Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Genius Bomber: The Mormon Forgery Murders

The Forger's Influence

Mark Hofmann in court
Mark Hofmann in court

With the successful forging of documents by 129 different people and of some 450 Mormon documents that deceived the experts of one of the most powerful religions in the world, its clear that Hofmann was something of a skilled genius.    He'd cheated associates by trading his fakes for some of their genuinely valuable documents, and then selling those documents to enrich himself. 

Yet even after Hofmann was exposed, collectors continued to buy and sell his work as if it were the real thing.   Some just wanted their investment back but some did not know what had happened.  Even as late as 1997, as described at length in The Poet and the Murderer, his forgeries were still showing up.  The Amherst, Massachusetts, library purchased a two-stanza poem from Sotheby's for $24,150 that they believed Emily Dickinson had penned. There was a neat little inscription on the other side of the paper, "Aunt Emily," that seemed to have originated with a relative of the poet's.  It was only when someone decided to find out who might have written it that the fraud was exposed.

Although the poem was written on the correct paper for the period, with the correct writing instrument and the right literary themes and style, it was nevertheless traced to Mark Hofmann.   As usual, he had taken delight in seeing others enthusiastically appraise it as an undiscovered Dickinson work.  Later he said that he thought the "Aunt Emily" inscription had been a nice touch.

A comparison of handwriting from Emily Dickinson and Mark Hofmann
A comparison of handwriting from Emily Dickinson and Mark Hofmann

Worral quotes Throckmorton as saying that Hofmann comes up for parole in 2006.  In prison, he keeps mostly to himself.  His wife divorced him and took the children, so he may not have much to look forward to if he does get out.  You can bet the documents examiners will be watching for him.

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