It turns out that John Kelso was in the same boat as Tom Scott: having failed to find any contemporary evidence whatsoever for this.
All of the supposition in this thread about how it could have happened has the unstated premise that it even did happen in the first place, for which no supporting evidence has come to light.
The sad thing is that the article went through Good Article review and was rewritten with the intention of making it clear that the majority of the article was an unsubstantiated local myth; yet here we have people on Hacker News who have clearly not absorbed that from reading it. The rewrite has not achieved its goal.
Was the legend just that the original plan was accurate, but misleading, when it could have been that the original plans actually represented a much larger building? Were there not really investors who claimed to have been misled? Was there a lawsuit or not? Seems like there should be some record of that if it happened.
If in fact the majority of these facts are possibly just made up or of questionable origin, there should be no discussion of the details beyond the statement that there is a local legend and its general substance. The detailed accounting of it should be omitted entirely, or moved to a subheading that delineates the entire discussion of the urban legend apart from the verifiable facts.
I feel a little sadness for that.
There is something attractive about a place where so many crazy things are possible. Not that I would trade my existence for that one, but I feel something akin to nostalgia for the wide-open possibilities of such a place.
The best scams these days are hidden under NDA so you never hear of them (one hired someone to disprove maxwell’s equation as that was needed to run their over unity device. So he developed tests that could show if maxwell was right or wrong and collected the paycheck).
This would have easily been prevented by basic due diligence from the investors. Possibly that is why the courts ruled against them.
It is possible that they saw the 4 floors as "representative" of all the floors that would be built, and just expected that there would be 40.
Wichita Falls is pretty much on the Texas/Oklahoma border and that area was filled with oil money at that time. Only 10 years later, Tulsa Oklahoma was building 40+ floor skyscrapers. But prior to that, skyscrapers seemed to be limited to NYC, Philadelphia and Chicago.
40 (forty) floors say
I understand people can be lazy and make mistakes, but that's pretty egregious.
A comparison for today might be to put the plans for a computer chip in front of an average non-technical small-time investor and then use slippery language to trick them into believing it is something it's not. Tell them it will be the next big thing and will return their money tenfold, and greed does the rest.
It's quite possible back then that the investors, having never seen a skyscraper - or maybe even a proper blueprint - just didn't know what they were looking at, never mind doing any kind of real due diligence.
The scam is that windmills don't actually scale very well. If you have 100 MW blowing at the blades, you need a tower that can handle 100 MW of force - or something like that.
Of course, what do I know? I am but a humble computer nerd.
If you want to see a fascinating skyscraper that is actually quite tall (overtall?) check out:
1/4 mile in height, but only 100' wide.
I wonder if similar scams via smart-contracts exist yet.
The investors can't have done any due diligence at all. Why would there be any value to building at that scale at that location.
Building a 480 inch building whilst taking investment to build a 480 ft tower would clearly be shown as fraudulent.
I suspect this building has a more mundane explanation: a builder trying out some new techniques or a client that wanted a larger building but ran out of funding.
65 inches is 165cm
6 foot 5 inches is 195cm
So interestingly, the difference is a foot.
David St. Hubbins: "I think that the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. That tended to understate the hugeness of the object."
Although I see it was built on land without discussion with the landowner.
For something built as a scam it's held up reasonably well. McMahon may have cheated his investors, but he seems to have built a real building.