Faking Death to Flee from Life

Have you ever thought about faking your own death?  Lots of people have done it, some successfully and some not.  Sounds odd and it is. Still, there are a plethora of reasons why people fake their own deaths:

  1. elude law enforcement
  2. life insurance scam
  3. abandon a spouse
  4. avoid child support payments
  5. financial troubles
  6. fraud
  7. escape abusive spouses
  8. military AWOL
  9. attention
  10. starting a new life
  11. just weird

and many more odd reasons.  Mostly people who fake their own deaths tend to be criminals, former convicts, and frauds. People who flee from abusive spouses, or spouses who are sexually abusing children are in the minority and resort to a faked death only when they have no other option.  I understand that. As tragic and extreme as it may be, that makes sense. It is people who, like Corey Taylor (below) fake death to get out of paying a cell phone bill that are complete oddballs. And why would you fake your own death just to get attention?  These people are truly mentally disturbed.
People’s manner of death is limited only by their own imagination and situations. There are lots of different methods to use when faking one’s own death:

  1. drowning (a favourite)
  2. fire
  3. car or plane crash
  4. abduction
  5. suicide

In the digital age, the challenge is to disappear without leaving a computer trail of financial activities. Also, another factor to consider is that a person’s online history is completely lost to him or her after the faked death. Good-bye memberships and on-line affairs and friendships as your previous self. There are several how-to books on the subject of faking one’s death, including How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found.

Famous Fakes and Frauds

They Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Connie Franklin faking “someone else’s” death by faking his own
Franklin became widely known in the United States for testifying at his own murder trial in 1929. Franklin became known in the press as the “Arkansas Ghost“. In January 1929, Connie Franklin moved to St. James in Stone County, Arkansas. He claimed to be 22 years old. He courted a local 16 year old girl, Tillar Ruminer.  In March 1929, Franklin disappeared. Ruminer reported to Sherrif Johnson that four men, Hubert Hester, Herman Greenway, Joe White and Bill Younger had murdered Franklin. On November 18, 1929, the Grand Jury issued indictments for first degree murder for the men. The case was further complicated when Johnson discovered that the man claiming to be Connie Franklin was actually Marion Franklin Rogers, who had a wife and was the father of three or four children. In 1926 Rogers had been admitted to the State Hospital for Nervous Diseases, from which he escaped three months later. Creepy.

Upon hearing that four innocent men were about to be charged with his murder, Franklin returned to the county. The prosecutor decided that a trial was the only method of resolving the issue as to whether or not a murder had been committed. The defense presented witnesses who claimed that Rogers and Franklin were the same person. The jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.”  This verdict probably took into consideration that the only murder committed by the escaped lunatic was his own. Three years after the trial, Rogers was found lying beside a road outside Clarendon, AR. He had appendicitis and died of exposure. The county was reasonably certain he hadn’t faked his own death and no charges were laid against the Hester, Greenway, White, or Younger.

Ken Kesey was an American author best known for his book, “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,”, later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson. He joined the CIA’s experimental program on the effects of LSDlater claiming it gave him the vision he needed to write the novel. After the experiment ended, he continued using drugs, getting involved with Timothy Leary. In 1965, Ken was arrested for possession of marijuana. Seriously. He was paid to drop acid but he got busted for smoking grass. This led to the idea of escaping jail time by faking his death. Ken left his truck on a cliff near Eureka (as in eureka! I’ve disappeared!) with an elaborate suicide note. (Of course it was elaborate, he was an author by trade, for pete’s sake). His friends smuggled him to Mexico where he remained for eight months. On his return to the United States, he was arrested and sent to jail for five months. Perhaps Kesey should have used his his Cuckoo plot, faked his incarceration in a nuthouse, pretended he’d had a lobotomy, switched his ID with an in-patient, and then fled for Mexico. Less hassle.  Easier to get away with, since he literally wrote the book.

