From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to James Bond (You Only Live Twice), we’ve watched characters fake their deaths, only to reappear later. IRL, fake suicides or pseudocides are much more common than you think. There are entire ‘manuals’ devoted to the subject, some bestsellers include Pseudocide for Dummies, Deschner’s How to Create a New Identity and Richmond’s How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found.
There’s more interest than you’d have thought, pseudocide books apparently make up around 45% of the How To book market.
While motives range from greed to avoiding shame, people have faked their deaths out of sheer boredom. One of the most common methods used is by drowning, some row out to sea and abandon the boat, so it looks like they fell overboard. Others ‘jump off a bridge’; there are those that say up to a quarter of suicides from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, may be faked. This is because in many drowning deaths, the bodies are rarely found.
Whether it’s people trying to avoid the long arm of the law or just avoiding paying an overdue library bill, there are many weird examples of people faking their deaths. Here are ten we found.
10. “Lord” Timothy Dexter – Who Would Show Up to the Funeral?
Dexter was an American businessman and author in 18th century Boston. He was regarded as a bit of an eccentric in everything he did. His business exploits included shipping warming pans to the West Indies (a tropical area with no need for such). He also published a book about himself, with 8,847 words, 33,864 letters and no punctuation and poor spelling. Despite this, the book was extremely popular and was reprinted eight times. In the second edition, he included a page full of punctuation marks, with a note asking the reader to “place as you please.”
To see how his contemporaries really felt about him, Dexter faked his death to see who would turn up at his funeral. His mock wake was well attended by almost 3,000 mourners. But observing that his wife shed no tears, Dexter ‘resurrected’ from death to flog her.
9. Dianne Craven – It’s Not You, It’s Me
To avoid a tearful, drawn-out break up, Dianne Craven decided to skip the entire “its not you, its me” speech. To slip out of her five year relationship with Stuart Shortland, she simply faked her own death. Craven first told Shortland that she had just given birth to their daughter, Ruby.
Five days later, en route to see mother and child, Shortland got a text message from Dianne’s ‘brother’ saying she had died of a brain hemorrhage. However, three months later, an investigation by the British press discovered Craven and her family were living in Bali. It turns out Craven was already married with kids; and the baby she supposedly had? It never existed.
8. Philip M. Blacet – Escaping Family Time
While Bykov was planing to get hitched, Blacet was planning to get free of his wife and family. Dr. Blacet was a respected geologist who had authored articles, books, and produced maps for the US Geological Survey. Despite this success, he was left feeling empty with what he described as his “materialistic existence.”
Fed up with his life in 1970s California, Blacet often mused on whether his wife and family would miss him if he disappeared. When he met a younger woman in 1976, he faked his death by making it look as if a hitchhiker had robbed and killed him. Trekking into the woods, he hid out there for a few weeks before notifying his girlfriend. When he was convinced that the authorities were no longer looking for him, he moved in with her and got a job as a field laborer picking cotton.
He was busted when his girlfriend’s ex-husband became suspicious. Recalling Blacet’s publicized disappearance, he notified the authorities. Blacet admitted to the pseudocide and asked his wife for a divorce. He became free to settle into the ‘happy, simple life’ with his soul mate.
7. Aftab Aslam – Failing A School Exam
In 2013, when 19-year-old Aftab Aslam failed English (yet again), the prospect of facing his parents was unbearable. Rather than face the music, Aslam bought a burner phone and sent a message to his parents. The message claimed he had been kidnapped by a criminal gang and was being held for ransom. The text warned the family not to contact the police or the Georgia teen would be killed.
His parents called the police who enlisted the help of the FBI in the “abduction” case. The FBI traced the text to the phone and made the connection that it was bought by Aslam himself. The case was downgraded to a missing-person investigation. When Aslam returned home, after camping in a field for eight days, he stuck to his story of being kidnapped.
But under cross-examination, he confessed to having made everything up. The police were unsympathetic, and charged him with falsely reporting a crime, making false statements, and making terroristic threats. He was released on $9,000 bail.
6. Philip Sessarego – New Identity
Having been turned down twice by the British Special Air Service (SAS), the Royal Artillery soldier decided to make a clean break. Using contacts gathered working in the army, he faked his death in 1991.
