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dalepetrie's avatar

Do you think it would be possible for a high profile celebrity in today's world to fake his own death?

Asked by dalepetrie (18009points) July 28th, 2009

For example, as soon as it was reported that Michael Jackson had passed, rumors started to pop up that he faked his own death, and there seem to be a rather large number of believers, which is exactly what anyone who saw what happened when Elvis died would have expected. Many still think Jim Morrison is alive. Some think John Lennon is still alive and others think Kurt Cobain is still alive. And what do they all have in common? Fame on an unimaginable scale…the type that in some ways has become for them more of a curse than a blessing. If you have enough people who just don’t want to believe you’re gone, and you have achieved a level of fame where living a normal life would be impossible, the conspiracy theories are bound to pop up.

So, I’m curious. I could imagine in 1977, we lived in a world where the famous were treated like a different class of human…someone like Elvis probably could have bribed the right officials and made himself just disappear. But today, everyone’s got a digital camera on them, if only in their cell phones. News spreads like wildfire on the internet. Celebrities are treated like they have no private lives or right thereto. Could someone THAT famous get enough people in on it to fake his own death? Consider all the people involved, which is why I mentioned Jackson…just think of who would have to be in on it, and how one could get these people to move into place without leaving a paper trail or an opportunity for a revealing photo opp that would blow the cover right off the scheme.

So, I’m NOT asking if you think Jackson faked his death…I don’t believe he did, nor do I think any dead celebrity ever has. But I do think that up until maybe 10 years ago it might have been possible, and I just don’t think it could happen today. What do you think?

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25 Answers

barumonkey's avatar

Easy. All you need is the ability to fake a new identity (including plastic surgery). Money can get you those things. Lots of money. Which they have.

fireinthepriory's avatar

You forgot Tupac!!

I think it would be possible, with enough money, even in today’s society. I think it’d be such a complex maneuver that you’d likely leave a trail though, and be discovered before too long… You might have a few months though, and be able to disappear in that time, even if people knew you were alive.

AstroChuck's avatar

Sure. Both Elvis and Andy Kaufman did it.

dalepetrie's avatar

What about the body? What about the coroner examining the body? What about the EMTs who rush to the body? What about the police investigation? What about the people caught up/questioned in the police investigation? What about the mortuary? Wouldn’t a LOT of people have to be corruptable to make this even kind of feasible? And wouldn’t the amount of money it would take to corrupt all these people leave enough of a paper trail as to be obvious what happened within a matter of days? Please explain how you think it would work…if you were this person, how would YOU accomplish it?

marinelife's avatar

I don’t know about really high profile, but apparently Olivia Newton John’s ex boyfriend (a minor Hollywood type named Patrick MacDermott) did it quite successfully.

Jeruba's avatar

I think so. I read a fascinating book a few years ago on what spies really do and how you go about creating and inhabiting new identities. I definitely believe it can be done.

To me the most interesting part of the book was not the techniquey things but the questions it raised about what “identity” really means and how you know who a person is (and who you are). But I picked up a lot of other interesting tidbits as well.

dalepetrie's avatar

I believe a nobody or a next to nobody…someone no one would be looking for, could still disappear, that wouldn’t be that hard. I think disappearing and making it look like you died is a whole new level. And I think when you are someone people will be looking for, that makes it all the more tricky. @Jeruba – if you can get me the name of the book, I’d be interested in reading it. I’ve actually been somewhat fascinated by this topic for a while…like if a person wanted to fake his death in this day and age, how would they do it.

I mean, chew on this. You are an A List celebrity and you live in LA. How do you even go about approaching the LA County Coroner’s office to inquire if they might be willing to help you out. How would you even go about it? My imagination says that you’d have to have an intermediary who wouldn’t identify who you were, but you’d have to basically befriend someone who had or could obtain access to the head muckety muck over there, who could after gaining the person’s trust say, “I represent someone VERY important, and this person is going to crack if he can’t just disappear off the face of the planet. We NEED to fake his death, and if you would be willing to help, we could make it worth your while.” You’d have to do the same with the EMT personnel, the LAPD chief investigator, and the mortician. That or you’d have to find a transient who looked a lot like you, kill him, hire a dentist to pull out all your teeth and imbed them in this person so the dental records would match, etc.

