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A photograph of an Aladdin figure meeting the genie after rubbing the magic lamp (photo by JD Hancock/Flickr)

Last week, a man in India learned the hard way that Aladdin is, in fact, a fictional character. Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh arrested two men for allegedly duping LA Khan, a local physician, into buying an Aladdin’s lamp for tens of thousands of dollars, promising that it would bring him wealth and health.

According to the Indian news agency NDTV, the swindlers initially requested more than $200,000 for the oil lamp but settled for a down payment of $41,600.

The doctor filed a complaint with local police in Meerut, in western Uttar Pradesh, on October 25. He told the police that he first met the two men while treating a woman he thought was their mother. He visited the supposed patient at her house for over a month.

“Gradually they started telling me about a baba [godman] whom they claimed also visited their home,” Khan was quoted as saying in his complaint. “They started brainwashing me and asked me to meet this baba.”

According to the doctor’s complaint, the defendants “conjured up” a genie from the lamp as part of their ruse (no, it wasn’t Will Smith or the late Robin Williams). On another occasion, one of them dressed up as Aladdin à la One Thousand and One Nights.

Meerut police officer Amit Rai told NDTV that the two men were suspected of defrauding other families using the same method. He added that police are still searching for a woman, the wife of one of the suspects, who was allegedly involved in the fraud.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an...