Monday, April 29, 2013

How Would You Disappear?

If you wanted to disappear today, how would you do it?

How much do you think it would cost?

Where could you go, assuming you are an American?

56 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great question.

    The very first thing that hits me, besides the need for cash, is that I would have to ditch my vehicle. And that realization kind of has me gobsmacked.

    adam

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    1. Or one could put a fake plate on it and drive in a manner so as not to get pulled over...maybe? At least for a short while?

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    2. SAH, I mentioned that the heroine of the novel I likely will never finish disappears from her life twice in her life. Switching license plates with an identical car is a part of her plan the second time. I got that from the research I did about disappearing, which convinces me that - aside from becoming indigent and being homeless or something - it is not easy.

      ~ John Green

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    3. Your heroine is very clever, John Green. I hope to read this novel someday.

      If Maura managed to disappear, I am guessing she had help from someone, or at least has found a new community that supports her efforts to hide.

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    4. Hey SAH. I'm not doing too well working on it. But I think about it a lot. Someday maybe I will just sit down and do it. Thanks for the nice comment.

      John

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  2. When I moved to L.A. in 1987, I had about $2,000 in cash on me. That was sufficient to start over from scratch. Double that now, I would suppose...which gets you to $4,000.

    If I wanted not to be spotted, I would either try to go to Canada, where I have relatives, or possibly go to a remote area like a desert outpost. The problem with small towns (having grown up in one) is that everyone knows everybody, so you'd need to pick a place where people specifically go to mind their own business. Los Angeles is a great place to get lost -- it's very diffuse and people pretty much leave you alone. Not that I think Maura is here (I don't). But the dynamic here is right.

    It would seem that knowing somebody discreet and having a place to stay would be the two biggest factors in deciding where to go. Without some foothold, you have a much harder time. But it can be done (I did it here, as I said, on $2,000...and I knew no one).

    adam

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  3. Where?
    Israel or Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon via Canada.
    Or, I suppose, the Lev Tahor settlement near Montreal...Burqa commune = great way to hide.
    The most important thing would be to get out of the country ASAP. Assuming I hailed from the Northern U.S., Mexico would involve too much driving. I'd fear getting caught on the way. Canada would be the best place to land quickly. I'd earn some money there and then try to get even further away.

    To Canada, I'd want to bring my basic necessities + a car + as much liquid cash as I could get my hands on quickly...$4,280 sounds good. I'd bring a few valuables with me, such as my jewelry. And I'd buy and bring a prepaid cell phone.

    On the day I ran away, I'd wear something very much like a dark coat and jeans, and my hair would be UP. I wouldn't drink for the purposes of getting away, but I might be drinking if something was really messing me up inside.

    ....

    Some of the places I considered for my hypothetical escape would be accessible to me by virtue of my ethnicity. In Maura's case, Ireland would be the parallel to my Israel. I believe their citizenship laws for those of Irish descent are relatively relaxed, and she might well have relatives there with whom she could stay.

    Also, I'd imagine the cost of a VERY last-minute plain ticket to Ireland might be a few thousand dollars...2 or 3 or, you know, 4k...pure speculation there.

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  4. Thought: did Kate M. or any of Maura's other friends who have been close-mouthed about the disappearance own a red truck?

    If they helped her get away, that would explain a lot about why they don't want to talk to anyone now.

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  5. This is actually something I have thought about. The heroine of the novel I have been working on, off and on, for the past ten years, decides twice over the course of her life to disappear. I have done some research to make the story authentic. It is not easy to do, I think, at least if people are looking for you. There are a lot of issues you have to deal with, like NEVER using your SNN again, which has implications for future employment, flying in a TSA world, being disqualified from a bunch of government benefits like Medicare and Medicaid, the complications around ever getting married, etc. And then you have to consider that there are some people who you wont want to leave behind, so it has to be bad enough to make the decision to depart even them. For instance - if Maura did decide to disappear (which I kind of doubt) - I bet her relationship with her mother would have given her a lot of pause. Maura was the codependent daughter taking care of the family as mom's drinking worsened. That is a deep, emotional bond for a kid.

    In any case, based on what I have learned, if I wanted to disappear, this is how I would approach it.

    (1) I would put some damn careful time into planning. Because like I said, as you really start to think it out, it quickly becomes full of complications.

