Part of the wonderful and astounding complexities about being a member of the human race is that we are all capable of having the not so wonderful trait of making mistakes from small (and mostly insignificant) oversights to large and critical blunders.
Mistakes aren’t always a bad thing, as they can be translated into valuable learning experiences. But what if a clerical error meant that you, a living and breathing person, were declared legally dead? Even though it wouldn’t be true, it would still be an unsettling feeling, to say the least.
For a variety of reasons, these fifteen people have been legally declared dead to the world… only to shock their loved ones and the people who followed their stories when they showed up alive and well, days or years later, also for a variety of reasons. If you like true stories with tons of mysterious and bizarre twists and turns that will leave you perplexed and dazed, you’re in for a treat. Each of these individuals’ stories is so complicated and packed with strange details, they could inspire a Hollywood movie and a couple of books. But for now, we hope that you enjoy these fifteen bite-sized nuggets of these messy and mysterious whole enchiladas.
15. Natasha Ryan Was Found Hiding In Her Boyfriend’s House
If you’ve ever heard of “the girl in the cupboard” then you already know the twisted and strange story of Natasha Ryan’s disappearance and reappearance. August 31, 1998, started off as just any other day when Ryan’s mother dropped her fourteen-year-old daughter off at school in Rockhampton, Queensland. When the Australian teenager failed to come home from school that day, she was reported missing and her parents’ world was turned upside down. A massive manhunt soon ensued with no trace of Ryan. Her family’s hopes of finding her alive diminished greatly when the police stated that they believed Leonard Fraser, a serial killer from the Rockhampton area had claimed Ryan as one of his victims. Eventually, he admitted to murdering Ryan for a deal that would keep him out of general population in prison. With this confession in mind and without any bit of news on her whereabouts, her family held a memorial for her three years later in 2001. Imagine their surprise when Ryan was found in 2003 after being caught hiding in a cupboard in her boyfriend, Scott Black’s house. Today, they are married and sold their wedding photos to a tabloid magazine.
14. Zhang Aiqing Came Back Ten Years Later To Find Out That Her Husband Was In Jail For Her Murder
It rarely pays to make your personal business public knowledge. No one understands that better than She Xianglin, a local businessman in the Hubei province of China. In 1994, most everyone in the province knew that Xianglin was cheating on his wife, Zhang Aiqing with his mistress. To make gossip juicier, his wife had recently left town – or so everyone thought. That is, until the barely recognizable body of a woman was discovered in a local pond. Some of Xianglin’s wife’s family members identified her body and soon, the rumor mill was on fire. Xianglin and his relatives were detained and harassed by police for weeks. The case against Xianglin was difficult as there was no physical evidence, a weak mostly rumor-produced motive and the DNA testing for the body would oddly enough, have to be paid for by the victim’s family. Regardless, Xianglin was convicted of his wife’s murder. Ten years later, when Aiqing walked through the door to her family’s residence, the rumor mill was once again flowing freely and this time, the police ordered a DNA test which was immediately performed and once confirmed, her husband, guilty only of being unfaithful, was released.
13. Angelo Hays, Awakened From ‘Beyond The Grave’
Angelo Hays was just eighteen years old in 1937, enjoying a motorcycle ride in France when he crashed and suffered a critical head injury. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors found him to be without a pulse and not breathing. He was buried without an autopsy as his motorcycle accident was the obvious cause of his death. Luckily for Hays, a life insurance policy worth two hundred thousand francs had been taken out on his life so shortly before his accident that the insurance company became suspicious of fraud. They decided to exhume his coffin and expected one of two outcomes: either the coffin was empty, confirming their worst suspicions or Hays would, in fact, be dead. Never in their wildest dreams could they have guessed that they would find Hays alive but in a deep coma. Instead of killing him, the accident had slowed his metabolic levels down so much that his pulse was incredibly low and he required a small amount of oxygen allowing him to stay alive while being buried. Once Hays woke up, he enjoyed a long, happy life with a bit of fame having survived his ordeal and invented the “security coffin.”
12. Police Created A Bust Of Deceased Victim Betsy Longjahr… Which She Found Confusing
It was 1973 in Pennsylvania when the badly beaten body of a young woman was discovered outside of an army post. Investigators narrowed the woman’s identity down to four girls who had recently escaped from a home for troubled youth that was nearby. The only girl they couldn’t locate was Betsy Longjahr. Solving Longjahr’s murder was tough for cold case investigators and what made the case even harder was when Longjahr’s son contacted the police to say that his mother was alive and confused after seeing the bust police had created of her face. Longjahr stated that she had no idea anyone had even been looking for her or that she was assumed to be deceased for all of these years. Her son explained to the police that his mother had suffered a hard life and wished to be left alone and the police, frustrated at this point, had to accept that they were back to the drawing board when it came to solving the murder of the actual Jane Doe.
