1. Alan Abel staged a fatal skiing accident in late 1979 so his obituary would be published in the New York Times. He hired a phony funeral director and even paid a "widow" to contact the Times to alert them that her semi-famous prankster and writer husband had died. When the obit was published on January 3, 1980, Abel came forward.
2. Anthony John Allen faked his suicide in 1966 by “drowning” near Beachy Head, a popular spot for suicides in Britain. He was about to be prosecuted for a string of thefts and thought this would solve the problem. Instead of drowning, he swam around the coast and picked up some dry clothes he had stashed away earlier. He assumed a new identity, but this one wasn’t any more law-abiding than the first identity – he continued stealing, plus racked up more charges for bigamy and murder (he killed his wife and kids in 1975).
3. Graham Cardwell “died” to protect his family from… his death…? Yep. He disappeared in September of 1998. He was a dockmaster, so it was assumed that he drowned. He was found eight months later, though, and when asked what he had been thinking, he replied that he thought he had cancer and wanted to spare his family. He hadn’t been to a doctor, though, it was just a hunch.
4. John Darwin is another man who faked his drowning death. He was canoeing in March of 2002 when he disappeared, despite calm weather and a massive search for his body. In December 2007, though, he strolled into a police station in London and said he had no memory of the last seven years or so. But his wife ratted him out: she said he showed up at their house after she had collected the life insurance. He secretly lived there for three years. After her confession, they were both arrested.
5. Harry Gordon makes drowning accident #4. A prominent Australian businessman, he pretended to die in a boating accident so his wife could get the insurance money. He then popped up in Spain, England, South Africa and New Zealand. When a girlfriend asked about his past, he said he was in the witness protection program and couldn’t discuss it. Alas, Harry’s luck ran out in 2005 when he ran into his brother on a mountain in New Zealand. Whoops. He still made bank from his adventure by writing a book, How I Faked My Own Death. I bet Tip #1 is, “Don’t hike on mountains your brother is known to frequent.”
6. Ken Kesey. Finally, some creativity – which, I suppose, we should expect out of the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. After being charged with drug possession in 1966, Mr. Kesey had friends leave his truck and a suicide note near a cliff in California. He ran off to Mexico, but returned to the U.S. later, where he was sent to jail for five months.
7. Johnny Sterling Martin didn’t want to pay child support, and figured that if he was dead, he wouldn’t have to. In 1979, he had a friend call family court and say he had died in a bad bar brawl. Apparently this claim was believable, because he wasn’t found out until January 2006. An ex-wife tipped the police off and he was found just 150 miles away, still using his real name.
8. Alison Matera proves that it’s not just men who fake their deaths. In 2006, she faked cancer for more than 11 months, telling people at church that her condition was getting progressively worse. Then, pretending to be a Hospice nurse, she phoned friends at church and told them that Alison Matera had passed away. Matera showed up to her own funeral when the church held a memorial service for her – she claimed to be her sister. This time, people didn’t buy it and Matera confessed, saying she wanted the attention because she had experienced some childhood trauma.
9. John Stonehouse, a British politician, faked his suicide in 1974. He was apparently having money troubles and also wanted to marry his mistress without all of the trouble of a divorce. He was found in Australia, though, and arrested.
10. Amir Vehabovic elaborately faked his own death, including forging a death certificate and bribing undertakers. His motive? He just wanted to see who would come to his funeral. The joke was on him, though – only his mother showed up. He sent letters to 45 people and basically said that now he knew who his true friends were.