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And like that... he's gone
August 17, 2009 8:42 AM   Subscribe


 
Magic.
posted by cavalier at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2009


This.
posted by Huck500 at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


“I don’t see how I could have taken care of my family and kept my daughter out of all of this forever,” he says.

Top Tip: Avoid credit card fraud, especially to pay for non-essentials like drinks and vacations.
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Aztec Tomb?
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think it's pretty easy (well, not easy, but not exceedingly hard) to "disappear." It's much harder to "disappear" and continue to live and interact with people in society. ... As this article attests. Thanks, good read.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:59 AM on August 17, 2009


After reading The Road, my dad and I have had several conversations about how one would hide in the world Mr. McCarthy describes, which led to several conversations about how one would disappear in today's world. If you read this article carefully, several things pop out that could 'help' someone:
-Don't use anything digital that can be traced to you
-Do not use credit cards, social security numbers or anything associated with your abandoned life
-Don't go back to your old life

Easy, right?
posted by glaucon at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend in DC that is an accountant mainly to small and medium sized business owners (say ~$1M-$30M gross rev). His clients tend to be male, white, and somewhere between 40-55. One thing that he has found in his thirty years of accounting is that a great many of these guys keep a "squirrel fund" that they put money into and hide from everyone. It isn't there for their vices, or to shelter from creditors, but is there for the simple psychological reason that these guys fantasize about running away from their lives.

While these men seem to be very successful, they like to have this hidden pile of cash out there that lets them think that they could just up and leave their lives behind if they chose to. Normally, there isn't nearly enough money stashed away for that to be possible, but just the fund's existence lets them think that someday, if they get fed up at work, or if their aging trophy wife is driving them nuts, they could just up and start a new life in Costa Rica after disappearing. My friend now has a default assumption that every new client will have some sort of hidden fund for starting a new life (separate from other hidden funds for mistresses, toys, gambling, etc.) and pounds on them the first two years to get them to fess up to having one so that he can properly do his job of counseling them how to manage their money.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 9:04 AM on August 17, 2009 [52 favorites]


That was an excellent article, thanks. It reminds me of the problem with any time travel book, any memory-erasing movie, etc...who are we without our stories, our past?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:06 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, am I ever a sucker. Not only do I not have any hidden funds, I don't even manage the purse strings in my family.

Then again, I'm still only 36 and my gross revenues are less than $1M.
posted by DU at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2009


But by the time AT&T checked for the content of the messages, they’d already been purged from the system.

This surprises me.

In the wreckage, authorities found a campground guide minus pages for Alabama and Florida and a handwritten crib sheet with the bullet points “windshield is spider-cracking,” “bleeding very bad,” and “graying out.”

Smooth move, ex-lax.
posted by nosila at 9:09 AM on August 17, 2009


Hey, MetaFilter -- want to team up and track down the author of the article for $5000? We could split the prize up into small chunks.
posted by hermitosis at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2009


HuronBob is not my real name...
posted by HuronBob at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rounded up to the nearest billion, I'm a billionaire, and I can't afford to do this.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:14 AM on August 17, 2009


Hey, MetaFilter -- want to team up and track down the author of the article for $5000? We could split the prize up into small chunks.

Resident zombies, psychopaths and stalkers please abstain, though:

"You will be excluded from winning if you commit a crime in your efforts to find me, contact my family, or physically harm me."
posted by NekulturnY at 9:15 AM on August 17, 2009


Everybody makes mistakes

And of course the big one is to try to continue living in the same country, using all the same electronic and bureaucratic infrastructure to support your "new" life. It's tempting to think that "blending in" is going to mean anonymity, but if people are looking for you, they're not going house to house peering into people's faces looking for the 5'9" guy with big ears. They're looking at credit card records, school records, etc. You need to get off the grid completely. Moving to one of the stans and taking up a life as a goat farmer is pretty much the only avenue. Otherwise, it's just a matter of time until your connectedness betrays you.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Achilles heel of the article's subject is that he wasn't really running away from his life, just his job (and the problems he had created with the credit cards). I'm not sure if I even believe the story that his wife was not in on it from the start, given how quickly they reunited and obviously conspired to hide.

