10 Insane Reasons People Faked Their Own Death

From escaping drug dealers to cancelling cell phone contracts...

John Darwin Death

In 1995 author Doug Richmond published the book How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found, subtitled "Planning a disappearance, arranging for new identification, finding work, establishing credit, pseudocide (creating the impression you're dead), and more".

A wholly practical guide, the book claimed to give the most thorough and foolproof steps to follow in order to fake your own death successfully. Besides inspiring a Radiohead song of the same name we're not sure how successful the book was in helping people commit pseudocide, although perhaps the fact we've never heard any testimonials from people it's worked for is a testimony in itself...?

The fact that journalist Richmond was able to travel around the world and collect enough stories about people faking their deaths to literally write the book on it suggests that it happens a lot more often than you'd expect. It's not just a hilarious thing to suggest whenever a friend finds themselves in a tricky situation (try it, it's always brilliant), it's something that happens on a regular basis, although usually for such boring reasons as people trying to escape debt, or as a life insurance scam.

Sometimes, though, people play dead for much more inventive/crazy reasons. Or the people involved are crazy. Or the aftermath was particularly nutty. Or all of the above. Each makes a glorious appearance in this list of ten insane reasons people faked their own death; we didn't come across anyone who'd opted for mortality over paying an overdue library bill, though, so if you fancy appearing in the sequel....

10. To Escape Drug Charges

Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey might look like a respectable in that photo, but the psychedelic bus he used to tool around in probably didn't help his case in escaping drugs charges in the sixties. The subject of Tom Wolfe's new journalism classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and writer of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest found himself involved in some insane criminal activity himself thanks to his association with the Merry Pranksters.

Kesey was fond of telling people he "was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a hippie" but that didn't stop him from trying, as he joined the group which drove across sixties America in the bus seen above, taking all the psychoactive drugs they could get their hands on and hanging out with the likes of Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg.

So it's not surprising that Kesey had a warrant out for his arrest for possession of marijuana in 1965. What is surprising is that, instead of trying to beat the rap or serve what would have probably been a short sentence, the writer instead constructed an elaborate scam that would trick the police into thinking he was dead.

The Pranksters left an elaborate suicide note in his truck, next to a cliff edge, to give the impression that he'd leapt off. In actuality he'd scarpered down to Mexico for six months - and the whole thing fell apart when he tried to sneak back across the border later that year.

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Tom Baker is the Comics Editor at WhatCulture! He's heard all the Doctor Who jokes, but not many about Randall and Hopkirk. He also blogs at