Everyone in their life has at least once thought about going off the grid. It may have been because of the nasty boss at work, loss of a loved one, growing financial problems, legal persecution or just life in general. While some of us have the strength to not give in to the bad days, others don’t have the courage to deal with it anymore. And death all of a sudden seems like a very viable option to put us out of our misery.
But here’s the catch. What if you want to die without really dying? I mean, life isn’t that bad. And that life insurance policy money is going to get you everything you ever wanted. So how do you disappear off the radar, away from your responsibilities and problems, without losing the privilege of staying alive? You fake your death!
That exactly what these people had in mind when they set out to make another life at the expense of their current one. They could’ve had a fulfilling “second” life, if only they hadn’t made the little mistakes they did. Nevertheless, here are the exciting tales of 15 daring men and women who decided to fake their own deaths.
15. John Darwin vanished from a canoe and returned with amnesia
Debts piling up because of an ambitious life that never really played out forced retired prison officer John Darwin to fake his own death in 2002. The scheme was simple, observe weather reports closely, go canoeing when the waters became rough and let people believe he was missing/dead while he took a train elsewhere, In the meantime, his wife claimed insurance money to pay off their debts. All was going well until 5 years later when he decided to outwit the authorities once again by faking amnesia and turning himself over. He and his wife agreed that was the only way to make a safe path for him to move to Panama and start a new life. However, suspicions soon arose and an investigation ensued leading to 6 years imprisonment and a million dollar fine for him and his wife.
14. James R. Lang Could Not Claim Life Insurance
No man wants to see his family suffering because he’s unable to provide for them. Those were the sentiments of James R. Lang who decided that life had been too unfair and his loved ones deserved better. So he hatched a plan: drive his car into a lake with his blood smeared over it so that his wife could claim $200,000 in life insurance while he lived on the streets. And so he did, until a few months later when he found out that his death had been too suspicious for the insurance agency to pay his family. Apparently, Lang had forgotten the bags filled with his blood intact in the back seat. Consequently, he went to a police station faking amnesia but was soon caught up with and admitted to his crime. No charges were levied as there had been no payout of insurance leaving Lang once again to deal with his former problems.
13. Alison Matera faked her death to avoid going to church
You’re an active choir member, regularly attend church and people love you. The problem is you don’t want to be a part of it anymore. So how do you get out without breaking any hearts? That’s the question Alison Matera was asking herself when she came up with the most mainstream excuse ever made. So Alison walked into church one day, told them she had cancer, and that her treatment would prevent her from being a regular. Then she informed the loving members of the church that she was dying and going to hospice care. Eventually, Alison’s sister was on the phone talking to the church about arranging a service without a body in the casket. Naturally, people became suspicious. But everyone cared deeply for the former choir member so a service was held. Which was attended by Alison disguised as her sister. Apparently, her curiosity to know who would be coming had taken over her. She later admitted to the police that faking her own death was the only way she could leave the church without hurting anyone’s feelings.
12. Alfredo Sanchez answered the phone after being cremated
If pride has a fall, greed has a bigger one. Such was the case of Alfredo Sanchez and his wife. After taking huge loans, both partners traveled to South America. Only, Sanchez never came back. His wife handed a death certificate to his employer and was able to claim insurance and get the loans they had taken prior to the trip forgiven. Fate, however, had other things planned for this scheming couple. Sanchez’s’ friend got in a tight spot with the police over using his discount card and was forced to make a call to him. The unsuspecting Sanchez, now living a new life in Australia, picked up the call before dropping it, putting police on his trail. The mistake that would lead to the arrest of the couple and a 5-year sentence.
11. Michael Rosen couldn’t spell properly
Justice’s iron hand led Michael Rosen to take extreme measures in 2010 and end his troubles once and for all. On the day of his court hearing, he dressed up as his brother and handed the court clerk a death certificate for Michael Rosen. His shenanigan was convincing enough to make the judge drop all charges against him. Pretty lucky, except that his probation officer was suspicious and out to prove himself right. So, the officer got his hands on a copy of the death certificate, saw a lack of official stamp and the spelling errors on the document, and was quick to deduce that Rosen had tried to fake his own death to escape persecution. This led to a 3-year sentence for forgery.
10. Harry Gordon Was Running Away From Russian Mafia
If you dip your nose into water, your cheeks will also get wet. Which couldn’t be truer in the case of Harry Gordon, rich and discontent with life. Blinded by greed, this business man soon found himself in the midst of a mess with the Russian Mafia and a lawsuit. His solution, stage his death by disappearing at sea, assume another identity and move abroad. Pretty simple and almost successful except that 5 years later he was honeymooning with his newly wed wife when he crossed paths with his brother on a hike. The confrontation between the two and a complaint lodged by his formerly “widowed” wife to the police led to 15 months in jail. He eventually came out of prison with a best-selling book and remarried his second wife. Looks like he got the happy ending he wanted after all.
9. John Stonehouse was Lord Lucan?
Labor party secretary in the British Parliament, John Stonehouse was in love with his secretary but trapped in an unhappy marriage. His scheming mind came up with the perfect plan. Fake his own death by staging a drowning, move to Australia with his lover and start a new life with a new name. His disappearance stirred some excitement but no theories could be proved, and consequently, Stonehouse was pronounced dead. What could’ve gone possibly wrong with this well thought out master plan? A murderer on the loose. Lord Lucan has disappeared after attacking his wife and murdering the nanny. Meanwhile, Stonehouse’s bank officials had grown suspicious of him. So they tipped the police off that he might be the felon Lord Lucan, ultimately leading to a 7-year sentence on grounds of fraud, theft, and conspiracy.
