Faked death  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A faked death occurs when an individual leaves evidence to suggest that he or she is dead in order to mislead others. This may be done for a variety of reasons, such as to fraudulently collect insurance money or avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime.

People who fake their own deaths sometimes do so by ostensibly drowning, because it provides a plausible reason for the absence of a body. There are several how-to books on the subject of faking one's death, including How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found.

Notable faked deaths

  • "Lord" Timothy Dexter, an eccentric 18th century New England businessman who faked his own death in order to see how people would react. His wife did not shed any tears at the wake, and as a result he caned her for not being sufficiently saddened at his passing.
  • Connie Franklin, the "Arkansas Ghost", disappeared in 1929 and was reported to have been murdered. Later that year he was discovered to be living in a nearby county and brought to testify at his own murder trial.
  • Ken Kesey, an American author who in 1966 faked his death and fled to Mexico in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid imprisonment on marijuana charges.
  • John Stonehouse, a British politician who faked his own suicide by drowning on 20 November 1974 in order to escape financial difficulties and live with his mistress. He was discovered in Australia - where police initially thought he might be Lord Lucan - and jailed.
  • Graham Cardwell, a Lincolnshire dockmaster who disappeared in September 1998 and was assumed drowned. Eight months later he was discovered living in secret in the West Midlands. He claimed he had thought he was suffering from cancer (though had not sought medical attention) and wanted to spare his family the trauma of it. He was not prosecuted.
  • Steven Chin Leung, who faked his death in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in order to evade a charge of passport fraud.
  • Dorothy Johnson, an American woman who allegedly faked her death in the September 11 attacks in order to collect on insurance claims allegedly filed by her daughter, Twila McKee. Johnson and McKee were charged in 2003 with insurance fraud.
  • John Darwin, a British man who disappeared in March 2002 whilst canoeing and was assumed drowned until his discovery and arrest five years later and his trial and conviction the year after.
  • Alan Kirk Wolford, an American funeral home director who forged his own death certificate in order to evade significant debts in 2007.
  • Samuel Israel III an American hedge fund manager who was facing twenty years in prison for fraud left his car and a suicide note on the Bear Mountain Bridge in an attempted fake suicide in 2008. A month later he surrendered himself to authorities after tiring of life as a fugitive. It was always suspected that his suicide was faked since, among other things, passers by reported that a car had picked someone up on the bridge from near Israel's abandoned car.
  • Ace Baker, an American composer and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, faked suicide by gunfire on January 5, 2009 while on a live radio show with Jim Fetzer. Baker later admitted the stunt on his blog, calling it a work of performance art, citing his frustration with the rest of the 9/11 Truth Movement.
  • Marcus Schrenker A businessman who tried to fake his own death by putting his plane on autopilot, parachuting to the ground and speeding off on a motorcycle on January 11, 2009 was arrested three days later in a Florida campground.

Notable fictional examples

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Faked death" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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