    (2) I would want to create a complicated diversion with ambiguities to it. I would want people wrestling over issues about what might have happened to me where both sides miss the point. Some who try to mislead get too specific and in effect tell you in a non-credible way exactly what they want you to believe instead of the truth. But a really smart person leaves intriguing suggestions that open up a debate, all sides of which are off the mark. So, in this case, if Maura wanted to vanish and she were following this approach, she would want to leave intriguing clues (the searches about drinking and pregnancy, the calls to the resorts, the packing up of her room, the rag in the tail pipe, etc.) in order to generate the abduction vs. die of the elements vs run away to the north argument, which argument would be her cover because none of the solutions suggested by her ambiguous clue-leaving is accurate. So, if I were making off for a new life, I would want to generate a debate with intriguing clues that could be interpreted in a number of ways, all of which were wrong.

    The problem is at what point do the signs of your progression through life completely vanish? How do you lock that off? Look at this way, if Maura was trying to disappear, she still hasn't locked it off because people are still thinking about and looking for her.
    I have read about A LOT of missing person cases. I can only think of a few where somebody verifiably bolted to start a new life elsewhere AND was not caught up with soon thereafter. It is more common among fugitives, such as John List. But people just successful voluntarily disappearing when they are not running from warrants seems rare. There was a girl from Pennsylvania who abandoned her car in Maryland and made her way to California where she started her new life in a low paying job (perhaps a place like curves, if I remember.) But the law caught up with her in like three years.

    The other way to do it is to have money and go hiking in Mexico and probably kill yourself in a remote place, like the writer Ambrose Bierce.

    Anyway, my real point is that it is not so easy a thing to do. In fact, I'd say it is a real long shot that the would be vanisher would succeed. I have a hard time imagining that Maura did this.

    ~ John Green

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    1. If Maura planned her disappearance, I doubt in a million years she could have imagined that complete strangers, nine years down the road, would be picking apart her every action in the days leading up to her disappearance. To think that far deep into it as to plan out fake internet searches and phone calls just to leave a trail to throw people off? I doubt she would have even considered that people would be able to attain that information (beyond the police, if she even considered that). There are plenty of stories of criminals making dumb mistakes and leaving digital fingerprints after a crime. I don’t think the general public knows that internet searches can even be traced.

      A lot of us are forgetting that we have an interest in missing person cases and know the ins and outs of the search. I doubt your Average Joe would consider that little details of things they do on a daily basis online could be retrieved if something happened to them. That and the fact that I’m almost certain that most people have never heard of The Doe Network or Websleuths or would consider that strangers would be interested in finding them, for whatever reason. That Maura had the foresight to plant misleading clues for arm chair sleuths is a ridiculous idea.

      The fact of the matter is, if Maura didn’t plan her disappearance, than all of these seemingly “mysterious” things are probably a lot more mundane in reality. If I disappeared today, would people be speculating and jumping to conclusions over the fact that I brought scrambled eggs and a cup of orange juice with me in the car this morning? “He obviously was making sure he had enough nutrition to make a run for it!” In reality, it was just my normal breakfast routine and had I not disappeared, no one would even know about it.

      Now I know Maura’s circumstances were a little more out-of-the-ordinary than scrambled eggs and orange juice, but the reality is, if she had made it to wherever she was going and back, no one would have been the wiser of her “mysterious” actions. A lot of people do a lot of weird things; it’s just that most people don’t get interrupted in the process and have the national spotlight shined on them.

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    2. I don't necessarily disagree with your broad points, I just point out that the question I answered was "how would I disappear."

      ~ John Green

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  6. I'd think the best bet for Maura would have been to get married in a different country and hand over forged American documents (birth certificate, ID) to get the marriage certificate and name change and new ID. They wouldn't be as familiar foreign paperwork esp. since birth certificates and IDs in US come in such a wide variety of formats. Then she'd have a new name and legit ID not traceable to her old one. I don't think this would have been too difficult to do in a smaller locality - esp. if the man she was marrying was local to that area and maybe even known somewhat to the people in the clerks' office.

    Even in the US, she was young enough that if she could get a forged birth certificate she could have said she was applying for her first SS# - especially in a rural community. Then she could get a license and a new identity would been born.

    She also could have taken on the identity of someone else her age who had passed away. This gives the best cover in terms of being attached to a real person's history but it is also the most difficult to pull off. For instance: how did the other person's death not get reported? What of someone recognized her name and knew it wasn't her.

    Interestingly, no matter which mode she chose, she may have had help from an unlikely source. Battered womens' groups around the country have often very sophisticated networks of professionals who will pitch in to help create a new identity for a particularly at risk victim.

    Another option for Maura would be to stay off the grid. She could do this either married or single but it would be easier married - all paperwork could be through the husband.

    Bottom line: it's a big country (and a bigger world) and Maura was young enough to slip unnoticed into a new identity. I'd say she's likely out there somewhere.