11. Katharine Dyer, Thought To Be A Victim Of The ‘Lonely Hearts Killer’ Found Decades Later
For years, Katharine Farrand Dyer was thought to be the “Boulder Jane Doe” after an unidentified body was found beaten to death in 1954 near Boulder, Colorado. At this time, Harvey Glatman who was dubbed the “Lonely Hearts Killer” had been terrorizing the area so police made a seemingly natural assumption for Doe/Dyer’s death. What was tricky about this case was that Doe’s body had been discovered after animals had left her face unrecognizable. But seeing as how Dyer had disappeared around the same time, police made another seemingly natural assumption. Decades later, in Queensland, Australia, home care professionals were preparing to move an eighty-four-year-old woman named Barbara into a senior care home when they found an address book in Barbara’s possession belonging to “Katharine Farrand Dyer.” After some searching and investigating, it was confirmed that Barbara was really Katharine Dyer. Dyer’s siblings stated that she left Colorado for personal reasons in 1954 and though police were happy to know that Dyer was, in fact, alive and well, they were also back to square one at solving the real Boulder Jane Doe’s case which now had grown freezing cold.
10. Delimar Vera Cuevas Is The Little Girl Who Police Said Died In A House Fire As A Baby
Completely incinerated. That’s what firefighters and police said in regards to the body of ten-day-old Delimar Vera Cuevas who had been sleeping in her crib in her nursery on December 15, 1997 when her family’s home went up in flames. The fire took place during a small Christmas party and officials said it was started by a faulty space heater. Most everyone agreed including Delimar’s father and most of her relatives… but not her mother. It never made sense to Luzaida Cuevas. She had purchased the personal heater specifically for its safety functions and refused to believe that her baby girl was dead because there were no remains found although she had been told repeatedly that the body had been “completely incinerated.” Fast forward six years and Mrs. Cuevas was at a party when she met a six-year-old girl who looked a heck of a lot like her two boys. She hadn’t even known that her friend, Carolyn Correa (who happened to attend the family’s party the night the fire occurred) was pregnant six years ago. A DNA test confirmed her “mother’s intuition” and Correa was arrested for kidnapping.
9. Lal Bihari, Applies For A Loan, Finds Out He’s Been Deceased For Years
No one was more shocked than Lal Bihari, a farmer in India when his local government office informed him that he, a living man, was in fact dead. It was 1975 and he had decided to apply for a bank loan. But first, it was necessary for Bihari to visit a government office nearest him for proof of identity in order to take to the bank for his appointment for the loan. Bihari was shocked at the “news” and in order to prove that he was a dead man walking, the clerks supplied him with official documents that showed that he was listed as a deceased person. After some digging, it was discovered that Bihari’s uncle had bribed a corrupt government official to have Bihari legally declared dead so that the greedy uncle could inherit the family’s land which Bihari had a claim to as well. It took an amazing nineteen years of utter frustration for Bihari to legally be declared alive once more. This man deserves an award for patience… and finally, the longest-awaited bank loan in history.
8. Carlos Camejo, The Man Who Woke Up In The Morgue
Imagine waking up in severe pain only to see a very sharp bloody scalpel held over your face. This is what Carlos Camejo saw in September of 2007. He wasn’t being sadistically tortured, he was in the morgue and about the undergo an autopsy – alive. After Camejo was involved in a very serious car crash in Venezuela, he was taken to the hospital by the first responders. Soon after, the non-moving, non-speaking Camejo was sent down to the cold basement to get toe-tagged. The medical examiner made a basic incision on Camejo’s face and was horrified when the “corpse” started bleeding all over the table. Camejo woke up seconds later in incredible pain and doctors soon figured out that he had been knocked into a near coma-like state of unconsciousness when the accident occurred. It turns out that it was nothing more than a clerical error that almost killed Camejo. He had his pulse taken at the hospital and staff knew he was alive but had accidentally filled out the wrong form which sent the unconscious Camejo to the morgue instead of to an examination room. Never has a clerical error been so completely terrifying.
7. Jerry Miller Has Been ‘Killed’ Four Times By The U.S. Department Of Veteran Affairs
“I’m alive,” Jerry Miller said in an interview. “I’m very alive. To me, it’s stupid. I’m alive. This can’t keep going on and on. They have killed me four times.”
This may come as a surprise but the Social Security Administration mistakenly lists around fourteen thousand people as deceased every year. While that number might seem shocking and unsettling, you can’t imagine what it’s really like until it happens to you. Miller, a retired drill sergeant has had this indignity happen to him four times. Living in sunny Florida on his government pension plus Social Security payments, he was horrified and confused when he opened his mailbox one day and read a letter from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs stating that they would be cutting off his benefits and oh yeah… they were sorry to hear that he had passed away. To get the issue cleared up, Miller had to prove his alive-ness to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. He did so and naturally, assumed that would be the end of it but he was sorely mistaken. Miller received three more letters, three more statements of loss of benefits and three more condolences for his death.