Just like Lot, you simply have to walk away and never look back.
posted by briank at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think leaving your old life behind is largely a matter of discipline. You must steel yourself to leave behind all possessions, people, hangouts, and the like. Even after that loss, though, you must not look back.

Far harder today, I think, is creating a new life. It isn't like the old days where you can wander through a cemetery and find a child who died young, was born about when you were, and just ... claim that. Building a new identity looks hard, from all of the research I've done. Unless you want to hang outside of Home Depot every morning looking to hang drywall, tax-free, you're going to have to Know People to establish these new credentials.

Disappearing: technically, not the hard part.
posted by adipocere at 9:20 AM on August 17, 2009


If anyone is feeling the need to start a new life, I asked about this a few years ago and there are some useful tips in that thread. I particularly like the idea of going missing in an eastern European country that has both a high crime rate and high amounts of police corruption. With enough cash and a skill with languages, you can disappear and buy a brand new identity.
posted by cmonkey at 9:22 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


He knew that Sheppard carried a company BlackBerry.... Sure enough, they discovered text messages sent after he had supposedly drowned.

OK, that's not even trying.
posted by gurple at 9:23 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


gurple, if you read the rest of the article, it was an intentional misdirection that unfortunately went over the heads of the investigators.
posted by 256 at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


gurple, if you read the rest of the article...

That's just what he wants me to do!
posted by gurple at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


It sounds cliche, but the article made it seem like a new identity is just south of the US border. "John Howard" got a job back in the US with minimal effort, and as a health and safety manager, not just a minimum wage employee.

If you want to disappear, it helps to do so for reasons no one cares about. Bored with your current lifestyle? Great, fake your death and start over in the next state over (but you might want a different haircut, or at least some facial hair). Caught in a scandal? For starters, you'll need to move to another country.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2009


How to disappear in America: become poor, homeless, and/or mentally ill. Poof! You're invisible!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2009 [36 favorites]


SeanOfTheHillPeople, I completely get that whole "squirrel fund" impulse; about ten years ago, I'd started coming to the conclusion that I shouldn't have gotten married--at least to the person that I'd been married to--and that there were other things that I wanted to do with my life. I even investigated the possibility of getting a sparbuch account.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man, I really don't want to sympathize with this guy, but for some reason, I kinda do. I hate it when that happens.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2009


Is your post title a "The Usual Suspects" reference?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:38 AM on August 17, 2009


Tags: GPS, Matthew Alan Sheppard, missing person, post-9/11

post-9/11?
posted by brandman at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem with the "you're guaranteed to be caught" attitude is that there's no data on the people you think are dead, but nobody has uncovered their ruse yet. The people successfully living another life without any suspicion are not going to show up on the news or in Wired articles.

I mean, when I faked my death in 199-shit.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:41 AM on August 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


My friend now has a default assumption that every new client will have some sort of hidden fund for starting a new life (separate from other hidden funds for mistresses, toys, gambling, etc.) and pounds on them the first two years to get them to fess up to having one so that he can properly do his job of counseling them how to manage their money.

That is fascinating.

Now I want to know what other funds these mini-tycoons have, not to be able to realize, but to fulfill some illicit psychological need. South American guerilla warfare fund? Check. S.R. Hadden-like orbiting capsule fund? Check. Hervé Villechaize clone fund? Check.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is your post title a "The Usual Suspects" reference?

Yes.
posted by homunculus at 9:46 AM on August 17, 2009


OK, that's not even trying

Near the end of the article it's explained that he deliberately left the device at a gas station days earlier so a thief would use it and create a false trail to derail detectives. He overthought this particular plate of beans right into the slammer.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:58 AM on August 17, 2009


My dad disappeared, having just come out of the closet. One day he was there and the next.. he had just disappeared with a poof.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal, it's lovely.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:01 AM on August 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


Seems to me that, unless you wanted a new life that featured hard physical labor and/or lots of hunger, what you'd really need to lay aside isn't a giant pile of money, but a valuable (but undocumented) skillset completely distinct from the skills that you used in your previous life. You'd need some kind of cover story for the time spent developing those skills.