Reinventing himself as Tom Carew, an expert on Muslim extremism, Carew wrote the bestseller, Jihad! The Secret War in Afghanistan. The book purported to be an account of his role in training Afghan insurgents in the 80s.
However, it was entirely a work of fiction, as he had never gone on any such mission. His deception led to him being regarded as a traitor and an ‘SAS wannabe,’ by real SAS soldiers. The British military establishment also took offense to his fictional account of events.
The book was serialized in the New York Times and it got a boost when it was released in paperback on the day before the 9/11 attacks. Carew was interviewed by many reporters, as he was perceived to be an expert. These interviews led to his unmasking when he was recognized by his children. The British military establishment also took the opportunity to call him out on his deception.
After the interview, he went on the run again in Belgium. In a final twist to the tale, Carew was discovered dead in a rented out garage unit in 2009.
5. Sajnu Amir Dangar – For Love!
The restrictions imposed by the Indian caste system led school teacher, Sajnu Amir Dangar, to fake her death in 2009. She hatched a plan to elope and marry her lover, who was from another caste; but for it to work, she had to die first. The 19 year old Dangar “committed suicide” by lighting her own funeral pyre, and leaving a a suicide note for her family. In it, she claimed to be depressed because she couldn’t find a job.
But when the police couldn’t find any remains in the ashes, the police examined her phone records and discovered she had been calling and texting one particular number A LOT. The number belonged to Kamlesh Patel, a teacher at her last place of work. Tracking Patel down, the couple finally confessed to the entire plan.
4. Alexey Bykov – Worst. Wedding Proposal. Ever.
Like Lord Dexter, Bykov wanted to see just how much people cared about him. He decided to ‘prank’ his wife-to-be, Irina Kolokov. To test her love, Bykov hired a stuntman, make-up artist, a screenwriter, and a director – not to stage an elaborate proposal, but to fake his death right before her eyes.
He arranged for her to meet him at a certain place, at a certain time, where she’d witness the car accident. With mangled cars, blaring ambulances, smoke and carnage everywhere, the bride-to-be saw her groom lying bloodied in the middle of the road. She burst into tears, which was Bykov’s cue to “awaken from the dead” and propose to her. He said “I wanted her to realize how empty her life would be without me.”
3. William Arksey – Avoiding Court
In 1997, Connecticut man William Peterson faced yet another misdemeanor DUI charge. As a repeat offender, Arksey knew that if he showed up in court, he’d be facing jail. So on the day of his hearing, Arksey conveniently turned up “missing”; the judge was told that he had passed on and the case was closed.
Arksey had filed a false certificate of death with the county court, then changed his name from Peterson to Arksey. He got away with this for eight years, but his lucky streak was foiled by another DUI arrest. When the cop ran his prints, he was shocked to find that they matched those of the ‘dead’ William Peterson.
Charged to court again, Peterson pled guilty and was sentenced to one year in jail.
2. Corey Taylor – Getting Out of a Phone Contract
Fed up with poor service and angry at the fact that he couldn’t abandon his phone contract, Taylor turned to the Internet for a way out. He soon stumbled across a clause that stipulated that wireless companies would terminate any contract, without penalty, if the person named died.
At the time, this seemed like the only way out of his Verizon contract. Rather than fork over $175 for the cancellation, he faxed a bogus death certificate to the phone company. Verizon finally caught on and and forced him to pay up. Taylor said the ‘incident was more about sending a message than the actual fine.’
1. Tucker Blandford – Cold Feet Before the Wedding
When Alex Lanchester met Tucker Blandford in August 2012, she thought he was the perfect gentleman. After spending a year together, Blandford proposed as she planned to return to Britain.
After accepting his proposal, she left the USA. The couple spoke everyday and had started making plans about their life life together. She booked a venue, bought a dress, even paid for his tickets to fly to the UK.
Everything was going great till she received a phone call a week to the wedding. The caller claimed to be Blandford’s father informing her that Tucker had committed suicide. After bawling for a few hours, Alex rang the number again.
Blandford’s mother answered the phone and said Tucker was fine. His mum had no idea the two were still in a relationship. When confronted, he said “I got scared and wanted to get out of the relationship.” Really classy fellow, don’t you think?