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Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1903. Padlock? Explosion?! Car in the lake?!! Wah??!!!


  1. From now on, whenever I con someone, I’m going to start by asking them to examine a small padlock.

    “Why?” they’ll say. “Why a padlock?”

    “Because the fact that you’re seeing a tiny padlock proves we’re using HTTPS, and therefore, this is not a scam, and I really AM the International Protector of Wallets!”

    “Wow! Here’s my wallet for safekeeping, Mr. Protector! You’re the swellest!”

    • Should oughtta work.

  2. What the hell are they talking about?

  3. We need some answers , stat!

    • Okay, first I wanna reproduce some of the theorizing correspondence that’s going on over at the Straight Dope Boards. Some of the proposed solutions have an amusing Michael Bay quality. Of the following, #3 is the most insightful.

      1)”I googled ‘padlock bet’ and figuring at least one or two explanations would come up, but nothing! Then I did a little research on Houdini, thinking that maybe escaping from a dangerous place while padlocked was something people did when Houdini’s tricks became popular. Houdini was becoming popular in Europe during the time the article was written and toured the U.S. a few years later, around 1910-11. So what it seems to me is that maybe they tried to get this guy to go into the submerged car, someone would chain him up with a padlock, and if he could get out of it, they’d give him some money. Maybe this was a sort of scam that was going on back then? Of course I could be way off, but it was kind of fun to come up with an explanation.
      Edited to add: About the explosion part–I’ve got nothin’.”

      2)”The bet appears to me to be that the mark is shown a padlock that he can’t open and the bet is that one of the con men can open it, with the added spice that he’ll do so and escape from his bonds (held in place by the padlock) while in a car set to roll gently into a lake.
      In the original version, the car was set to explode; either way, the conman apparently runs the risk of dying. (Except they switch padlocks for an easy one to open)
      He obviously will escape in time to defuse the explosives, or stop the car going into the lake, rather than just escape from it, as otherwise they’d need to steal a new car every time they pulled the con!
      It, of course, has nothing to do with any real explosion or car in the water. It’s a con.”

      3)”The padlock bet seems to have been explained: the con men bet a man a small amount that he can’t open a padlock. It’s a trick padlock that anyone can open. The mark opens and wins the bet. The another of the con men bet again, this time for a more substantial fee. The mark agrees. But a different, identical appearing padlock is substituted for the first one. This the mark can’t open, so he loses the bet.
      The other two sentences are probably referring to other cons. The con men would go to the mark, gain his confidence, and say, ‘Hey, want to see the site of the gas explosion? It’s an amazing sight.’ The mark agrees and the con men take him away from the public place, where they rob him.
      In this case, the con men offered to show him where a car fell into the lake. Judging by the article, that was how Ferguson ended up in the park. However, when they produced the padlock, he recognized the scam and realized he was in trouble, so he ran and went to the police.”

      4)”I dunno, that doesn’t seem to mesh with the other events in the article.”

  4. Hey waita minnit! If he was so “breathless” how did he report the matter to the police?

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