AN author and video producer has written a book inspired by a newspaper report of a mysterious masked man.

In December 2015, an article was published in the Gazette’s sister paper, the Essex County Standard, entitled “Mystery man walked round the world and ended up in Essex”.

The eponymous masked man enthralled author Duncan Say.

On June 8, 1908, an aristocratic man with his head entirely covered by a knight’s helmet walked through Colchester pushing a pram accompanied by an assistant and followed by a horse-drawn caravan.

He said he was walking the world as the result of a wager with a rich American businessman.

Should the mystery man remain anonymous and complete his ten-year mission he would win the enormous sum of £21,000, equivalent to £7million today. Should he fail he would pay a forfeit of £5,000.

Duncan, who lives in Colchester, said: “In Colchester town centre he was be met by dignitaries and then made a speech to the large crowd, meanwhile his assistant sold postcards, photographs and pamphlets which comprised his sole income.

“That evening, after taking a room in the best hotel he made an appearance on the stage of a music hall, where he was cheered to the rafters by the packed house.

“The next day he, his assistant and his entourage were gone, headed towards Harwich where the he would receive another warm welcome.”

Duncan, of Colchester, who is married with one daughter, said: “What a story it was. An astonishing wager with the legendary American millionaire JP Morgan and the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale.

“Then walking for six years and being near to completing the mission, but for the outbreak of the Great War.

“He relinquished the challenge to return home and join the army only to be invalided out a few months later.

“Then the tragedy of his family losing their fortune, which was unwisely invested in Russian bonds.

“Their money lost in the turmoil of the revolution. Here he was, this proud man reduced to hawking his goods on the promenade.

This was the story he told, but was it true? Is there another story behind the Man in the Mask?

That is the subject of the book ‘Masked’, a fictionalised account based upon extensive research.


“The Iron Mask managed to remain anonymous during the whole period when he walked.

“In fact, there is no evidence at all for the identity of the man in the mask.

“At the same time there is only one claimant to the role and that is Harry Bensley.

“Did he walk round the world? Probably not, the trail runs out after 2,400 miles but a lack of evidence for walking the rest of the way is not proof that it did not happen.

“That is Harry Bensley for you, a man whose very existence blurs fact with fiction.”

Duncan studied photography in London before going freelance as a video producer. Most of his work has been in the medical field and he has won numerous awards from the British Medical Association.

His book, Masked - the unbelievable Harry Bensley, has taken him several years to research and write and will be available on Amazon from March 2.