I'd give this some more thought, but I'm late for my daily solitary meditation time.
posted by gurple at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Another weird case of this (well, weird to me anyway - I knew the man a little) that also ends with basic clerical match-ups in South Dakota.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2009


Also weird - apparently my link didn't work. Here it is.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2009


How sad is it that I read this MSNBC article after reading the article linked above, and the first thing I thought is "ooooooh, she's good"?
posted by brandman at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


what you'd really need to lay aside isn't a giant pile of money, but a valuable (but undocumented) skillset completely distinct from the skills that you used in your previous life.

Is there a big market for undocumented skills? I would have thought the documentation is the hard bit, though I take your point about it not being your usual skill set or it will be too easy to connect the dots.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2009


Also worth mentioning is John Darwin, the so-called canoe man.

He and his wife colluded in his fake death, and she even told their children dad had died as he lived in the family house.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2009


Let's just let Evan Ratliff disappear. Don't bother looking for him. Let him use the $5000 to extend his absence; he'll be back soon enough when he needs money or craves attention or wants to write something about his 30 days of 'disappearance.'

There are plenty of invisible people out there. How about Brian Dean, who lived in a terrace row but whose death went unnoticed (even by neighbors) for 2 years? Or the countless other people -- many of them disabled, elderly and isolated -- who go for long stretches without any significant human contact. Their phones don't ring, their neighbors don't stop by, their relatives don't remember them at holidays.

It's very easy to vanish if no one cares enough about you to say hello.

Heck, ask a military spouse or parent what it's like to go 30 days without knowing where your SO/child is -- this is SOP in special forces, often for longer than 30 days.

I abhor publicity stunts like Ratliffs. 30 days is nothing -- basically, it's a long vacation -- and it mocks the serious, widespread consequences of real loneliness and social isolation and demeans the heartbreaking anxieties of those who can't contact their loved ones.
posted by grounded at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2009 [13 favorites]


But can Rambam find Thomas Pynchon?
posted by hippybear at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


There was a show on last year about police in New Orleans and one guy claimed to be a cop from out of town. He was really a prisoner who escaped in the aftermath of Katrina.

I always thought that was a bit stupid. Surely even in New Orleans they fingerprint their police and run a cursory background check.

There's a nugget of a story there though. I'd watch a show about someone who starts over after a catastrophic event with a new identity. Walk away from an old life, start a new one.

Interestingly enough, I just gave a friend a reference for a job and the HR person I spoke with said that she was having a hard time verifying that my friend had worked at a company that was recently acquried by AT&T. She had worked there for ten years.

Talk about disappearing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2009


If you want to disappear, it helps to do so for reasons no one cares about.

Yes. Most deaths appear to be faked to escape the consequences of a crime, so things are done sloppily and there is incentive to find the escapee. If you want to fake your death and not be sought, there has to be no reason to suspect that you would want to run away and no profit in bringing you back from the dead.
posted by pracowity at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a big market for undocumented skills?

That was mostly a throwaway joke setup, but... arts & crafts of some kind (e.g., woodworking, jewelry-making)? Small-scale fashion design? We're probably not talking 6 figures, but if you're running away from a previous life you're not going to want to make conspicuous amounts of money in a corporate environment, anyway.
posted by gurple at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2009


What I don't understand about the I-want-to-totally-disappear folks is why, other than committing life insurance fraud, they bother with the "totally" side of the equation. Convert everything you've got to cash and walk away. Open new accounts under the same name and just move to a different city.

Forget about someone finding you. Who's going to look for you? A creditor? Declare bankruptcy. Your ex-wife? Do you know how many guys fairly successfully move to other states to avoid alimony and child support? Not to mention leaving the country.

You don't need to totally disappear from everyone. You can disappear from, like, 2-3 people pretty damn easily.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was a great answer about this, I think on AskMe, that gave very specific instructions aobut how to disappear from society without a trace. I'd link to it, but unfortunately, the answer seems to have also disappeared.
posted by tizzie at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2009


Found it! It's here, via this comment.
posted by tizzie at 10:32 AM on August 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


There's a nugget of a story there though. I'd watch a show about someone who starts over after a catastrophic event with a new identity. Walk away from an old life, start a new one.

That's sort of what Jack Nicholson's character does in "The Passenger".

