Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
If you’ve ever sat through a bad first date, you may have fantasized about the various ways you could fake your death to get out of it. But pretending that you’re choking on a piece of steak can only carry you so far. In some cases, like journalist Arkady Babchenko, he claims he had to die in order to live.
The Russian reporter staged his own death last year after finding out about an alleged impending assassination attempt against him set up by Kremlin officials. It was extreme, it was hard on his family, friends, and colleagues, but Babchenko, who came forward, alive and well, the next day explained why it was necessary.
Faking one’s own death isn’t a new thing by any means. Recorded cases of individuals who attempted to stage their demise date back to the 17th century. There are plenty of reasons someone might do this, it usually comes back to one thing: They’re in trouble.
Here are a few famous examples of people who faked their own death, and came back to tell the tale.
Jacquotte Delahaye’s parents both died early deaths, leaving her to care for her brother alone. She became a pirate to do so — but with piracy comes a certain level of danger. At one point in the 1650s, she was captured and faked her own death to escape. As the story goes, she lived as a man for many years before she returned to her crew and continued her life as a pirate queen.
The Nouveau Riche
As luck would have it, Timothy Dexter bet big on the Continental dollar back in the early 19th century, and he won. He came from a poor background, had little education, and suddenly was one of the wealthiest men in Boston. With money did not come happiness, though — despite Dexter’s newfound fortune, his fellow “high society” members never respected him. Dexter wanted to see how his friends and acquaintances really felt, so he staged his own death. He then had a few trusted helpers set up his funeral and watched reactions of grief. When he decided his wife wasn’t grieving “properly,” he walked in and told her as such, and resumed his place among the living.
The Disappearing Husband
John Stonehouse was a British Member of Parliament who felt stuck in an unhappy marriage. He was also facing financial woes, so during a trip to Florida in 1974, Stonehouse stripped off his clothes and left them on a beach in Miami to make it appear as though he’d drowned or was attacked by sharks. Because of his status, his disappearance made international headlines. When he resurfaced in Australia to make a large deposit at a bank, he was recognized by a bank teller and turned in.
Why Do People Fake Their Own Death?
There are plenty of reasons a person might want to disappear or fake their own death, but it often has to do with escaping a bad situation, avoiding financial burdens, or wanting to fraudulently cash in on life insurance.
If someone you know has seemingly vanished into thin air, you might want to look into their background to see what could cause it, such as bankruptcy, legal troubles, or even a toxic relationship. A quick background check could help solve a mystery before it becomes major news.