Popularity Poll

Amir Vehabovic, 45, faked his own death to see how popular he was among his “friends”, by determining how many showed up at his wake and funeral.  He quickly discovered that he was nowhere near as beloved as he thought: no one showed up except his mother (and that was because he threatened to kill her after the hoax if she didn’t attend…..just kidding). Clearly, people hated him when he was alive and they continued to hate him in “death.”  You’d think Vehabovic would get a clue and re-think his approach.  Of course not.  He fired off strongly worded letters to the 45 “friends” who didn’t attend. In part,  “I paid a lot of money to get a fake death certificate and bribe undertakers to deliver an empty coffin. I really thought a lot more of you, my so-called friends, would turn up to pay your last respects. It just goes to show who you can really count on.”It didn’t occur to the loser that since he was the creepiest dude any of his acquaintances knew, sending nasty, harrassing letters as a dead guy wasn’t going to help his popularity campaign. Even in death, Vehabovic gave people a reason to hate him.

In New Port Richey, Florida, another nut named Alison Matera told her friends, family, and church choir that she had cancer, and only months to live. She went into hospice, and soon the community was notified of her death. Yet when all of the hospices in the county were checked, Mater was not registered in any of them. Matera was quite alive; her plan unraveled when she appeared at her own funeral service, claiming to be her own long-lost identical twin sister. Brilliant move, Einstein. She was recognized, and when police were called she admitted to faking both her cancer and death. Her reason?  She wanted out of her church-going community and didn’t know how to tell people.

Bills, Bills, and Big Brother

Corey Taylor, some nobody, died quite unexpectedly in 2007 from mysterious causes. Taylor owed a significant amount of money to his cell phone provider, Verizon and naturally, he didn’t want to pay it. Of course, the cheapo insists he felt that a hero needed to stand up for the little guy (maybe he has small man complex) who wanted to text at a reasonable price, so he faked his own death to avoid scarfing over the $175. He had been so fed up with crappy service and dropped calls that he decided to go to extremes in order to, in his own words, “send a message“. True, we all hate the “crappy service” we get from cell phone providers (who doesn’t?) but faking one’s death as a solution runs the risk of being committed to an asylum (see Connie Franklin – above). A death certificate was faxed to all of the appropriate places to get things in order, including Verizon.  However (there’s always a however to every stupid scheme) every Verizon customer has an army of people led by a bespectacled nerd (code name: The Network) following him or her around every second of the day. Verizon’s people discovered the idiot wasn’t dead, and of course, Taylor is still paying down his cell phone debt. Rather lays credence to the blog about gang stalking.

John Darwin, a former prison officer, vanished in 2002 and was thought
drowned after his damaged canoe was found. A death certificate was issued the following month, stating that John Darwin “probably encountered difficulties, as a result of which he died“. This allowed his wife to claim on his life insurance; it is alleged that £25,000 was paid out from Unat Direct Insurance Management Limited (part of the AIG insurance group) as well as a much larger amount which paid off the £130,000 mortgage. Uh-oh.  You know what’s coming, right? Sometime that year, a tenant of the block of bedsit flats that the Darwins owned, Lee Wadrop, recognised Darwin and asked him Aren’t you supposed to be dead.” Darwin lived for a time next to his family home, where he crawled through a hole in the wall to meet his wife (wink-wink). In 2004 Darwin obtained a passport using the false name “John Jones” and the Darwins visited Cyprus to buy property there. Darwin is reported to have spent most of his time on the Internet where he encountered a woman from Kansas in the United States whom he flew out to meet. A fraud and a cheat.  This gets better and better, doesn’t it?
In 2007, Darwin thought he could convince the UK that he had lost his memory and reappeared at a police station, stating he could not remember the missing five years (really clever). His wife said he planned his disappearance to pay off debts with life insurance, (guess she found out about the other woman), however, she shot herself in the foot in doing so. He and his wife were sentenced to over six years imprisonment. The BBC made a drama about the case called Canoe Man.”  Anne Darwin, who was described by the police as a compulsive liar, and canoe boy appealed against their sentences and on 27 March 2009. Both appeals were denied by the Court of Appeal.
After his release, Darwin gave a radio interview in which he stated, ‘It is very, very easy to fake your own death and get away with it but returning from the dead is not so easy,‘ he said. ‘Most people are caught because they look exactly the same as when they committed the crime. Part of my plan was to change my appearance almost immediately. It was fool-proof. I wasn’t caught, I came back.”

