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This is a Short Con that is executed by the Hustler looking up recent obituaries and contacting the bereaved to complete a purchase begun by the dearly departed. The dead person put down a deposit (it says here), which is offered as a refund, to have something personalised for the bereaved. All the bereaved has to do is come up with the remaining 80 percent of the purchase price... which is many times the usual purchase price of the item.

Examples of Bibles From the Dead include:


Film

  • Mose Pray (and eventually his daughter Addie) run the Bibles from the Dead scam all across the Depression-era Midwest in the movie and TV series Paper Moon.
  • It's possible this was the scam Big Dan Teague of O Brother, Where Art Thou? was pulling before he met up with the boys. It's unclear, though- he only describes himself as a bible salesman, "in the service of the Lord", and went on to tell about how there were vast amounts of money to be made.

Live Action Television

  • Shows up in an episode of Hustle. A young conman pulls this scam on a number of elderly widows, but when he makes the mistake of taking money from Danny's grandmother, he becomes the protagonists' latest mark.

Newspaper Comics

  • In a storyline in Steve Canyon, a college student looking for a part-time job is recruited by a pair of conmen running this scam, who plan to use him as a fall guy if they hit trouble.

Theater

  • A variation appears in the short play "Last Post" by Jean McConnell: A woman runs a con where she picks a wealthy, respectable and recently dead man and writes to his widow asking for a contribution to the upkeep of their illegitimate child. (The play's heroine is the latest mark, and doesn't discover until the end that it's a con — whereupon she decides that the loss of the money is outweighed by the relief that her husband was after all the honorable man she's always believed him to be, and everybody gets a happy ending.)

Urban Legend

  • A variation on this is a traditional urban legend. The conman would look for a sufficiently wealthy family in the obituaries, and then go to the home and claim that the dearly departed had ordered...erotic material from him, relying on the family's need to avoid a scandal to keep them from examining the claim too closely. He was found out when he tried the trick on the family of a recently deceased blind man. This is the subject of the Roald Dahl story The Bookseller.


Western Animation

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