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Working with his associate Thaddeus Smith, Wilburn traveled the world to perform their swindle, in which Thaddeus pretended to be a spiritualist, taking money from his clients, as well as their manipulative loved ones. They would then reveal the entire swindle, after which Thaddeus would fake his own death, with a supposed doctor being present to corroborate it.
By 1868, Wilburn and Thaddeus had performed this swindle in Boston and Sydney, and had settled in London to perform it again. Wilburn gathered the necessary information to make the swindle believable, passing it on to Thaddeus to be revealed during séances.
When the time came to reveal the swindle to the clients, the lights went out so that Thaddeus could feign his own death. When the lights turned back on, Wilburn was surprised to find Thaddeus had actually been killed, a knife being stabbed into the side of his neck.
Wilburn was then interrogated by Jacob or Evie Frye, an Assassin present at the final séance. When confronted with the evidence of their swindle, he confessed to being a con-man, but he also immediately claimed that he had nothing to gain from Thaddeus' death.