Death is the last event desired by any creature, but as years have proven, it can be a perfect escape from a haunting past. Once you die, the world tends to write you off, walking back into a public life may not necessarily make you as famous as Jesus. Fake deaths hurt family and friends, but many people still do it anyway. Stories of people who fake their deaths to escape from authorities, cash in on life insurance or just go off the grid always have astonishing ends. These are the most shocking cases of the famous living dead that were forgotten by the world only to turn up alive and well.
1 Marcus Schrenker
Marcus Schrenker was being investigated in Indiana for investment fraud through his company Icon Group when he crashed his company’s plane and “died.” The crash came just a few days after the police invaded his posh home in Indiana and his business was shut down pending investigation. His wife Michelle had also filed for divorce. He went to the airport and filed a flight plan for Florida before sending a fake distress call saying he was severely injured and bleeding.
His death was however put in question when the wreck of his plane found in Milton Florida on January 12, 2009, had no trace of blood. He immediately became the most wanted man in Indiana. He found out the mistake in his plan while on a campground in Chattahoochee Florida, this time he attempted to die for real by cutting his wrists. He was however arrested and taken to a hospital before dying. The court gave him 50 months for making a fake distress call and intentionally destroying a $2m plane.
2 Arkady Babchenko
What do you do when you become the most wanted journalist by the Kremlin? Well, Arkady Babchenko simply decided to die. He employed the help of Ukrainian security services, a makeup artist who used a pig’s blood and a morgue attendant. His death was reported worldwide with live videos of Babchenko being loaded on the ambulance all over the news. He was sneaked into the morgue after “dying” on his way to the hospital and even got a chance to watch the world criticize Russia for assassinating him.
His criticism of Vladimir Putin’s regime had put his life in danger, and his wife willingly called the police to report the fake shooting. When he resurrected in Kiev and talked on national television, the whole world was shocked. He, however, supported his actions claiming that he had received death threats and reports of a planned hit on him and his family. Threats on him came in a tense time after Russia was accused of poisoning Skripal, a defected Russian spy, and his daughter with a nerve agent. At least he lived long enough to watch news of his “own murder.”
3 Samuel Israel
Bayou capital LLC was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in the US in the early 2000s. Samuel Israel III, the founder, was a smart man that conned some of the most excellent investment companies since 1995. Despite the cash problems his firm was undergoing, Israel continued to live lavishly in a $32,000 house rented from Donald Trump. He withdrew $161m from the firm accounts and hid it overseas before the firm went down for which he was given 20 years in prison in April and with a free time of three months before reporting for the sentence.
On June 9, 2008, Samuel Israel was supposed to report to prison for his 20-year prison sentence. Instead of showing up in prison, he dumped his car on Bear Mountain Bridge with a death note on the hood saying “suicide is painless.” The authorities were however not convinced. US Marshals and the FBI both named him as the most wanted criminal for having run a $450m Ponzi scheme forcing him out of hiding a month later. He proceeded to prison to serve 22 years; two more years slapped on the sentence for skipping bail.
4 Patrick McDermott
Olivia Newton is a famous Australian-British actor and songwriter popular for her role as Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease. She has won many awards, but her on-and-off boyfriend became more famous in 2005 after disappearing on a fishing trip in California. His “death” was convincing at first because he left behind his personal belongings including a wallet. Speculations of faking his death, however, became rampant a year later when his ex-wife reported an $8000 outstanding child support debt.
Olivia Newton mourned his disappearance but moved on to get married in 2008 before rumors of his sittings started rolling in. The Korean-American cameraman has been photographed with a woman in a small town in Mexico, but the authorities have not shown interest in tracking him down yet. Maybe he just wanted some time off the grid, who knows!
5 Lenin Carballido
This is the story of Mexico’s most famous Zombie candidate. If you fake your death and still want to run for a political seat then you really need plastic surgery as it turned out for the elected mayor in Mexico. Lenin Carballido was the mayor-elect for Amantengo town of Oaxaca state in July 2013 but his victory shocked the authorities because his death certificate was filed in 2010. He died from a diabetic coma a few days after a warrant of arrest was given for his role in a gang rape in 2004. He even had a local official write a doctor’s report and a Death Certificate.
The Democratic Revolutionary party through which he had won the seat was forced to denounce him saying he fooled them. He became the “zombie candidate” that shocked the whole world. He was arrested for lying to the authorities and using fake documents in the case that implicated his family and the corrupt officials that officiated his fake death. He was also presented to answer for the charges for which he faked his death 3 years earlier. Maybe, he should have lost the election instead!
6 John Stonehouse
This is a famous British MP and Czech spy who died only to show up in Australia with his secretary living under the name of his dead constituent. John Stonehouse was a Labor MP for Walsall North from the 50s popular for being the last man to hold the post of Postmaster General. While working as the chief mailman in the house of Commons, he introduced the famous second-class stamps before becoming the first British MP to die twice. He first “died” when he drowned on a beach in Miami in November 1974.