8. Bennie Wint became an accidental fugitive for 20 years
Another faked drowning, this time by Bennie Wint of Florida who thought he was wanted by police on drug charges. Outwitting authorities successfully, he would go on to live 20 years in hiding until being pulled over by police and arrested for giving a fake identity. Bennies’ lies had finally caught up. So he told the police who he really was and a cross check of the database proved his story. The catch? Wint had never been wanted in the first place. Now that’s ironic.
7. Gandaruban Subramaniam was the modern day Romeo with a twist
What do you do when your business is about to go bankrupt and there’s no way out? This was the question keeping Singapore based business man Gandaruban up at night in the 1980s. All doors were closing on him, so he decided to do what a sane man wouldn’t do. He went missing on a visit to Sri Lanka, followed by a death certificate stating he had been shot by a stray bullet amidst the local civil war turmoil. His wife and three children cashed in on his life insurance money and life was good. Only, Gandaruban was alive and well in Sri Lanka and missed his wife a lot. Life had become lonely. So he called his wife over to Sri Lanka, where he re-married her under a false name and the couple had their fourth baby. Everything worked out fine until he tried to re-enter Singapore in 2007, leading to his discovery and a 3-year sentence for fraud.
6. Peter Gentry had 4 lives and a drinking problem
Here’s what we learned from this persistent gentleman, a death certificate will always get you out of a court date. Peter Gentry was pulled over for drunk driving in 1992. Only his judge received a death certificate on his hearing instead of Peter. Another death certificate in another state got him out of trouble for drunk driving. And a disease he supposedly developed on a trip to Zimbabwe got him out of yet another court hearing for the exact same offense. And Peter Gentry was again on the road driving drunk when he got pulled over for the fourth time. The catch? It was the same officer who had pulled him over once before. Luck finally ran out for this young man as he was sentenced to 3 years for faking his death and drunk driving.
5. Marcus Schrenkers’ plane wreckage got him in trouble
Defrauding investors in his companies had finally caught up to Marcus Schrenker. His expensive cars and planes couldn’t save him from the wrath of justice. So here’s what he did. Marcus decided that the only way to get out of the trouble was to get off of the grid. The plan to fake his death was simple, fly in one of his planes, send a mayday call from the cockpit and parachute to the ground as his plane crashed. Everything would’ve worked out except that investigation into the accident was thorough; travel directories for Alabama and Florida were found in the plane wreckage. And so he was found a few days later in a Florida campground, dying from self-inflicted wounds by the police. Ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud, 4 years for ditching his plane and countless other lawsuits.
4. Clay Daniels faked his death to escape persecution but came back as wife’s new boyfriend
Clay Daniels, 24, was about to serve 30 days in jail for a sexual assault he had committed at the age of 16, followed by a 10-year probation and his name would be on the Registered Sex Offenders list. Which explains why he would want to fake his own death and run away. But why would he come back from the dead and resurface in front of family and friends who knew him all too well? Daniels and his wife dug up a body and burned it along with some of his own belongings to stage his death. While everyone mourned him, he was hidden in his own house enjoying life with the money his wife had claimed from life insurance. Things went smoothly except that instead of relocating, they stayed in the same area and Daniels was now “Jake Gregg”, his own wife’s new boyfriend with black hair. Police caught up pretty quickly to the act, and Clay was sentenced to 30 years while his wife received 20.
3. Ari Squire came back from the dead to commit suicide
Sick and tired of his life and wanting a new one, Ari Squire decided to stage his death. But what identity could he take up for the new life he was planning? Squire befriended a Justin Newman, who looked exactly like him thus fitting all his requirements. The only problem now was to get Justin Newman out of the way. So, Squire lured him into his own house, killed him, swapped clothes and wallets, and set Newman’s body on fire so that it would look like an accident. Everyone was mourning Ari Squire, while he was setting up a new life in Missouri. And things would’ve stayed that way, except Newman’s worried mother reported him missing. As per standard procedure, tests were run on all bodies in police custody, including the supposed body of Ari Squire that actually belonged to Justin Newman. Police set out to track down and arrest Squire, but before they could do so, he committed suicide.
2. Dianne Craven didn’t want to break hearts
Dianne Craven didn’t want to be with her lover anymore. So how could she get out of the relationship without having to face the whole breakup drama? Faking her death of course. So Dianne told her lover she was expecting his child, and then texted him a few days later posing as her brother to tell him “Dianne” had died from a brain hemorrhage. The heart broken lover developed alopecia mourning the loss of his girlfriend, becoming bald. However, his suffering was put to an end when “The Sun” found pictures of Dianne through a Facebook profile which proved that she was alive and well, living with her husband and three children.
1. Lord Timothy Dexter had an ego bigger than death itself
Curiosity killed the cat. In this case, however, no one was really killed. Lord Timothy Dexter was a curious man in the 18th century who wanted to know how he would be remembered when he was dead. So Lord Timothy carried out a little “experiment”. He elaborately staged his own death and then went to the funeral disguised as someone else. The “experiment” was successful. He was in a church attending his own service surrounded by mourning people. What his manly ego couldn’t bear, was that his wife wasn’t grieving as much as he would’ve liked her to. So this daring Lord stood up in the middle of the service, told his wife his opinion and proceeded to cane her. Effectively having “risen” again from the dead.
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