Forger’s trifecta, Mark Hoffman
Mark Hoffman is presently doing a life term sentence in prison for murder. He was so despondent over his wife divorcing him that he obtained some sleeping pills in order to kill himself.
He only succeeded in maiming his forging hand by laying on it and cutting off the circulation.
He started out small, with forging the Oath of a Freeman, purporting to be a contemporary document of the Bay Colony in the 1600’s.
His ink was manufactured by using the recipe so generously provided by another “expert” on forgeries, Charles Hamilton. He burned a piece of 17th Century leather to obtain the tannic acid. When mixed into iron gallatanate ink, any testing would show a type of ink that would be similar to the ones used in that era, especially if the testing was the Carbon -14 method.
The paper for the Oath was old paper stolen out of 17 Century books with chain marks similar to that found in the Bay Psalm Book. After he printed it up, he then placed it in a glass chamber and subjected it to an electrical spark, which generated ozone. This bleached and oxidized the ink, so that it aged 350 years in an instant.
The only thing that Hoffman could not do was to have the ions of the ink migrate into the surface of the paper for the proper distance. During later investigation a new technique for measuring ion migration was used on several of his documents to prove that none were older than 20 years.
Hoffman certainly did his homework and was meticulous in producing these voices from the past, but he only provided for the first one or two levels of scrutiny.
When a critic examines a supposed forgery, he looks for anomalies in hand writing, language mistakes, such as wrong gender use, or improper use of puns. Then there is the technical side with age of paper and ink. All these were mastered by Hoffman and in fact his products passed muster with examiners because he had what looked like proper provenance to back up the actual artifact.
He started young and practiced long, but being too hasty in wanting to make a big score, he over reached himself and his talents.
His talents did not extend to the matter of constructing pipe bombs, with which he hoped to silence a few critics who were getting too close to the truth. One of them went off in his car, damaged his knee, and opened up his can of worms.
At the time of his arrest, he was planning to re-create the first lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, and had 3 by 5 cards all indexed with all the words in the book. This supposedly would have been his epic fantasy, as there had never been any real proof that the lost 116 pages were truly destroyed.
He was hoping to sell this work to the leaders of the Mormon Church for $25 million.
Later on, after being incarcerated for life without chance of parole, Hoffman admitted that there was still one of his forgeries locked away in the vault of the LDS church in Salt Lake City.
He claimed that the leaders did not even suspect that this document came from his production, and was not ever going to reveal anything more about it.
Hoffman could change the appearance of the passage of time in his forgeries, but the real passage of time is now being written on his own body.
Forging a way to prison
Forger’s trifecta, Mark Hoffman