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  7. Another thought on how I might disappear. This time, pretending I am Maura and borrowing a few the ambiguous facts of the case to make up a context.

    There was statement by Graves that Maura may have been raped at the party on the Saturday preceding the accident, but Kate would not discuss it. Someone else pointed to a different rumor that the rape had occurred the prior Saturday.

    Suppose she was upset and went off the deep end. Suppose she thought she saw the guy who did it during a short break to the donut shop on Thursday, and simply ran him down, but then it turned out to be Vasi (and to be clear there is no reason whatsoever to think that he knew or raped Maura and I am not asserting that he did).

    I'm not supposing that because I think it happened. Instead, I wanted to see if I could come up with a scenario where Fred and Kathleen might have been helping Maura to escape so that she could avoid a charge for attempted murder. And maybe Patti Davidson wrote a diversionary email for her cousin.

    Here is my point: in my first post on this topic I said that I would want to create an diversion with ambiguities to start debates that don't matter, the various sides of which all looked in the wrong direction. The reason I made up this present scenario is to say that if her sister and her father were helping her, it is conceivable EVERYTHING was staged and Maura is in Guatamala, or something like that. Because then in that case, her departure from her life was facilitated by a diversionary set of ambiguities that sucked up and sucked up and sucked up all the energies put toward finding her, all to no avail.

    Again, not saying this happened. It is just a good way to illuminate my point in my first post about the diversion.

    ~ John Green

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    1. Again, great post. But Patti Davidson's email--which wasn't actually written by Patti Davidson, AFAIK, although Patti Davidson agreed with it--did say that Maura had committed the hit-and-run.

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    2. Yes, I understand. I was just playing with a scenario to show how - if Maura approached disappearing with my kind of thinking in mind - she might have done it.

      You said something highly interesting that I did not know. Patti Davidson agreed with the so called "ring of truth" email about Maura living in Quebec? Wow! When? I did not know about this. Please tell more. And thanks for mentioning it.

      ~ John Green

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    3. Hi John Green,

      The post that breaks down the Patti Davidson/Citigirl situation is here: http://mauramurray.blogspot.com/2012/02/does-mauras-cousin-know-true-story-of.html

      One question I still have about that whole episode is why they (apparently) never tried to hunt down the IP address of the original email writer.

      But if you're interested in Citigirl, she is on lots of Maura forums. --SAH

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    4. I see my mistake SAH. Patti agreed with the post on the blog and was suspected/identified as Citigirl at the time. Right, I recall that now. I was incorrectly thinking that she made the first post itself and that you were saying she later confirmed.

      Thanks for getting me straight on that. I remember now. You are spot on correct and I was mistaken. I believe the point overall remains, as you indicated.

      ~ John Green

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  8. That is a great question, and I can only wonder if Maura asked herself this same question ten years ago.
    I suppose I would work as much as I could, and save up money. I would probably choose to go on the other side of the country, in a small remote town. And probably work a job that isn't directly working with the public.
    My disappearing act would be very well planned out a year in advance, atleast that.
    One of the reasons why the running away theory doesn't sit well with me, Maura didn't bring much money with her ( that we know of ) and apparently has no used her social security number since her disappearance nor her phone, nor her cards. I also never felt as though Maura had any real plans on leaving for good, no solid well thought out plan.
    If she had planned some big getaway, she would have needed help, place to stay, food, help with finances, etc.

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    1. Upon thinking about saving money, maybe Maura was using the stolen credit cards to buy food so she could save as much of her "own" money as possible?

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  9. Much as I'd like to think, I believe that going to Canada and finding a way to support ones self would be hard. I have an acquaintance who met a Canadian guy while travelling in Europe, moved to British Columbia to be with him, but came back to the US after six months because she was legally unable to work there.

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  10. How easy is it to track the use of social security numbers? I mean, does law enforcement need a subpoena to be able to see that or is there a flag that goes off matching up a NCIC and SSN? The reason I ask is that I think one of the missing persons portrayed on Disappeared was working and had used hers while missing? I have been thinking about this for a while. When I was in the Army, soldiers actually had left their families and joined the military without telling a soul and we heard about this every once in a while. I don't know how effective joining the military would be to disappear as your SSN is the very core of everything though.

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  11. A picture is starting to develop in my mind. I'm not saying that it's accurate. But I'm starting to visualize a Maura who:

    1. May have had a sudden disappearance/escape to a new life brewing in the back of her mind for a long, long time. Planning it may have even been a form of mental escape for her. There is evidence for this in some comments to her friends.

