Faking one's death is called "pseudocide." The term is considered a Neologism. Also known as "going off the grid," as well as a British expression "doing a Reggie Perrin." Drowning is the most popular form of deception, due to the easily explained absence of body. Oddly enough pseudocide is nearly always committed by men.
Disappearing is one thing, announcing your death is another.
People do it for varying reasons, to start a new life, to collect on insurance claims, for safety issues like the witness protection program, etc. "There is one group of people who are given every assistance in disappearing - protected witnesses who give evidence, sometimes against fellow criminals, and in return are provided with new identities, jobs and homes far from familiar haunts." (BBC) It's also led to the business of tracking these sort of people down, skip-tracing. It's a serious crime to commit pseudocide, and is not for the faint of heart. Even if you successfully disappear, you may not convince those you left behind that you're actually dead. That is why drownings are always a mystery, there just isn't a body to put in a coffin and show in a funeral.
"An uncredited study given passing mention in the UK press rather unbelievably makes claim that as many as 26% of "suicides" from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in which no body was found, were conceivably pseudocides." (Bnet)
Peculiar cultural tradition
It isn't just Hollywood that is fascinated with the whole concept of pseudocide. The concept isn't new either. But it has been taken to new exaggerated extremes to pull a scam. "The individual who vanishes, apparently dead, only to reappear in a different guise, is one of the world's most cherished myths, a staple of high art and low farce, from Reggie Perrin to The Return of Martin Guerre to The History of Mr Polly by H.G.Wells." (Times Online) Sometimes a pseudocide creates a folk icon like Lord Lucan, who is to this day still being spotted in various parts of the world.
To commit pseudocide, you'll need a pay-as-you-go cellphone to get started. Hire a homeless person to buy it and put it in their name. It's important that you don't use any credit cards for anything, or any other traceable form of money. Use cash. To gain a safe identity, you can change your appearance and create a new one. Or, gain a new one by assuming someone else's. Make sure all ties to your former life are severed. No contact with family or friends, they could turn you in, and their phones could be tapped. Since drowning is the most common practice of pseudocide, be sure to have a witness. If you choose to go the route of leaving another's person body behind, think again. This day and age of technology has DNA testing, dental records, etc. to prevent a mutilated body representing your corpse in that crashed and blown up vehicle you tossed off the cliff. And how exactly were you going to get that corpse anyway? Robbing a mortuary? Or killing someone? Now you have two frauds to deal with instead of one, if you get caught.
Now you see me, now you don't.
John Darwin, the latest busted for fraudulent insurance claims when he committed pseudocide by drowning, was recently caught in Panama five years after his stunt. His wife collected on the insurance claim while he went off to start a new life in "paradise." Unfortunately for him, he allowed a real estate agent to take his picture, and it quickly surfaced on the internet. Darwin had an insurance pay-out of £250,000.
A lot of famous people have committed pseudocide.
- John Stonehouse, a British politician who faked his own suicide by drowning in order to escape financial difficulties and live with his mistress. He was discovered in Australia - where police initially thought he might be Lord Lucan - and jailed.
- Graham Cardwell, a Lincolnshire dockmaster who disappeared in September 1998 and was assumed drowned. Eight months later he was discovered living in secret in the West Midlands. He claimed he had thought he was suffering from cancer (though had not sought medical attention) and wanted to spare his family the trauma of it. He was not prosecuted.
- Alan Kirk Wolford,The Colorado Springs funeral home director, committed pseudocide in hopes of not paying $42,000 in back child support, and $7,000 in student loans. Wolford fake "cremated" himself.
- Steven Chin Leung, who faked his death in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in order to evade a charge of passport fraud.
- Dorothy Johnson, an American woman who allegedly faked her death in the September 11 attacks in order to collect on insurance claims allegedly filed by her daughter, Twila McKee. Johnson and McKee were charged in 2003 with insurance fraud.
- Ken Kesey, an American author who in 1966 faked his death and fled to Mexico in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid imprisonment on marijuana charges.
Taken from here.
I wish Heath Ledger committed pseudocide. Then he could reappear as The Joker again, and The Dark Knight wouldn't be his last legacy. Just imagine the reviews the next movie would get, when crazy Ledger plays lunatic Joker, coming back from the dead.
I also wish that my ex girlfriend had committed pseudocide instead of having a pseudo seizure...