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How This Early Northwest Con Woman Became 'Queen Of Fakers'


At the turn of the 20th century, trolleys were just beginning to transform cities across the country. At the same, one Oregon woman figured out a way to defraud the companies that operated these interurban railroads.


Maud  Wagnon, who went under many aliases but was known by most as Maud Myrtle Johnson, was dubbed the "Queen of Fakers" by newspapers across the Western United States for her history of swindling the trolleys. How did Maud become one of the most infamous liars of the Northwest?


Logan Camporeale, a student at Eastern Washington University, was the first to rediscover her story. While working at the Washington State Archives, he came across an old wanted prisoner catalog from 1913. Maud was the only female convict listed in the document. After digging through the archives, he uncovered a wild tale of jailbreaks, fake blood, theater troops, and defying stereotypes.

"It's sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in 1910," says Camporeale.

So who is this rare early female convict? Camporeale, with the help of knkx staffers reading a few old historical documents, tells the story.

This story originally aired on Nov. 12, 2016

Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson has been making radio for nearly 5 years. She got her start at KUOW and has since traveled the country working for national news shows including WNYC's The Takeaway and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Allie won a 2016 Gracie Award, which celebrates women in media, for her work at KUOW. She enjoys telling surprising stories about passionate people.