People Who Got Caught Faking Their Own Deaths

If you’re Googling how to fake your own death right now, you might want to read this list. There are a few things you should probably know that these people who faked their own deaths learned the hard way. First up, don’t be found alive and well (that’s a big one). That’s exactly what happened to the people listed here – all of whom were caught faking their own deaths.

You’ve got to be careful when you’re passing off someone else’s ashes as your own, or whatever it is you’re doing to fake your untimely demise. What sorts of things should you avoid and what lessons can you learn from those who haven’t succeeded at this strange goal? Definitely don’t walk into a police station five years after you fake your own death, pretending you have amnesia. Chances are, the police will think something is up. You also shouldn’t fax suicide notes to the authorities if you don’t have a good hiding place. Otherwise, you’ll only be fake dead for a few hours.

Take a look at these people who tried to do the Grim Reaper’s job for him, whether they wanted to escape their family, friends, or responsibilities.

Bestselling Author Recognized by Children in the Wake of 9/11
Philip Sessarego is one of the most breathtaking examples of faking one’s own death and the delusion that can accompany it. Sessarego was formerly in the Royal Artillery and failed twice at making the SAS, a special branch of the British military called The Regiment. He faked his death in 1993 after appearing to die after detonating a landmine in Bosnia.

Sessarego was dead to his family and friends, but he was actually now Tom Carew, a famous author. Sessarego as Carew wrote the book Jihad!, a New York Times bestseller. The book was released the day before the September 11th attacks. His expertise and the book’s popularity landed Sessarego/Carew on many news shows as an expert. In one of the 2001 interviews, Sessarego’s children recognized him. Sessarego, who became a recluse after his outing, died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in 2009.

Marcus Schrenker Was Caught After Crashing His Plane to Fake His Death
Schrenker was in a lot of trouble after defrauding three of his own companies in Indiana. He decided to fake his death by placing a mayday call from his small plane, putting it on autopilot, and then parachuting from the craft as it crashed. He was discovered days later at a campsite and  sentenced to 10 years for securities fraud.
Olivia Newton-John’s Presumed Dead Boyfriend Found Alive 11 Years Later

Olivia Newton-John’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Patrick McDermott decided to be permanently off-again when he disappeared 11 years ago. However, McDermott was spotted alive and well in a remote village in Mexico in March 2016.

Presumably McDermott gave indications that he was dead when he disappeared in 2005 during a fishing trip. A Coast Guard investigation determined that McDermott was lost at sea. New evidence suggests he was living with his girlfriend and wished to be left alone. Newton-John moved on as well; she married John Easterling in 2008.

Michael Rosen Hoped to Escape Forgery Charges, Forged Death Certificate

Michael Rosen wanted to get out of some forgery charges. So what did he do? He forged his own death certificate (listing cardio-respiratory arrest as the cause of death), posed as his own brother, and walked it into a courtroom in 2011.

At first, the judge bought it. He dismissed the charges against Rosen. But a probation officer remembered seeing Rosen in good health and made an inquiry, only to discover Rosen was definitely alive. Rosen faced 10 years for each felony count he was initially trying to dodge.

John Darwin Stages His Own Drowning, Blew His Cover Five Years Later

To escape credit card debt, Darwin made it look at though he drowned while canoeing in the North Sea. He snuck back home and lived there with his wife for five years, collecting life insurance and having their mortgage paid off. But when he couldn’t continue on without seeing his children, he decided to pretend that he had amnesia and walked into a police station.

He and his wife were quickly discovered and he was forced to forfeit his pension funds and pay back the funds he and his wife had obtained.

Dentist Faked His Death for Insurance
Emmanouil Parisis faked his death in a car crash in his native Jordan, moved to Aberdeenshire and changed his name to Neil McClaren. He cashed in on 15 different insurance policies, garnering £1.85 million (equivalent to somewhere around $2.5 million). He and his wife were later discovered as frauds, along with another family member.
Japanese Business Man and His Friends Fake His Death to Escape Debt
Ichiro Ogushi’s trading company was in serious financial debt when he decided to fake his own death for insurance payouts to the tune of $5.8 million. He asked a friend in Thailand to help him fake his death and pass off someone else’s ashes as his remains. The Japanese embassy in Bangkok determined that the death certificate was fake and forensic tests could not conclude that the ashes were Ogushi’s.
Florida Man Fakes Death for 20 Years, to Learn He Was Never Wanted by the Cops

Bennie Wint faked his death in 1989 when he thought he was about to be brought up on drug charges in Florida. He appeared to drown in the ocean, leaving behind a grieving fiancée and four-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. In 2009, Wint was pulled over for a routine traffic in South Carolina and he was discovered to be using a false name.

He confessed to faking his own death and discovered that the cops in Florida weren’t after him in the first place.

Man in Syndey Fakes Death by Suicide, Is Discovered a Few Hours Later
Frank Umbrello sent a suicide note to authorities, hoping to avoid facing the music on charges surrounding $20,000 in credit card and eBay scams. A few hours after faxing the note to police, Umbrello was discovered very much alive.
British Labor Party MP Faked His Death, Was Found a Month Later with Mistress
John Stonehouse was an MP in the ‘50s and was presumed drowned in 1974, off the coast of Miami. The mafia was suspected. There was also speculation that Stonehouse was a Czech spy, which turned out to be true – confirmed in 2010 – but had nothing to do with his disappearance in the ‘70s. Stonehouse was found alive in Australia a month later, along with his secretary.
Cuckoo’s Nest Author Escaped Drug Charges by Faking Death

Ken Kesey wrote the popular book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was also an avid LSD user and friend to Timothy Leary and The Merry Pranksters. To avoid marijuana charges, he and the Pranksters abandoned his truck in Eureka, CA along with a suicide note. They then snuck him into Mexico, where he stayed for eight months. He was arrested when he tried to enter the United States and was jailed for five months.

Read journalist Lawrence Downes’s groovy account of Kesey’s fake death and subsequent capture here.

Renowned Pianist Possibly Faked His Death to See How It Would Play Out

Either as a joke, a marketing ploy, or just another day in the life of an eccentric classical musician, Friedrich Gulda was presumed dead after a fax was sent from Zurich airport in 1999. Gulda turned out to be fine, but seemed to enjoy never quite clearing up what happened. There is speculation that he simply wanted to see his own obituary and how he was perceived.

Shortly after the hoax, Gulda played at a rare appearance in Salzburg at a concert entitled, “Resurrection Party.”

Marine Faked Death to Escape Sexual Assault Charges, Caught Due to Sexual Assault Charges

Marine Staff Sergeant Arthur Bennett was believed to have died when his trailer burned in 1994. A body was found in the charred remains of the home, cremated, and given a burial with full military honors.

In reality, Bennett’s family helped him move to Hurricane, UT, where he dyed his hair red, covered his brown eyes with blue contacts, and lived under the name Joe Benson. After he was accused of molesting his own daughters and another child, Bennett was arrested in 1997. His fingerprints revealed his true identity. While he awaited court martial, Bennett hung himself in his cell. The body found in Bennett’s trailer was never identified as it had been cremated.

Spanish Businessman Faked Drowning, Arrested as he Stepped Off Plane in Brazil
Jenaro Jiménez Hernández was feared dead by his family after a single flipper was discovered off the coast of Spain, indicating he had died in an accident while spearfishing. But rumors kept the notion alive that Hernández, heavily in debt, had faked his death, which he in fact had. Police believed he had been living in Paraguay for 16 months.