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Hofmann’s Best Fake: Fooling Lie Detector Test

In 1985 Mark Hofmann blew himself up with his own pipe bomb.  Police immediately suspected him as the prime suspect in a rash of bombings in 1985.  In this next conversation we’ll talk about how his lawyers tried to get Mark to take a polygraph test.  He passed with flying colors.  How was Mark successful in fooling lie detector?  Shannon Flynn will tell us how.

A good examiner will get a person really stressful so that they react strongly, physically when they are telling an untruth.  When you hear about that sweating, that galvanic skin response, that’s one of them.  They will test for that.  They’ll test your breathing rate.  They’ll test your pulse.  When I had mine there were six different indicators going on.  When Mark did his there were just four because it was being done remotely.

I mean the way he was able to beat the polygraph, he had very competent examinations and reads and they all showed him to be telling the truth.  The way that those polygraphs work is, they work on what is known as the zero-null system.  In other words they put up a scale.  Zero is the center, then it goes -1, -2, -3, -4, all the way to -15, whatever, and then +1, +2, +3, whatever.  When a test is scored, they will give a number, but the number will be +1, or -3, or +10.  Generally between -5 and +5 is a null reading.  They can’t tell.  They person has been messing with the test or the examination wasn’t done well.  They can’t tell so it will be towards the center of that.

But then when you get to -10, -11, -12, very untruthful and easily seen; +10, +12, +15, very truthful.  Mark scored a +14.  I scored a +12.  That really bothered those examiners when they found out he had beat that test, it just really bothered them.  It turns out the main person up at the University of Utah, David Raskin was able to arrange an interview with Mark when he was in prison about two years, a year and a half, two years afterwards, because he wanted to find out how in the world he was able to do that.  This is what Mark told him.

Don’t forget to learn about Hofmann’s coin forgeries, cheating people, and his Million-dollar Con.  Check out our conversation…..


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Mark’s Million-Dollar Con

In LDS circles, Mark Hofmann is most well-known for the Salamander Letter, a forgery that threatened the founding stories of the LDS Church.  What gets lost on the conversation is an even more audacious forgery, Oath of a Freeman.  In 1985, Mark Hofmann attempted a Million-dollar con.  Shannon Flynn describes this document.

It is the first known printed document in what is now the United States of America.  A printing press was brought from England over to America, and it was operated by a guy named Stephen Crane.  He was the first professional printing press printer in the United States.  The first item that he printed was a single sheet of paper called the Oath of a Freeman.  The fourth one is actually known, and there are copies available, and it is called Bay Psalm Book.

The Oath of a Freeman is very interesting because what it does is it was printed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and it is a way for the people that were participating in that Massachusetts Bay Colony that religious organization to essentially sign an oath of fidelity to the new group, and say I’m here, and I’m part of this group.  It starts out, “I,” and then the letters “ab,” which are supposed to be for your name, and you say, “I will follow the rules of the group.”  I’m just paraphrasing it.  You can find it and read it.  The interesting part was it said nothing about England.  So it turns out in a strange way, it is the first seed of revolution.

Shannon describes how Mark made the document, planted it, and then tried to sell it to the Library of Congress for $1.5 million documents.  It was the most expensive document at the time, although the LDS Church just purchased the Printer’s Manuscript from the Community of Christ for $35 million.  Don’t forget to learn how he started forging coins to this audacious forgery.  Check out our conversation…

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“I cheat people.  That’s what I do for a living”

In our last conversation, Shannon Flynn told us that Mark Hofmann started forging coins as a teen.  How was he able to fool so many experts for so long?  Was he a charismatic person?  What’s it like to work with a master forger?

Shannon:  Nowadays you would kind of see him as a computer nerd.  He was not charismatic in the least.  He kind of had poor social skills.  I remember on at least one occasion going with Lynn, some friends of Lynn, my wife and I and were going to have a barbecue dinner at the Hofmann’s house, a lot of chatting and so forth.  We got there a little bit late.  We go in the house and Mark has already made his dinner and eaten it.  You would have thought a normal person would have waited.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.

Like I said he was not a good host or those sorts of things, but he was a very personable person.  I don’t ever remember a time seeing him, he never suffered from depression or those sort of things.  He was not a down kind of a person.  Of course at that time if you had any interest in Mormon history or collecting, he was the person to know because he was always in the middle of this thing and that thing and buying and selling.

The prosecutors, they interviewed him after his plea agreement and didn’t record it but took notes of it.  That was one of their first questions was how did you do all of this stuff?  He said, “Well it’s really not that hard to figure out.”  Again I’m paraphrasing.  “He said it’s really not that hard to figure out.  What do you do for a living?”

He said, “We’re attorneys.”

He said, “Are you any good at it?”

“Well yeah, we think so.”

He said, “I cheat people.  That’s what I do for a living.  I’m good at it.  I’m a good forger.”

Check out our conversation…..