Drugs and Broads

Among the many cases i researched for this insane blog, I noticed that most of them involved evading drug-related charges, and spousal abandonment.  Hmm.  Perhaps if the unhappy spouse used drugs while married to the nagging spouse, the marriage would improve and there would be no need for a faked death. Bennie Wint thought he was a wanted man, so he went. Just before his marriage to Patricia Hollingsworth in 1989, the bride-to-be watched as her fiancé disappeared in the breakers of the Atlantic. Frantic, Hollingsworth informed the lifeguard on duty. While Hollingsworth was alerting the lifeguard, Wint swam to shore, walked away from the beach, and never looked back. Countless hours were spent with rescue operations looking for Wint. The Volusia County Beach Patrol, and other rescue operations, along with helicopters, scoured the beach.  He  was presumed drowned, and his fiance, Patricia Lynn Hollingsworth and a daughter from a previous marriage, were left behind.
He hitchhiked to Ozark, Alabama where he met Sonya Tull Jones. They entered into a common law marriage and had a 17 year old son, William James Sweet. Twenty years later, he was pulled over for not having a light bulb on his license  plate, and he confessed his sins. He told the  police he had left because he was wanted on drug charges. It turns out, he wasn’t wanted on drug charges after all, so  the whole affair was for naught.  Wint learned that his daughter, Christi McKnight, who was four years old at the time Wint faked his death, had been posting on the internet on PeopleSite.com in an attempt to find him. No word if Wint contacted Hollingsworth to explain his disappearance to her. Harem, Scarm ‘Em.

SAS Wanna-be

When the British Special Air Service (SAS) turned him down twice, Phillip Sessarago didn’t take the rejection too well,and he decided it would be best to fake his own death to fulfill his delusions of being in the military in a different way. He began living as Tom Carew, and wrote a book about his account of training Afghan insurgents against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. The book, titled Jihad! The Secret War in Afghanistan, was released the year before the September 11th attacks and went on to be a bestseller. The paperback edition was released the day before the attacks. This prompted tons of interviews, since the book touted him as an expert in the tactics of the terrorists who had just attacked the U.S.  This led to his children recognizing him as their dead father on television. In a weird twist,  November 2008, Philip Sessarego’s body was found decomposed in a garage where he lived for a few months in Antwerp, Belgium. Sessarego possibly died of Carbon monoxide poisoning. His remains are undergoing forensic DNA Tests by the Belgian Federal Police who believe it is possible he was murdered as his daughter claims he ‘made enemies easily’ since many ex/serving SAS Soldiers had ‘scores to settle’.  You live by the (fake) sword, you die by it.

Crimes Against Sanity

Alastair Liddell

In 1997, Scottish lawyer Alastair Liddle was severely stressed out, so stressed that he figured the best option would be to end his current life and get a new one. of course, being a lawyer he wasn’t stressed out for innocent reasons: he embezzled several clients’ money and was afraid of getting caught.  He hatched his escape plan after the Law Society of Scotland called him to Edinburgh to answer complaints about his accounts.Good-bye job. Goodbye wife. Good-bye firm. So, Alastair Liddle disappeared during a business trip and Rob Fox was born. He moved as far away from his home in Northern Scotland as he could, to the city of Cornwall in the UK where he made a living picking flowers with migrant farm workers. When he was discovered by cops later, he was completely unrecognizable and was caught when cops questioned his group of farm workers about a murder that had taken place in the area. Stupidly, Liddell  gave his real name to the police and they found he was wanted for a traffic violation in Scotland (were they in for a surprise). He was forced to return north where he faced charges of embezzling his clients’ money (fake-dying is expensive) and, of course, that traffic ticket. Elgin sheriff court heard that he had repaid some of the money, but still owed around £12,000, which he plans to pay back with the help of his girlfriend.
Sheriff Kenneth Forbes told him he accepted that he was a “different person
with a new life “that has some success to it”. Outside the court, Paula Pirie, 40, a mortgage adviser in St Ives, with whom Liddle has a one-month-old baby daughter Iona, criticised the sheriff for ignoring a recommendation in a background report that he should not be jailed.