Doesn't work out TOO great for him, though.
posted by 235w103 at 10:45 AM on August 17, 2009


Is there a big market for undocumented skills?

I interpreted this to mean skills that you have not previously demonstrated or been documented as possessing. In other words, if you were previously a world class brain surgeon, then your new identity shouldn't go into neurosurgery lest you be recognized through your work. It would be a great opportunity to finally unveil your hidden talent for abstract impressionist painting, though.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2009


It's very easy to vanish if no one cares enough about you to say hello.

Is it really? Or is it very easy to vanish if no one is looking for you?
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2009


By which I mean, it's two completely different topics.
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2009


It does, apparently, help to be able to fake a limp.
posted by NedKoppel at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2009


Fletch: You know, what tipped it for me was something your wife said while we were in bed together.
Alan Stanwyck: Oh? And what was that?
Fletch: Curiously, she said we had roughly the same build. From the waist up, I imagine.

And damn you for putting another Harold Faltermeyer soundtrack in my head.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2009


Man, I really don't want to sympathize with this guy, but for some reason, I kinda do.

Think about his 7 year old daughter for a few minutes and that'll clear right up.
posted by DU at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whitey Bulger seems to be pretty good at it.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:58 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I even investigated the possibility of getting a sparbuch account.

In Austrian Schillings, no less. Tied to the German Mark. Yay! Might as well go for the Zimbawean bank accounts they offer for a mere 400 dollars, in "one of the most stable and wealthy countries of subequatorial Africa".
posted by effbot at 11:10 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


What, moving to Sicily doesn't work? I guess I should watch the rest of that movie.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 AM on August 17, 2009


Ho hum.

Let me know when there's an article to disappear other people forever.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have to admit, I've fantasized about disappearing myself. Not that I'm in financial or legal trouble, but I'm tired of my job that I've had for nine years, I have a good-sized mortgage, there are too many unfinished projects on my plate, I would like to see a new part of the world, etc.. It would be nice in a way just to hop a bus with a backpack and a few thousand in cash, to go somewhere else, and be someone else. I even have my new name picked out. Of course, in my fantasy, I'm also 19, and I look like a much more attractive someone else too.;-)
posted by orange swan at 11:34 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's very hard to vanish if someone is looking for you. Which is what stalkers do.

It's not all that common, but it's a problem. The courts and law enforcement are getting better about protecting women, but it's still a problem.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2009


In the wreckage, authorities found a campground guide minus pages for Alabama and Florida and a handwritten crib sheet with the bullet points “windshield is spider-cracking,” “bleeding very bad,” and “graying out.”

Wasn't there a case a few years ago where the police went to the home of a guy who shot someone, and found a to-do list that said things like, "buy mask," and "dispose of weapon"? The need to make to-do lists would totally be the thing that would undo me if I were going to be a criminal.
posted by not that girl at 12:10 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know why it seems like such a good idea to so many people to create escape scenarios that guarantee that the authorities and possibly the media will immediately get involved while your trail is still white-hot. If you send people on a wild goose chase for your body, you are doing it wrong.
posted by padraigin at 12:27 PM on August 17, 2009


not that girl: Wasn't there a case a few years ago where the police went to the home of a guy who shot someone, and found a to-do list that said things like, "buy mask," and "dispose of weapon"?

That was New Orleans own Vince Marinello, sentenced last winter to life in prison for the murder of his estranged wife.
posted by djeo at 1:02 PM on August 17, 2009


I remember a story following a particularly horrific train crash in the UK-- a lot of the bodies were unidentifiable, and some passengers took the chance to try and walk out on their lives. Apparently after a few weeks they drifted back to their families after finding it impossible to get cash or survive. But the impulse to grab at that moment and escape-- I think we can all understand it, yes?
posted by jokeefe at 1:44 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the best way to disappear is to make a big production of it. "I'm going to ashram in India, where it's really hard to get ahold of me. I'm selling all my possessions."

Then do whatever you want. Not too many people will expend the resources to try and find you in India.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:49 PM on August 17, 2009


I'd watch a show about someone who starts over after a catastrophic event with a new identity. Walk away from an old life, start a new one.

