is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. The title is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the Warring States era of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable...

    released 1980 from director Akira Kurosawa
    Akira Kurosawa
    was a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter and editor. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 filmsIn 1946, Kurosawa co-directed, with Hideo Sekigawa and Kajiro Yamamoto, the feature Those Who Make Tomorrow ;...

    , the noble warlord Takeda Shingen
    Takeda Shingen
    , of Kai Province, was a preeminent daimyo in feudal Japan with exceptional military prestige in the late stage of the Sengoku period.-Name:Shingen was called "Tarō" or "Katsuchiyo" during his childhood...

    , who lived from 1521 to 1573, is occasionally impersonated by his brother Nobukado. Just before a public execution a thief is saved by Nobukado, because the man has an astonishing resemblance to Shingen. The thief becomes the Kagemusha or Shadow warrior and easily learns the role of the Daimyo
    is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

     Shingen, who is later killed by a sniper of an enemy clan. The Kagemusha is supposed to replace Shingen for three more years until his heir is old enough to rule. Even the concubines of Shingen do not see the decoy for many months. Eventually, in a crucial scene the false identity of the Kagemusha is revealed, because he cannot ride the favourite horse of the true lord Shingen. However, in the final battle at Nagashino
    Battle of Nagashino
    The ' took place in 1575 near Nagashino Castle on the plain of Shitaragahara in the Mikawa province of Japan. Forces under Takeda Katsuyori had besieged the castle since the 17th of June; Okudaira Sadamasa , a Tokugawa vassal, commanded the defending force...

    , which is depicted by Kurosawa as an apocalyptic slaughter of men, the Kagemusha accepts his role and fights as the last man holding the banner of the Takeda clan until his death.

  • The anime
    is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

     series El Hazard: The Magnificent World, the main character and his friends are transported to another world where he bears a strong resemblance to a missing princess and reluctantly agrees to impersonate her.


  • Anthony Hope
    Anthony Hope
    Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, better known as Anthony Hope , was an English novelist and playwright. Although he was a prolific writer, especially of adventure novels, he is remembered best for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau...

    's The Prisoner of Zenda
    The Prisoner of Zenda
    The Prisoner of Zenda is an adventure novel by Anthony Hope, published in 1894. The king of the fictional country of Ruritania is drugged on the eve of his coronation and thus unable to attend his own coronation. Political forces are such that in order for the king to retain his crown his...

    (1894) is an adventure novel
    Adventure novel
    The adventure novel is a genre of novels that has adventure, an exciting undertaking involving risk and physical danger, as its main theme.-History:...

     about a man who has to impersonate a king, whom he closely resembles, when the king is abducted by his enemies on the eve of his coronation. It spawned a genre of Ruritanian romance
    Ruritanian Romance
    A Ruritanian Romance is a story set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe, such as the Ruritania that gave the genre its name...

    s (swashbuckling stories set in imaginary countries similar to Ruritania
    Ruritania is a fictional country in central Europe which forms the setting for three books by Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda , The Heart of Princess Osra , and Rupert of Hentzau...

    ) and direct homage
    Homage is a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something, sometimes by simple declaration but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic....

    s set in the same kingdom or using the same characters.

  • Moon Over Parador
    Moon Over Parador
    Moon over Parador is a 1988 romantic comedy film, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Raúl Juliá and Sonia Braga. It is a remake of the 1939 film The Magnificent Fraud, based on the unpublished short story entitled Caviar for His Excellency by Charles G...

    , a 1988 movie set in the fictional Caribbean nation of Parador. Jack Noah (Richard Dreyfuss
    Richard Dreyfuss
    Richard Stephen Dreyfuss is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films American Graffiti, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Stakeout, Always, What About...

    ), an unemployed American actor on vacation in Parador, is kidnapped by Strausman (Raul Julia
    Raúl Juliá
    Raúl Rafael Juliá y Arcelay was a Puerto Rican actor.Born in San Juan, he gained interest in acting while still in school. Upon completing his studies, Juliá decided to pursue a career in acting. After performing in the local scene for some time, he was convinced by entertainment personality Orson...

