Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.
~ William S. Burroughs
In the not too distant past, I was having a great conversation with a few close friends at a late night beach party while sipping some tequila and watching a smoldering bonfire.
For no apparent reason, the conversation turned to "confessions that we never told anyone" (kind of like truth or dare... without the dare)...
My friend Greg started off...
He confessed to us all, "Before I was divorced... I used to fantasize that when my wife was late coming home... I was secretly hoping that she had been in some kind of horrible accident and was never coming home... covertly I thought that being a widower was better than being a divorcee... this way I had the sympathy thing going for me".
Quickly... another guy confessed to the same crime... then another... and then another!
Two things quickly became abundantly apparent to me...
First...I have some very sinister friends (of course all of the ex-spouses are very much still alive to this day).
Second...certain dark secrets are more universal than we would like to comfortably believe...
It was this second thought that keeps ruminating through my head these past several weeks.
Throughout my life I have had a multitude of secret fantasies that I wouldn’t ever even think of sharing with anyone...
I can categorize these fantasies into three basic boxes:
- A financial windfall that makes me rich and powerful
- Some hero type adventure where I save the world
- Time travel
I suppose that variations of any of the above fantasies are not uncommon among a great mass of the population... with several other themes thrown in for good measure (such as space exploration or possessing "super-powers").
As it turns out, while doing some research for this week’s blog... I discovered that there was one additional fantasy that is actually played out far more frequently than I would have ever suspected...
It seems that there are a multitude of people who actually want to fake their own death and just disappear forever.
Many times they are trying to avoid the taxman, creditors, drug-dealers, or ex-spouses.
If you just suddenly disappear, and with the right amount of life insurance or savings, you might just find yourself spending the rest of your days peacefully surfing in the warm waters of Polynesia as a new person.
While conducting my research, I discovered a fascinating new book by Elizabeth Greenwood entitled Playing Dead.
In her book, she outlines the definitive do’s and don’ts regarding faking your own death.
According to Ms. Greenwood, the first and foremost question one needs to answer is "how will you meet your untimely demise?"
For virtually all deaths... an actual dead body is required... which is somewhat inconvenient if you’re still alive.
As it turns out... most amateur fakers use the time-worn "lost at sea" death technique which, as it turns out, quickly raises the most suspicion among authorities... especially since 80% of bodies are successfully recovered when people are lost at sea.
According to her research, if you want to go missing... the very best way is to get lost while hiking. It turns out that hundreds of people legitimately get lost each year while trekking the back-country among several species of carnivores ... so it doesn’t necessarily raise any red-flags if a body is never found.
Once you’ve figure out how to appropriately "exit"... the next big obstacle is getting a trusted co-conspirator to abet your untimely demise.
People don’t make financial transactions after they are dead... and nothing raises more suspicion than drawing out your life-savings from the bank shortly before you go...
In addition, dead-people don’t collect life-insurance... beneficiaries do.
To remedy this situation, you’ll definitely need a trusted accomplice who can help you gather your cash after-the-fact. Remember, cash is the only currency that you can use going forward.
As it turns out... faking your own death is not a crime in any state... but fraud is.
Therefore, there is a tricky question of who will you be in your second life.
You can’t be someone else (fraud) and you really can’t be you (because you’re presumably dead).
You won’t have any identification, passport, or credit history which makes it difficult to rent an apartment, see a doctor, or travel (by plane, train or automobile)...
This most likely means that you’ll need to find refuse in a small third-world country... that will accept you (and your suitcase of cash) with little or no questions.
A new identity will be required even in another country... so some sort of legitimate identity and backstory will be required to answer the inquiring minds of the officials and natives. The more complicated the story... the harder it will be to tie up all the loose ends.
Just remember that third-world countries also tend to have third-world healthcare... so if you’re not in the best of health... faking your own death might not be right for you.
Since you’ll be restarting a brand new life somewhere else, it’s a good idea to have some financial resources (at least to get started for a few years). Playing dead is not necessarily cheap... especially to start.
Even if you can pull off the great escape, logistically and financially, do you have the emotional wherewithal to leave everyone you love and care about behind?
You’re dead to everyone you know and love... there is no attending graduations, walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding, fishing with your grand-son, or attending class reunions.
Each day you’ll be living the thoughts of the pain and suffering you left behind in the minds of loved ones who attended your funeral.
Also are you the type who likes to socialize with other people or do you consider yourself a loner?
If you are a socializer, then faking your death might not be right for you as socializers like to tell stories... stories of their past experiences... and sooner or later, those stories will start to show signs of significant inconsistencies.
Pathological lying is an art-form that requires an incredible memory (remembering what you actually said to whom).
Lying also takes on a completely new dimension once you add in alcohol or drugs into the mix as all filters tend to be removed. If you are a "self-medicator" then perhaps dying isn’t the right option for you.
Lastly, there is a very good chance that eventually you will be caught in your little deception... so prison-time isn’t a remote possibility, be it back in the United States, or worse, in a prison within that third-world country that you’ve so conveniently relocated to... (but like I said above... faking your death isn’t really a crime... only committing fraud is)...
If you can’t do the time... then don’t do the crime...
The good thing is that a great majority of the people who fantasize about robbing that bank... exacting revenge... or faking their deaths rarely go through with their conceptualized plans.
In general, people have a hard time taking action... whether is be quitting that lousy job, going back to school to learn new skills, or faking their own death...
and in the case of the latter... I suppose that’s a really good thing...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we’ll never even fantasize running away from the people we care about... namely you!
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