I've always wondered if anyone did this after 9/11.
posted by marxchivist at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2009


See Alexander Grothendieck
posted by jeffburdges at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2009


Katrina seems like a much better opportunity for vanishing — that's a lot of lost records, you know?

Probably was a fabulous opportunity for serial killers, too. Just load up your dingy white vehicle and say you're taking a vacation, bringing some supplies to the needy, but you've really just got the panel van loaded up with cinderblocks to keep the bodies down and enough ice to keep the heads cold on the way back.
posted by adipocere at 2:12 PM on August 17, 2009


Let me know when there's an article to disappear other people forever.

It's been done. First, be smart from the very beginning ...
posted by me & my monkey at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2009


There's a nugget of a story there though. I'd watch a show about someone who starts over after a catastrophic event with a new identity. Walk away from an old life, start a new one.

Mad Men (though I've only seen a handful of episodes from season 1).

In fact, I assumed this article was a tie-in with the new season.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:36 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was an article here a while back about a woman who went missing after 9-11. Her husband or fiancee or whatever believed her dead, but the authorities believed that she just up and left him. The angle was that he was due some money or something because of her death... anyone else remember this? She was a doctor I believe, and there maybe was security cam footage of her in front of her building?
posted by danny the boy at 2:50 PM on August 17, 2009


The clue for finding Evan Ratliff is given on Page 3 of the article, near the bottom.

Start a website with the title Evan Ratliff is Missing. Wait for Evan Ratliff to google his own name, as he says he will:
...and I’ll keep track of my pursuers, searching constantly for news about myself.
Track down his IP address and location. Then hang out at the nearest Starbucks. Biff-Boom, ya got him.
posted by muddgirl at 3:38 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was an article here a while back about a woman who went missing after 9-11. Her husband or fiancee or whatever believed her dead, but the authorities believed that she just up and left him.The angle was that he was due some money or something because of her death... anyone else remember this? She was a doctor I believe, and there maybe was security cam footage of her in front of her building?
You're thinking of Sneha Philip who was ultimately placed on the 9/11 victims list. She was assumed to have been staying at a hotel across from the WTC at the time. Being a doctor, the logical conclusion was that she went in to help victims and then was killed during the collapse.
posted by deanc at 3:49 PM on August 17, 2009


Track down his IP address and location. Then hang out at the nearest Starbucks. Biff-Boom, ya got him.

Presumably he'll be using Tor+Privoxy. Maybe a browser exploit could be used to get his IP anyway.
posted by Tobu at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2009


Thanks deanc. Guess there was no money involved after all.

Re: setting up a honeypot--he'd wouldn't even need seven proxies. In order for that to work you'd need a way to know which ip addresses weren't him, and you can't do that if you just release the website to the general public.
posted by danny the boy at 5:07 PM on August 17, 2009


I'd watch a show about someone who starts over after a catastrophic event with a new identity. Walk away from an old life, start a new one.

I've always wondered if anyone did this after 9/11.

The idea also occurred to Jay "Bright Lights Big City" McInerney. It's part of the plot of his 2006 novel The Good Life. (Which is a very satisfying beach read.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:16 PM on August 17, 2009


The idea also occurred to Jay "Bright Lights Big City" McInerney.

And to Douglas Coupland, in Miss Wyoming. You jogged my memory of it there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:18 PM on August 17, 2009


"He went like that," Spade said. "Like a fist when you open your hand."

I shall miss being able to disappear when it's gone. Although maybe you just have to try harder. Swim for Pitcairn.
posted by Diablevert at 5:53 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered if anyone did this after 9/11.

Peter Milligan's excellent comic Human Target also featured this idea as a story arc.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 6:09 PM on August 17, 2009




not that girl The need to make to-do lists would totally be the thing that would undo me if I were going to be a criminal.

Just make sure you add "destroy to-do list" to your to-do list.
posted by baxter_ilion at 7:15 PM on August 17, 2009


Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are an investigator’s gold mine, containing everything from your address books and photos (and, for a tech-savvy investigator like Rambam, what camera they were taken with)

Wow, I'm really tech-savvy! I can read the right-hand column of Flickr!
posted by desjardins at 7:24 PM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


$200K and a parachute.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:54 PM on August 17, 2009


A dead Quaker: that's one of my favorite stories EVER. Thanks.

