10 Insane Disguises That Actually Worked

Shi Pei Pu
Masterful at both opera and disguise, Shi Pei Pu (not pictured here) pulled the wool over French diplomat Bernard Boursicot's eyes for years before being charged with espionage. K-King Photography Media Co. Ltd/Lifesize/Thinkstock

OK, try to keep up. In 1964 Beijing, Shi Pei Pu lived and worked as a man, singing in the Beijing opera and teaching Chinese to diplomats' families. In his role as instructor, Shi met a French embassy clerk by the name of Bernard Boursicot. Boursicot, whose only sexual experiences involved men, was determined to fall in love with a woman. That meant Shi was out of the question, right? Wrong.

Shi convinced Boursicot that he was actually a woman who had been forced to go through life as a man, because her father required a son. Not only that, Shi persuaded the Frenchman to steal classified information he encountered in his job. Over a span of 20 years, Boursicot turned over multiple French embassy documents through Shi to the Chinese secret service.

The two became lovers. Some of this will be left to imagination, but according to Boursicot, their amorous interactions rarely lasted for more than a few minutes and always occurred in a darkened room. At some point, Shi claimed she was pregnant with Boursicot's child and did indeed produce a son, presumably obtained through adoption. Shi and his "son" moved to Paris, where Shi won acceptance in the French community and even appeared on television.

In 1983, the masquerade ended when French authorities arrested the couple and charged them with espionage. They were each sentenced to six years in prison, although they were pardoned when the French government determined that the documents passed by Boursicot to Shi had little political significance. For Boursicot, perhaps the bigger blow was discovering that the woman he loved was no woman at all.