I’m curious, someone walk me through how it could be done, I’m VERY skeptical that it could be done, no matter who you were or how much money you had. And I’ve tossed around the idea possible as part of a book I might or might not write some day, so the better I could wrap my head around the mechanics of this, the better.

casheroo's avatar

I just don’t see how it would be possible for someone like Michael Jackson. With that face, anyone would recognize him. Also, I just can’t imagine all that would go into it.

filmfann's avatar

I still believe Andy Kaufman did it.

bcstrummer's avatar

Dude they did it in south park so of course it’s possible, LOL jkjk

Zendo's avatar

John Lennon did it. Jim Morrison and John Belushi. So did Michael Jackson.

Jeruba's avatar

@dalepetrie, It was this: Catching Spies, by H. H. Cooper and Lawrence J. Redlinger. It appears to be out of print. I’ve just been looking around for it online and seen it listed at anywhere from $0.99 to $42.00.

I have no recollection of where I got this book, when, or why, but there was a reason why I kept it and put it on my shelf next to the Dhammapada and the Bhagavad-Gita.

I don’t think it will tell you how a person can fake his own death, but it does tell how a person can disappear.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Jeruba – I can conceptualize the disappearing, but it would certainly be interesting to know some more of the actual technicalities. I’m curious how many people who think that a celebrity faked his own death really consider the complexities.

I’d say if one celeb may have done it, it would have to be Tupac. The dude put out like 2 records a week after he died.

Jeruba's avatar

Correction. Amazon has it for $0.01 plus shipping.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Jeruba – woo hoo! Though to be honest, I’m married to a librarian, so I’ll probably save myself the 3 bucks and have her bring it home from work some day!

sakura's avatar

This is a curious one, I’m with you @dalepetrie I find it hard to believe that someone in the chain of officials etc wouldn’t leak out the information, it would have had to have been a pretty substancial payout for them not to blab!

I can only imagine that those who were involved in JFK, Lennon, Elvis etc… either are all now living together on some deserted island somewhere, and their grand/children helped out with Jacko!

Or they are all dead (killed for knowing about something no one else needs to know about wink, wink, nudge nudge!)

dalepetrie's avatar

Oh yeah, forgot about JFK. Reminds me, there’s a great movie called “Bubba Ho Tep” starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, who play, get this, Elvis and JFK respectively, only it’s set in modern day, in a nursing home. Elvis basically wanted to disappear for a while so he found the world’s premier Elvis impersonator and switched identities with the guy. The real Elvis has papers that would prove who he really was when he wanted to come back in case the fake Elvis didn’t want to give up his new life, but then the trailer in which the real Elvis was now living (the trailer belonging to fake Elvis) exploded and Elvis no longer had a way to reclaim his real life. Fake Elvis really became a glutton for fame and everything else and HE’s the one who died on his toilet, leaving the real Elvis alive, only to be stuck dying in a nursing home and suffering ED 30 years later. His best friend in the nursing home is a black guy who claims that he is JFK…the CIA took care of the details of darkening his skin and faking his death after he was shot (he was actually shot, just didn’t die…they instead took that opportunity to give him an extreme makeover). Meanwhile, the nursing home they’re living in is losing patients left and right…turns out an ancient spirit is feeding off the diminished life energy of the old people as a) no one will suspect foul play and b) it keeps the spirit alive and makes it stronger. So, Elvis and JFK have to make a final stand against the evil spirit in order to keep everyone’s souls from ending up as a waste byproduct of the spirit’s digestive system instead of ascending to heaven. Quite a movie…and every bit as plausible as most of the other faked death conspiracies, possibly even more so.

sakura's avatar

@dalepetrie Sounds like a fun movie!

dalepetrie's avatar

@sakura – if you liked the Evil Dead movies, you HAVE to see this one, it’s a freakin’ riot.

sakura's avatar

@dalepetrie can’t say I’m into horrors If Evil Dead films are horrors but I’ll defo give it a go, I’ll try anything once and the story plot sounds amusing! I’ll look out for it next time I’m shopping!

dalepetrie's avatar

The first Evil Dead film is a straight up horror film. The second Evil Dead film is essentially a remake of the first one, retold as a comedy, not at all scary, but funny as hell. And the third, titled Army of Darkness is just one of the most ridiculously funny movies of all time. I would’t call either Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness a horror film, nor would I call Bubba Ho Tep a horror film…sure they deal with spirits and death and such, but they’re meant to amuse, not scare.

sakura's avatar

Sounds like fun then, I’ll keep an eye out for them at the supermarket.

filmfann's avatar

@dalepetrie Great movie. I love it when Elvis is trying to describe the giant scarab/beetle, and he says “It was about the size of a peanut butter and banana sandwich”.

dalepetrie's avatar

@filmfann – I forgot that line, that was GREAT.

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