Also, damn - that was a surprisingly good read. Thanks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:13 PM on August 17, 2009


sorry.
posted by Balisong at 9:58 PM on August 17, 2009


Damn you Lutoslawski!
posted by Balisong at 9:58 PM on August 17, 2009


In the Lake of the Woods
posted by exlotuseater at 12:30 AM on August 18, 2009


It's time that'll fuck you up. Almost never enough time will have passed before you start to think back to that time when and then sought it out for a quick look-see. Whatif you find it was a mistake? The life you traded in was better than the new one? What if just the knowledge that maybe it was better. What a pickle.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:50 AM on August 18, 2009


I've always wondered if anyone did this after 9/11.

A friend of mine told me that, in the aftermath of a big train wreck in England, a handful of people took advantage of the opportunity to disappear. She suggested that I write a novel about it. It is an interesting idea. There's a lot of appeal in the concept of leaving the current pressures and problems of your life behind and starting over somewhere else. The idea loses its appeal when you realize that your new life will soon become just as problematic as the old.
posted by orange swan at 5:11 AM on August 18, 2009


Leave the so called 'developed' countries and go into the bush. You only have to worry about the Peace Corps (they're EVERYWHERE!)
posted by iamck at 1:52 PM on August 18, 2009


She suggested that I write a novel about it. It is an interesting idea. There's a lot of appeal in the concept of leaving the current pressures and problems of your life behind and starting over somewhere else. The idea loses its appeal when you realize that your new life will soon become just as problematic as the old.

You (and your friend) should read The Late Mattia Pascal by Luigi Pirandello.
posted by The World Famous at 2:19 PM on August 18, 2009


I once was lost, but now I'm found.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:56 PM on August 18, 2009


Weird coincidence. Tonight my best friend told me that her first husband, the one killed by sniper fire while protecting their child in the street during a civil war fifteen years ago just called her. He has completely changed his life and even his ethnic identity and for some reason wants to disrupt her new life after she buried him so long ago. I'm still reeling from the news (as is she - on a much bigger scale).
posted by saucysault at 10:08 PM on August 18, 2009


Here is a timely “how to disappear” aimed at abuse victims.

Apparently you can get by without an ID, and you shouldn't try to fake your death.
posted by Tobu at 11:36 PM on August 18, 2009


I have to say I'm kind of getting into following the search for Evan Ratliff. But as entertaining as the mystery is, I don't think it's a good analogy to the other cases discussed. Ratliff's only disappearing for a month. He probably has enough saved up—maybe even cash in hand by now—to cover a month's worth of expenses. No need to seek employment during the month. And it wouldn't be too difficult to keep on the move for a month, never staying more than a day in any place. (Nicholas Thompson will be posting Ratliff's credit card data? So what? That's of limited help at best when it's always going to be two or three days behind and Ratliff's constantly on the move.)

Those who are trying to disappear permanently (i.e., years or decades) will have it much harder. They'll need employment at some point. Most likely they'll want to settle down. Or even if they try to stay on the move, it will be more of a move-every-month thing than move-every-day, and so data which is a few days old can become very useful in finding them.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:56 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered if anyone did this after 9/11.
You're obviously not a PostSecret reader. There's been at least one to that effect, though, just like anything on the Internet these days, there's some doubt as to its authenticity.
posted by knile at 1:27 PM on September 3, 2009


Evan Ratliff Is Caught
posted by homunculus at 8:04 PM on September 8, 2009


From the (brief) article, ...the one place that serves gluten-free pizza...
Had I known gluten-free pizza access was a requirement I could have probably found Evan Ratliff.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:49 PM on September 8, 2009


More details:
How Evan Ratliff Was Caught
How We Caught Missing Wired Magazine Writer Evan Ratliff

From the latter: "It's important to clarify that, for the most part, any 'mistakes' Evan makes are clues he purposely left behind to make the contest fair and to showcase points he made in his recent Wired story.... The story details how the disappeared often give themselves away by seeking information on their pursuers' progress or returning to common habits. Evan purposely repeated these mistakes and each led to us catching him."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


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