6. Shi Xiaorong, The Body That Came Back From The River
In 1987, a body that was found in a river was thought to be the victim of alleged Chinese serial killer, Teng Xingshan and was later identified as Shi Xiaorong, a local woman who had gone missing earlier. Xingshan was arrested soon after the body was discovered and police put together a theory that Xingshan had murdered Xiaorong over money, possibly something to do with prostitution. Xingshan was a butcher who allegedly dismembered the body with clean cuts that the police described as “professional.” Xingshan was jailed however his family believed that the murdered victim, Xiaorong was alive all along but they were too poor to hire an investigator. Fifteen years later, the real Xiaorong resurfaced when she was arrested for drug trafficking. She was questioned about the incident and stated that she didn’t even know Xingshan but all of this was too late. Xingshan was executed two years after the nameless body was found and maintained that he never killed Xiaorong all along.
5. Richard Hutton, Mistaken For A Victim Of John Wayne Gacy
Prolific serial killer John Wayne Gacy was convicted of murdering thirty-three young men and boys but the bodies of only twenty-six of his victims were discovered. Of those seven missing and unidentified victims, for years police believed that Richard Hutton, who went missing in 1972 at the age of twenty-one, was among them. He fit the profile of a Gacy victim and before his disappearance, lived in the same area as Gacy so everything seemed to match up. But at the age of sixty-two, Hutton was discovered by the Sheriff’s department living alone in Montana. He said that he disappeared because he “got caught up in the ’70’s lifestyle” and yearned to spend time living elsewhere. But after so much time had gone by, he was too embarrassed to contact his family again. After he was discovered alive, he stated that he was grateful to be reunited with his father after so many years.
4. Zhou Zuohai Spent Years In Jail For The Murder Of A Living Person
This is a great warning for people who often get into physical fights. It was 1997 in China when forty-eight-year-old Zhou Zuohai got into a brawl with a man who shared his first name, Zhou Zhenshang. The fight was very public with lots of witnesses and many believed to be over a woman. People (including the police) still remembered the Zhou duo’s public altercation in 1999 when a headless body that was believed to be Zhou Zhengshang was discovered. Zhenshang had disappeared almost immediately after the fight back in 1997 and the timing seemed perfect for an airtight case on Zuohai who was promptly tried and convicted after police received a confession that was the result of torturing Zuohai. After twelve years of languishing in prison (after his wife left him and married another man), who waltzes back in town but Zhenshang. It turns out that he had packed up and split right after the fight. Thankfully, Zuohai was released and awarded around forty-five thousand dollars for his wrongful imprisonment along with some kind of apology from the Chinese government.
3. Lasha Chopikashvill Was Surprised To Find Out That He Had Been Murdered
In the European country of Georgia, a shepherd named Lasha Chopikashvili was hit over the head with a large stick by another local man named Alexi Bakhutov in 2007. Official court investigation records state that Chopikashvili had died on the scene after succumbing to his head injury. However, there is one person who disagrees with this statement. Chopikashvili himself says that he was knocked unconscious after Bakhutov delivered the blow to his head. Sounds like a simple mistake to correct, right? Wrong, because Bakhutov had been sentenced to six years in prison for Chopikashvili’s murder and if that’s not enough, three of Bakhutov’s friends were charged with helping to dispose of Chopikashvili’s body. According to the “murder victim” himself, he woke up after being hit on the head and decided to seek shepherding jobs in another village for about four months. Bakhutov and his friends were allegedly coerced into confessing, threatened with automatic prison sentences if they did not. The semi-happy ending of this story is that the Deputy District Prosecutor who worked the case was charged with neglect of duty in 2013.
2. Harold Wayne Lovell, Not A Victim Of The ‘Killer Clown’ After All
Harold Lovell, a Chicago-based construction worker, was just twenty years old when he failed to come home from a job in 1978. When serial killer John Wayne Gacy was sentenced to prison, his family was sure that their beloved son was one of Gacy’s victims because Lovell had been personally hired by Gacy to do yard work at his residence. Everything seemed to add up to Lovell being one of Gacy’s thirty-three total and seven confirmed victims. However, Lovell was located over three decades later living in Florida when he was arrested. His family had reported him as missing and police got in touch with the Lovell family though sadly, his mother had died ten years prior and had likely passed thinking that her son had fell victim to one of the worst serial killers in American history. As for his explanation, Lovell said that he felt compelled to leave Chicago without a word to his family after an argument between himself, his mother and stepfather. Lovell admitted that he came close to being one of Gacy’s victims, saying that Gacy had asked him to come into his house several times, but Lovell had always (thankfully) declined.
1. Petra Pazsitka, The College Student Who Wasn’t The Victim Of A Serial Killer After All
In Germany of 2015, the police officer who had the female driver’s information in front of him was confused. It was just supposed to be a random police stop but it ended up solving the supposed murder case of a twenty-four-year-old college student in 1984. The murder of Petra Pazsitka had made headlines in Germany back then. Soon after the student was reported missing from her dorm, a man who had been convicted of murdering a female student in the same area as Pazsitka confessed to her murder. Fast forward to 2015 with the cop who came face to face with the fifty-five-year-old very much not murdered Pazsitka. Her motives for voluntarily disappearing of her own free will seem to be rather mysterious though she did say that she made arrangements with some people she knew to care for her animals and told them she was leaving for good. But when her family requested to reunite with her, she denied the reunion and stated she didn’t want to have any contact with them.
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