You're in Good Company, Lennay: 6 Other Famous People Who Didn't Exist

As the Manti Te'o dead-girlfriend hoax proves, you don't have to be real to be a celebrity.

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AP / Winslow Townson

Deadspin published a bizarre report Wednesday night about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend, who reportedly died tragically last year at the age of 22. It was one of the most heartbreaking stories of the college football season. But it turns out the whole thing was a hoax. In the coming days there'll surely be more information about who exactly was involved. For now, here's a list of some other fictional people who made a name for themselves.

The Dream Student

George P. Burdell was a man born of a simple mistake. In 1927, someone in the admissions office at Georgia Tech accidentally sent student Ed Smith two registration forms instead of one. Sensing an opportunity for mischief, Smith filled out one form for himself and the other for George P. Burdell—a student he completely made up. When Smith arrived at school, he kept the ruse going by enrolling Burdell in all of his classes and even turning in assignments under his name. In fact, Smith did so much work on behalf of his imaginary friend that Burdell eventually graduated.

When other students found out about the hoax, they helped keep Burdell's story going. According to his resume, Burdell flew 12 missions over Europe during World War II and served on MAD magazine's Board of Directors from 1969 to 1981. In 2001, when Burdell was supposedly 90 years old, he nearly became Time magazine's Person of the Year after garnering 57 percent of online votes. Today, Burdell is one of Georgia Tech's most celebrated alums. He even has a page on Facebook, where he keeps in touch with almost 5,000 "friends."

The Fantasy Hockey Player

Like many hockey players drafted in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Draft, Taro Tsujimoto never actually made it to the big time. But unlike the other players drafted with him, Tsujimoto didn't exist.

His name is in the record books because of Punch Imlach, the former general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. Imlach was so fed up with tedious late rounds of the draft that he decided to poke some fun at the league. He pulled a Japanese name from the local phone book and made up an imaginary team. Then, he simply told NHL President Clarence Campbell that his draft pick was Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas. Sure, no one had ever heard of Tsujimoto, but that didn't stop the NHL from making the selection official. Several weeks later, Imlach revealed his prank, but Sabres fans didn't care. For years after the draft, Buffalo crowds would break into chants, demanding "We want Taro!"

The Elusive Artist

Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes life mocks it. In 1998, Scottish novelist William Boyd wrote a book called Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960. The book was pure fiction, but Boyd released it as a biography because he wanted to see how long it would take the art world to figure out that Tate never existed. To help sell the story, Boyd enlisted some powerful friends, including author Gore Vidal (who is liberally quoted throughout the book) and rock star David Bowie. When the book debuted, Bowie threw a huge party in Tate's honor, inviting the most elite members of New York's art scene. Journalist David Lister, who knew that Tate was fake, made the rounds at Bowie's party and asked people what they thought of the artist. When they inevitably spoke of their familiarity with his work, Lister would hear them out, then let them in on the joke.

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Adam Raymond is a writer for Mental Floss.

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