• True Stories

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

    Photo: Mainstream Publishing
    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

    Photo: Hamilton County Sheriff's Department
    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

    Photo: ©2005 Phil Ramey/RameyPix/Corbis

    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

    Photo: Ken Yuszkus / The Salem News

    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.