Anthony John Allen faked his suicide in 1966 by “drowning” near Beachy Head, a popular spot for suicides in Britain, (see?  told you suicide by drowning is the preferred faked death). He was about to be prosecuted for a string of thefts and thought this would solve the problem.  Instead of drowning, he swam around the coast and picked up some dry clothes he had stashed away earlier.  He assumed a new identity, but this one wasn’t any more law-abiding than the first identity – he continued stealing, plus racked up more charges for bigamy and murder (he killed his wife and kids in 1975). A shame this guy didn’t really drown near Beachy Head.In 1992, Eunice Chapman Yabley, who had had an affair with Allen at the time of the murders, published an autobiographical book, Presumed Dead focusing on her relationship with Allen and the unsolved mystery. Allen had moved in with Mrs Yabsley at her Galley restaurant, within two months  of Patricia and the children last being see in Salcombe, and they remained  together until 1987. The book led the case to be reopened eight years later in 2000.
In the late 90’s John Allen was appointed Manager of Cambridge Meridian Golf Club near the village of Comberton just outside Cambridge. Despite being pretty good at the job he embezzled money from the club and did a runner when his misdeeds were uncovered. He was later found working at Ferndown Golf Club. He was finally convicted of the murders in 2002, specifically, his 39-year-old wife Patricia, seven-year- old son Jonathan and five-year-old  daughter Victoria when they all lived in Salcombe, south Devon, in 1975. Mrs Yabsley, a prosecution witness, said she did not mention the scratches to  the police in 1976 out of loyalty to Allen, because he told her Patricia had  scratched him during a row (sounds like Yabsley and Allen were made for each other).

To Be or Not to Be  (The Shakespeare Hoax)

Internet Idiot – “He started a joke…”

The only thing weirder than a person who fakes his death, is a person who fakes faking his death. An idiot named Marc, aka holdkris99 joined a community of on-line friends on a site named Metafilter and formed connections with them for six years.  One day, his “wife” (he isn’t married) posted a sad message that Marc, (aka idiot), committed suicide or pseudocide. The mods set her up with an account to post her sob story, a 4,000 word tome which included tales of sexual abuse, meth addiction, prison, their wedding, death, murder, depression, and what he loved. It made people cry. The Metafilter community believed it. For six years, Marc helped people and offered advice. He was what made Metafilter different from other forums (he certainly succeeded in that regard).
Then Metafilter moderators emailed back Marc’s “wife” about how they spotted Marc in a picture on Facebook days after he supposedly “died.” The jig was up. Today, Marc’s “wife” admitted to the joke or “bad experiment”, unapologetically, saying only that it had gone too far. In an online sense, Metafilter did lose a friend named Marc to suicide: he was once an important Metafilter member and due to his own on-line suicide, they’ll never let him rejoin the site.
Dr Marc (irony, that) Feldman, a psychiatrist who has studied thousands of cases of factitious disorders, stated, “I think the explanations are broader than simply seeking attention. In some situations, the deceptions are so engaging and heart-rending that I believe there is an undeniable element of sadism.” Creepy. These internet idiots are unable to commit sadistic acts in the real world, so they use the internet as an outlet. A “bad experiment that went too far?” More like a sadist/psychopath who got off on manipulating people’s emotions. This internet sadism occurs so frequently that a LiveJournal community, known as fake_lj_deaths, has more than 6,000 members who investigate suspicious “deaths” reported on the social networking site. The sleuths are motivated by a desire to spare credulous readers grief and bereavement over the imaginary passing of a sometimes-imaginary friend. Pathetic.

Killing a Fake On-line Flake

A clinical diagnosis called Munchausen by Internet—the act of fabricating disorders and deaths, concerning your own or other people’s, via the attention-nabbing stage of the Internet.Here is a step-by-step plan for how to enact Munchausen by internet:

  •  Step One: meet other people on the internet;
  • Step Two: convince them that you (or your fictional stand-in) are suffering from a heartbreaking disease;
  • Step Three: profit from their attention and more.
  • Step Four: when it becomes impossible to maintain the lie, stage the death of the fictional character

The latest case of Munchausen by Internet is a teenager named Jadzia Richlin who was outed for faking cancer and then requesting gifts from cancer charities and other organizations.The unique freedom offered by online anonymity is increasingly being abused. At age 16, Rebecca Kent, from Fullerton, Calif., was desperate for proof that her virtual friends genuinely cared for her. She posed as her sister and told readers she had been injured in a car accident. When she “died” after a 48-hour struggle, the shock among her friends became genuine grief and mourning.

