Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood

By Elizabeth Greenwood

“A pleasant learn for somebody tantalized by means of the possibility of disappearing with no trace.” —Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling writer of Dead Wake

“Delivers the entire lo-fi secret agent shenanigans and caught-red-handed schadenfreude you’re hoping for.” —NPR

“A full of life romp.” —The Boston Globe

“Grim fun.” —The ny Times

“Brilliant subject, soaking up book.” —The Seattle Times

“The so much actually escapist summer time learn you'll desire for.” —The Paris Review

Is it nonetheless attainable to faux your individual demise within the twenty-first century? With six figures of scholar personal loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood used to be tempted to determine. So off she units on a darkly comedian foray into the area of demise fraud, the place for $30,000 a specialist could make you disappear—but your suspicious assurance corporation could rent a personal detective to dig up your coffin...only to discover it full of rocks.

Greenwood tracks down a British guy who staged a kayaking twist of fate after which back to dwell in his personal condo whereas all his friends suggestion he was once useless. She takes a choice from Michael Jackson (no, he’s now not dead—or so her new neighbors might have her believe), stalks message forums for individuals considering pseudocide, and gathers intel on black marketplace morgues within the Philippines, the place she could or won't receive a few fraudulent chocolates of her personal. alongside the best way, she learns that love is a miles much less universal purpose than cash, and that making your loss of life seem like a drowning almost promises that you’ll be stuck. (Disappearing whereas mountain climbing, even though, is a fashion nice to go.)

Playing Dead is a charmingly strange research within the vein of Jon Ronson and Mary Roach into our all-too-human wish to get away from the lives we lead, and the boys and girls determined sufficient to renounce their lives—and their families—to commence back.

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Sample text

She became a legal consultant in New Hampshire to avoid registering her address in the very public state bar association database and filed her taxes as an independent contractor. I was shocked to learn that a woman who felt her life was in danger from a deranged stalker would merely cross a single state line to hide. Couldn舗t they plausibly run into each other at the gas station? But many of Frank舗s disappearees have relocated to towns just hours away. 舡 To keep in touch with loved ones left behind, Frank devised codes in the form of Craigslist postings and classified ads.

For someone who helps people disappear for a living, Frank works very much out in the open. He has lent his expertise to the New York Times and National Public Radio on famous missing persons cases such as the Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who evaded capture for sixteen years, and fabled hijacker D. B. Cooper, who in 1971 parachuted out of a Boeing 727 with $200,000 in ransom money and has never been seen since. If Sam were a case study in how not to fake your own death, I hoped that Frank would be my Rosetta stone for how to pull it off.

I made out with surfers. I taught English at a day labor collective. I tasted freedom. While I舗d gone into debt in order to fund my escape from the parochial cradle of central Massachusetts, I舗d actually screwed myself into stasis. Owing a massive amount that never diminished despite $400 monthly payments made new movement a mere fantasy. So my mind wandered. Could I annihilate the self that owed the money? Or would I have to annihilate my entire being? What would be lost? Should I have carried on the sensible slog of teaching elementary school in favor of a nebulous goal?

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