His death was believed to be real because no one would expect an MP to do what Stonehouse did, besides, his clothes were found at the beach. The mafia was blamed for his death amid claims that he was also a Czech spy, later confirmed in 2010. He was extradited to Britain to face Fraud charges for his fake charities and other financial misappropriations. He still showed up in the British house of commons in October 1975 despite having ashamed the Labor party. He later faced justice with 7 years in prison leaving his seat for a conservative in 1976. He kept a low profile and “died for real” in 1988.
7 Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey is one of the most famous authors in the US history popularly known for his 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The book detailed the vents of his time as a paid subject in a mind-control experiment by the military. The book was later turned into the hit movie featuring Jack Nicholson and won 5 Oscars but Kesey took a different turn in his career. He became the head of the famous Merry Pranksters traveling around while promoting a new movie from his novel “Sometimes a Great Nation” written under the influence of LCD in which he said Psychedelic drugs were the key to individual liberation.
While running his new career, he took up marijuana smoking and got arrested twice for possession leading to a 6-month sentence that he was too unwilling to serve. He decided to fake a suicide to run away from the FBI. He parked a truck near the ocean with a note that read “Ocean, Ocean, I will beat you in the end” then slipped into Mexico with the help of his crew who later joined him with his family in Guadalajara. After avoiding Mexican Federales and undercover agents for 8 months, he decided to face his woes by coming home and serving his 6-month sentence. He died in 2001 of Liver cancer still keeping a clean record as the man who pioneered the administering of Psychedelic drugs in the US.
8 Bennie Wint
Bennie Wint’s bride-to-be reported him drowned in September 1989 sending the coast guard on a search that remained a mystery for two decades. This was one of the most successful fake deaths in history after Bennie Wint remained dead for 20 years. He disappeared off a beach in 2009 leaving his fiancée Patricia Hollingsworth on a trip on which they were supposed to get married. He was running away after getting a hunch that he was under investigation for his involvement in drug-related crimes years earlier.
A traffic police officer stopped him for missing lights on his plates but he could not provide any identification for Mr. Sweet, his adopted identity, under which he was remarried with a son. He had disappeared off the beach in knee-deep water in a case that even the coast guard couldn’t explain. The Sherriff, however, had doubts because a body never showed up even with helicopter searches days later. He had heartlessly left his fiancée to suffer from sickness leaving a daughter that searched for him for years hoping he would show up and help with her mum’s bills. The police could however not charge him with anything after coming clean on his real identity allowing him to continue with his new life.
9 John Darwin
John and Anne Darwin are still the UK’s most famous death artists after playing the media and their own children for 5 years. On March 21, 2002, John Darwin, a renown canoeist, teacher, and financial adviser paddled his canoe at Seaton Carew never to be seen again. The police combed the water for days with no sign of him and later called off the search. His boat was later found broken leading to the conclusion that he was really dead. His wife who was part of the plot told his sons that their father was dead and took the death certificate to Mr. Darwin’s employer for the insurance and pension payments.
They decided to use his fake death to raise money for their mortgage because they were deeply in debt at the time. However, 5 years later, a photo of the couple appeared online while they were looking for a property in Panama. They were tired of living the double life where John had to hide during the day and crawl back to the house at night. John Darwin later handed himself to the Police claiming to have no recollection of where he had been for 5 years but the images of his Panama property hunt sold him out. They were both sent to prison for 6 years after which they got a divorce. They, however, made the perfect living dead team that defrauded insurance over $250,000.
10 Harry Gordon
As Harry Gordon wrote after being arrested, if you fake your death, stay away from the mountains where your brother frequents. He was a successful businessman in Sydney until he decided to run some big deals that led him into the hands of the Russian Mafia. They started extorting him for money and threatening his life. He decided that if he just died, no one would look for him. his wife Sheila was also angry with him for bringing home a daughter from his affair some years back. He took a boat and abandoned it at night in the mangroves at Kruah Estuary Near Port Stephens, South Wales with his phone, some cash, and champagne bottles to keep the story alive.
He, however, kept contact with his wife and even planned to run together but she came without the intended upkeep cash to Spain. He stayed on the run for five years moving through Australia, Spain, the UK and finally New Zealand where he met another woman and decided to settle. He even met with former friends and colleagues after the coroner confirmed him dead and told them he was in witness protection. Despite the issuance of his death certificate, the insurance company doubted his death and refused to pay his $3.5 million life assurance. His plot was finally uncovered when he met his older brother while walking on Mt. Maunganui in New Zealand. His wife was forced to confess leading to their arrest and a 15-month sentence for Gordon. His new-found love still agreed to marry him for real this time even after learning the truth was giving a sweet end to his long hunt for peace.