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Weird Stuff

Top 10 People Who Faked Their Deaths

Amy Matyszewski

While not common, faking one’s death is not new to the world. We’ve seen it in literature with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, on TV with shows like 24 and in real life. This list looks at ten men who committed pseudocide, pulled a Reggie Perrin, or, in other words, faked their death for one reason or another. This list is in no particular order.

10

John Darwin

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John and Anne Darwin, a couple who lived beyond their means, had acquired debt of tens of thousands of pounds. They decided to escape their debt by faking John’s death and collecting the insurance money. On March 12, 2002, John left in his canoe and disappeared. A large search ensued and, on March 22, 2002, John’s wrecked canoe was found. In February, 2003, he was declared legally dead, allowing his wife to cash in on the insurance policy and pay off their debt. This left enough money to start a new life that, eventually, took them to Panama.

On December 1, 2007, John turned himself in to the police, claiming to have no memory of what happened and believing he was a missing person. The police had started looking into his disappearance three months before he turned himself in, and the ruse was uncovered when it was proven he had been with Anne the whole time.
 

9

Ken Kesey

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Ken Kesey was an American author best known for his book, “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He joined the CIA’s experimental program on the effects of LSD. After publishing his book, he continued using drugs, eventually getting involved with Timothy Leary. In 1965, Ken was arrested for possession of marijuana. This led to the idea of escaping jail time by faking his death.

Ken, with the help of his merry pranksters left his truck on a cliff near Eureka with an elaborate suicide note. His friends then smuggled him to Mexico where he remained for eight months. On his return to the United States, he was arrested and sent to jail for five months.
 

8

Lord Timothy Dexter

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Timothy Dexter was a self-proclaimed Lord, born in Massachusetts in 1748. He was a prime example of a self-made man, having little to no education and accomplishing so much. He became an author, publishing his book with no punctuation and horrible spelling. Originally, he had to give it away, but it immediately became popular and went to the eighth edition printing. His second book included an extra thirteen pages of punctuation, with a note saying, “place it as you please.”

Timothy decided he wanted to know what people would say about him if he were dead, so he faked his own death and made plans for a funeral. Three thousand people attended the wake and, because his own wife didn’t cry for him, he decided not to reveal himself. Later, he caned his wife for not showing sympathy and crying. He officially died on October 26, 1806.
 

7

Bennie Wint

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Bennie Wint led a troubled life, deeply into drugs and involved with a South Carolina drug ring. He decided he needed to start a new and better life. He felt the only way he could do this was if everyone thought he was dead. While on vacation with his fiancée, in September, 1989, he swam out past the breakers at Daytona Beach and disappeared.

He left behind his fiancée and a four-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.  Bennie made a new life in North Carolina, under the name of Bill Sweet. He acquired a common-law wife and had a son. Neither knew anything about his identity until he was stopped for a traffic violation, in January, 2009. His fingerprints came back as belonging to a dead man, so he came clean and told his story.
 

6

John Stonehouse

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John Stonehouse was a British politician who got in over his head during his business affairs. He started cooking the books and got wind that the Department of Trade and Industry was looking into his affairs. He started moving money and set up a new identity as Joseph Markham. On November 20, 1974, he faked his own suicide by leaving a pile of clothes on a beach, making it appear that he drowned. He was, instead, on his way to Australia to make a new life with his mistress.

John was caught in Australia by an astute banker who caught on to the fact that he was moving money under more than one name. Police first thought he was the fugitive, Lord Lucan, who, two weeks before Stonehouse, was believed to have faked his own death as well. John was identified by a photo of himself on a list of the recently deceased and was arrested on December 24, 1974.
 

5

Alexander “Ace” Baker

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Ace Baker is an American composer and keyboardist. He played with the Supremes, Iron Butterfly and Reo Speedwagon. Ace is also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. His theory is based on the Hutchison effect, and claims that the planes in the video were faked.  Ace was doing a radio program, The Real Deal, with host Jim Feltzer, with other members of the 9/11 truth movement when Ace felt that he was receiving unfair treatment. He then made references to his deceased parents and asked for forgiveness from his wife and children. Shortly after, he left the phone line and gun shots were heard. Ace later called it performance art.
 

4

Friedrich Gulda

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Friedrich Gulda was an Austrian pianist in both classical and jazz fields. Gulda is most famous for his Beethoven interpretations, though Mozart was his idol. Gulda had a strong dislike of authorities, and declined the honor of receiving the Beethoven Ring for his performance.

Gulda is perceived as one of the twentieth century’s outstanding pianists. His unorthodox styles of mixing jazz and classical earned him the nickname of “terrorist pianist”. Cementing his nickname, Gulda faked his death in 1999, and reigned as enfant terrible among pianists. Gulda also expressed a wish to die on his hero, Mozart’s, birthday. On January 27, 2000, he did just that.
 

3

Philip Sessarago

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Philip Sessarago was a military man in The Royal Artillery with aspirations of joining the SAS. He failed to be accepted twice by the SAS. He saw himself as a James Bond type and was disappointed not to be a part of the SAS. In 1993, he faked his death by claiming to detonate a landmine in Bosnia. He changed his name to Tom Carew and a penned the book, Jihad!

The book was on its way to being a best seller after being serialized in the New York Times. Jihad! was released in paperback the day before the 9/11 attacks. The book’s timing was perfect as he claimed to be an expert on the tactics used by the terrorists, which led to many interviews. In a 2001 interview his deception came to light when he was recognized by his children.
 

2

Arthur Bennett

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Arthur Bennett was a Marine Staff Sergeant. He was accused of sexual assault charges in 1994, and allowed to go free. On February 3, 1994, the trailer he was living in was found burned to the ground with a badly charred body inside. The body was believed to be Arthur’s and was cremated and buried with full military honors.

Arthur assumed the name of Joe Benson and, with the help of his family, moved to Hurricane, Utah. To cover his identity he dyed his hair red and wore blue contacts over his brown eyes. Arthur was found out when he was accused of molesting his daughters and a neighborhood child. Fingerprints proved he was really Arthur Bennett. He was arrested October 31, 1997, and pled guilty in 1998. He still had a court martial to deal with when he hung himself in his cell, on July 12, 1999.  The body found in his trailer has never been identified, and there is no way to identify it as it was cremated.
 

1

Jenaro Jimenez Hernandez

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Jenaro Hernandez went out spear fishing early on April 13, 2008. When he didn’t return home, his wife reported him missing. The Civil Guard found his car and belongings, but his scuba gear and fishing stuff was missing. The only thing they found was his flipper.  Jenaro was heavily in debt, which led police to suspect he had faked his death. The family didn’t believe he would do that, as he had a young child at home and another that was due soon. He was found in South America and was extradited back to Spain and arrested.
 

Bonus

Lord Lucan

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Richard Bingham, the seventh Earl of Lucan, on the night of November 7, 1974, killed the family nanny, Sandra Rivett, and tried to kill his wife. She fled for safety and Lord Lucan fled to several friends before arriving at a friend’s house, 42 miles away. Friends and relatives believed he was innocent and jumped to help him, while police were being slow on the uptake. The car he was driving was found on the coast of Newhaven and there was no sign of Lord Lucan. Some friends believe he committed suicide due to his grief over murdering the nanny, by mistake, instead of his wife. Others believe he disappeared and is innocent and alive to this day. Sightings have been reported in South Africa and New Zealand.