It sounds odd, but you feel loved,” said Kent, who is now 24 and bitterly regrets her deception (rather like a newspaper that does a misprint then later states it “regrets the error”). There are people who don’t know you from Adam but they show you they still care.” On-line community members need to be on the alert for fraudulent “friends”. There are a number of ways to figure out if you are corresponding with a fictitious friend (whether this friend is dying of cancer or not):

  1. life stories keep changing
  2. there are few intricate details or too many about the member’s life
  3. agrees to meet, then pulls a no-show or always cancels the “date”
  4. gets caught in lies
  5. elaborate stories of woe that are meant to elicit pity
  6. attempts to sucker money out of site members
  7. sick or dying from cancer or another well-known disease

Some of these frauds may have a pathology, such as the one suggested by Feldman.  Perhaps many of these phony identities belong to people who suffer from personality disorders such as:

  1. narcissism,
  2. histrionic,
  3. borderline personality disorder,
  4. paranoid, (of course munchausen),
  5. psychopathy
  6. bipolar,
  7. schizoid illness,
  8. compulsive or pathological lying,
  9. anxiety
  10. avoidant
  11. communicative
  12. even DID (dissociative identity disorder)

DID would create a conundrum indeed.  Suppose it was an alter that went online against the host’s knowledge, to elicit pity over a fictitious illness, and (just to stir the pot), the alter believed s/he was truly ill, would that still be internet abuse? It would be impossible to prove this development and the host, who knows nothing of the fake, could be the personality who is punished for the deception. That could make an interesting short story.  There.  If you are an internet idiot, you now have an idea for your next fictitious posting (oops… my bad).

How to Fake Your Own Death…You Idiot

If you are serious about faking your death for your own (bizarre and stupid) reasons, there is a way to go about this idiocy sensibly and methodically:

  1. Decide if you seriously want to do this. Are there any alternatives?  Are you jumping the gun (pun)?
  2. Realize the implications this will have. You’ll have no contact with friends or relatives, and if you do, they’ll probably betray you to police.
  3. Get rid of all personal connections with yourself. You cannot use email accounts, personal documents including health cards and passport, or memberships.
  4. Arrange for financial benefits such as life insurance for your family so they aren’t left bereft.
  5. Stash cash…and lots of it.  No more credit or debit for you.
  6. Arrange for new personal documents and i.d.
  7. Decide on a death method. Suicide is probably the easiest, and innocent people won’t be accused of your “murder“.
  8. Don’t run away with a romantic partner unless you trust him or her with your life.
  9. Act depressed for several weeks or months before your pseudocide.  See a psychiatrist. Pretend to take anti-depressants. Leave a note.
  10. Pick a “method” that means there is no body to be found, or failing that, where it would be very difficult to find. A common one is jumping off a bridge.
  11. Have a destination in mind where no one would look for you.
  12. Radically change your appearance. Ideally, get cosmetic surgery, completely overhaul your wardrobe, hairstyle, perhaps change your weight and make yourself look taller or shorter by consistently wearing flats or platforms (this goes for men too).
  13. Loose lips sink ships.  Tell no one before you fake your death, and after you begin your new life.
  14. Do it. Plant a note for your “suicide” and then disappear. Start over, with a new identity. Be free…but at what cost?
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2 Responses to Faking Death to Flee from Life

  1. Liz Cote says:

    I knew a pathological liar who tried to spin tales of abuse, sickness and death concerning herself and a few “others” that involved alternate emails, and ID’s, even badly written snail mail letters from herself and others. She had a whole message board fooled, and kept a few of us online daily for 9hrs if she could. She didn’t like it when I called her on all her bs and told her new online friend about her lies.
    Sad, sad, pathetic things some deranged people do!

    • marilyn4ever says:

      That is truly sick. What’s also bizarre is that she spent so much energy and time inventing these people when she could have actually been living her own life.

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