    2. May have reached a point with her family where she just had completely had it, and mentally went "f**k you people." This could have happened if she'd been reamed really hard by Fred and/or by the contents of that still-unknown phone call -- some really, really unreasonable request that was the straw the broke the camel's back. Evidence for this is to be found in Maura's wanting-to-please nature and caretaker instincts, the wall of dysfunction that seems to have been her family, and I think most of all suggested by the plaintive tone of her brother's song about her disappearance.

    You take those two ideas together, and suddenly the whole "I'm blowing town" idea is a lot less far-fetched. It doesn't explain everything. The alcohol buy doesn't suggest someone about to execute a deep-seated plan...it suggests someone who either is very frightened or tense about an upcoming encounter (this suggested by a friend of mine with similar issues to Maura), or someone planning a getaway either with company, or a week's worth of quiet drinking.

    But I'm starting to wonder if the entire odd family take on the disappearance can be explained by a Maura of whom much was expected, and that just finally had had enough of being in the family and her position in it, and decided she wanted no more of it. The family's desperate searching for her takes on new meaning in that light...and it would explain how someone could just take off and leave her entire family behind and never see them again. Perhaps that was the point to begin with.

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    1. This is a really insightful post I think. I really like the observation that people's motivations are not black and white or simplistic. Instead, an idea can be considered, put aside, considered again, then teetering on the brink, then forgotten, then back again, etc. Enough s___ in a short enough period of time and the opening up of an opportunity (such as $4,000 and a sympathetic cousin who knew of her troubles) might well have triggered suddenly the decision to bolt, even though there had been a plan brewing in the back of her mind for a while.

      I think you really hit the mark and this is the most insightful answer to the question today.

      ~ John Green

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    2. Thanks John...kind of makes up for my blunder (if it was one) on whether Fred stopped off at Amherst on the way to Haverhill or not.

      adam

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  12. Less than $4,000 dollars.

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  13. Disappearing is not easy. In the cases I've read about where someone disappeared and then was found it turns out they really didn't do much except go someplace else and change their name. You are who you are. They generally have jobs similar or related to the ones they left, they live in similar neighborhoods to the ones they left, they engage in the same hobbies and activities, their boyfriends or girlfriends might even be strikingly similar to ones in their past.

    The most effective way to disappear, therefore, is to become someone else--new activities, new name, new place. A big crazy city like LA where people go to reinvent themselves would be ideal, but it might be an intolerable place for someone who has grown up in the northeast.

    So would Maura become a SoCal couch potato in an apartment in Hollywood? I somehow doubt it. If she's alive, she'll be someplace that has four seasons, she'll probably still be running, and she may be working in health care.

    I've moved back and forth across the country a couple of times. It used to cost about $2,000, depending on where you're moving to. Now, probably double that.

    Do we know if Maura even had a passport? Do we know if she ever had her academic transcripts sent to another school? Neither one easy to find out, but the latter would be a real giveaway. I doubt she is/was the kind of person who would be happy tending bar forever, and to get started again in college she would need those transcripts, at least from high school, which would be in her real name.

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  14. Very little planning and a little bit of cash.

    First step: Using my current passport, catch a flight to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean. From there, throw the passport in the trash (or sell it), hitch a bus, a boat, a train to someplace else in country. That's it. Find some work, live relaxed and cheap.

    Two essential things are required to pull this off. One: firm commitment to having no contact with anyone from my prior life, obviously. And two: no expectation to live the same life I have now only with new people and new scenery.

    If my goal is to just continue the life I started then it probably won't work. However, living cheap and simple, free of any problems currently in my life, and without the stresses of my job would be the main attraction of following through with this idea.

    What many fail to consider in the case of MM is the very real possibility that she did not care to live a conventional american dream. House, kids, husband, picket fence and barbecues with the neighbors may be exactly what she was running from. Judging by the closed minded posts of everyone, they cannot see that there are other options. She may not want a job other than a clerk at a coffee shop in Mexico paid under the table or a farm hand in Guatemala living in a bunkhouse with room and board and beer money as payment. In many ways it is attractive but would take some serious motivation to initiate and maintain.