    ), the President's chief advisor, and is forced to act as the President's substitute after he dies of a heart attack. With the help of the late President's mistress, Madonna Mendez, he embarks on a series of reforms which win the hearts of the populace but gain the enmity of those supporting the regime. Eventually, he plots to fake his own death (substituting the original President Alphonse's body, which had literally been kept on ice during this time), in a way that implicates Strausman, allowing him to secretly return to the US while Mendez takes the presidency.
  • Georg Kaiser
    Georg Kaiser
    Friedrich Carl Georg Kaiser, called Georg Kaiser, was a German dramatist.-Biography:Kaiser was born at Magdeburg....

    's 1917 play The Coral depicts a powerful industrialist whose male secretary is his exact double; among the secretary's duties, he is occasionally required to impersonate his employer at public functions. The industrialist's other employees are only able to know which man is which because the secretary always wears a coral watch-fob.

  • In two episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is a television series, filmed in New Zealand and the United States. It was produced from 1995, and was very loosely based on the tales of the classical Greek culture hero Heracles...

    , "King for a Day" (1996) and "'Long Live the King" (1997), Hercules
    Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

    ' sidekick Iolaus
    In Greek mythology, Iolaus was a Theban divine hero, son of Iphicles, Heracles's brother, and Automedusa.He was famed for being Heracles's nephew and for helping with some of his Labors, and also for being one of the Argonauts...

     (Michael Hurst
    Michael Hurst
    Michael Eric Hurst, ONZM is a New Zealand actor, director and writer, mostly on stage and television. He is probably best known internationally for playing Iolaus in the television programs Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and companion series Xena: Warrior Princess...

    ) fills in for his lookalike cousin King Orestes.

  • In the episode "Exit Strategy" of the comedy series Arrested Development (TV series), the main characters find a house full of Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

     lookalikes in Iraq. Watching the then current trial of the dictator, one of the decoys is especially angry by how the imprisoned Saddam carried himself. Later, it is implied this "decoy" is the real Saddam, as he is the only one with a telling scar absent from the rest.

  • In the 2007 film Hitman
    Hitman (2007 film)
    Hitman is a 2007 film directed by Xavier Gens and based on the video game series of the same name. A gun-for-hire "Hitman" is a genetically-engineered assassin known as Agent 47. He is hired by a group, 'The Organization' and becomes ensnared in a political conspiracy. He finds himself pursued by...

    , the main character assassinates the Russian president, only to discover the hit was placed by the president's double in order to take his place.

  • New Zealand novelist Lloyd Jones
    Lloyd Jones (New Zealand author)
    Lloyd Jones is a New Zealand author who currently resides in Wellington. His novel Mister Pip won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker.-Early life and education:...

    ' Biografi: A Traveler's Tale relates a fictional search for the rumored double of former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha
    Enver Hoxha
    Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...


  • In the 2010 video game Call of Duty: Black Ops
    Call of Duty: Black Ops
    Call of Duty: Black Ops is a first-person shooter video game developed by Treyarch, published by Activision and released worldwide on November 9, for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii consoles, with a separate version for Nintendo DS developed by n-Space. Announced on April 30, 2010,...

    , there is a mission in which its main objective is to assassinate former Cuba
    The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

    n dictator Fidel Castro
    Fidel Castro
    Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

    . The mission turns out to be a success, but it is revealed that it was Castro's double that was killed, and Castro himself escaped unharmed.

See also

  • look-alike
    A look-alike is a person who closely resembles another person. In popular Western culture, a look-alike is a person who bears a close physical resemblance to a celebrity, politician or member of royalty. Many look-alikes earn a living by making guest appearances at public events or performing on...

  • body double
    Body double
    A body double is a general term for someone who substitutes for the credited actor of a character in any recorded visual medium, in shots where the character's body is shown but the face is either not visible or shown indistinctly, or in shots where the image of the credited actor's face is joined,...

  • Doppelgänger
    In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger is a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune...

  • impersonation
  • Paul is dead
    Paul Is Dead
    "Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike....

  • identity theft
    Identity theft
    Identity theft is a form of stealing another person's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name...

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