    B
    BillNH

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  15. It is possible for Maura to be hiding in the states. With all the technology we possess, things still slip through the cracks. Here's a good example:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1417540/posts

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  16. If I were leaving quickly or under duress without a lot of time to plan, I'd take cash, a few burner phones, and a few sentimental items. I would dye my hair its opposite color, go from long to short, and straight to curly, and cut bangs; start wearing glasses and take a greyhound bus to a second state. I would join a religious organization/cult, commune, or convent to live day to day under a transitional identity in a second state for a while until I could fully transition to my new identity. During this time, I would buy a cheap beater car in cash under this second identity, sell it to myself in third state using a red herring third identity. I'd keep it in storage somewhere and then use it to get to my final destination where'd sell it to myself again under my final identity, and then trade it in for another car. For work, I'd try to find jobs that are live-in (nanny, inn-keeper, etc) and/or might pay under the table. Doing the research necessary and getting paperwork in place would take time, especially to go to or start over in a foreign county. Also, you might need to learn a new language. This is how I'd get by in the meantime.
    -Sharon

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  17. Just a couple of quick other thoughts. Maura's age / being a student would be an asset to disappearing as it's totally plausible to have no work history or references or credit history. However, if her family WAS involved in helping her get away, they played their cards all wrong. First they attracted too much attention to the case, Fred criticizing NH LE, etc. Second, they SHOULD have played up the drinking / legal problems. If people assumed Maura was troubled and in with the wrong crowd, etc. etc. then they wouldn't be as likely to search for her and puzzle over the case. I think they'd assume she met a bad end locally and that would attract much less interest in her and speculation about her whereabouts.
    -Sharon

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    1. These are good idea. You are right that being a student without a long tax history would help a lot. It is also a good point that too much attention is brought by the Murrays to the case (suing for the investigation records when legally that is a slam dunk they could not win) to really square with them wanting to have spirited her away and using the accident as a staged incident for so doing. On the other hand - and I just throw this out to chew on, not to refute your insightful comment - it could be the case that the focus on the accident leads only to a set of options that ALL deceive about where Maura really is. Like, there are some indications that possibly she was not driving car. I mean, what if she's one of the 100 or so other Maura Murrays in the country, who managed to just slip away to Atlanta or something while at the same time creating a multifaceted and intriguqing diversion in NH? Not saying that happened ... who can know what happened? But there is a wide vector of possibilities, all of them unlikely. In that context, I don't think her family spiriting her away for some reason can be COMPLETELY excluded as a possibility at this point. BUT certainly you make a great point that the atention brought to the case by Fred makes it less likely absent a more complex ruse that is frankly hard to imagine ... like every other solution to the case is.

      In any case, in this context, see my original post on this thread, if you are interested, about how I would disappear. Because I actually thought this out years ago in terms of a piece of fiction I was writing. I settled on a car accident that ambiguously suggested conflicting fates uncertainly (I was modeling off another case, of a North Carolina girl named Bradley in Washington whose crashed jeep was found in Washington state). Meanwhile the heroine had staged the situation so that none of the intriguing possibilities suggested were what had really happened and she was hidden kind of right under everyone's noses.

      Best regards,

      ~ John Green

      ~ John Green

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  18. She is no Ray Gricar and I doubt she would be able to hide for so long. There is a really bad Swedish song called Being Troubled In Paris Is The Same As Being Troubled In Stockholm but no matter how bad that song is, it is true. If she drank too much, suffered from bulimia and had problems with the law I would expect her to continue like that after having run away. It is hard to hide when you can't control your own behaviour. Of course there could be people helping her but that is simply so unlikely. I want her to be alive, but I don't think she is.

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    1. As for how Maura could have hidden for 9 years....first of all, if she did it, the chances that she *did* have an accomplice are high. May well have been one and the same person as Red Truck Driver/her tandem companion. I, too, don't think Maura could have hidden successfully on her own for that long. Her behavior was too sloppy; she got caught for everything. But if she had a mastermind organizing things for her, it could have happened.

      Gosh, the way I wrote that makes the "mastermind" sound like a pimp. I sure hope that wasn't the situation.

      One idea for how she/they could have pulled it off is by stealing someone's identity. Maura seems to have had some practice with that, what with the credit card fraud and all. If they were smart, they would have stolen a deceased (or homeless, or missing, or otherwise disenfranchised) person's identity; otherwise, the identify theft would probably be reported by the victim.

      This is another scenario in which Fred wouldn't talk about what he knew had become of Maura.

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  19. This is an interesting question about Maura Murray's case. Since I have never thought about running away or walking away from my life, I do not really know how I would do it. And if you do not think about it, you would not think about how you would do it.

    I would like to think my plan would be as clever as Maura's. Crashing a car though would take a lot of guts and since I am worried about airbags, I would want to crash another one first to see what would happen. That part of the planning would take extreme courage and if I knew the time was near, it would have me nervous once I knew I had the right opportunity.

    I would do it the same way Maura did. Think about how smart it was. Maura Murray "died" at the accident scene.

    The only thing I would change would be the Franzia wine. Maura's problem there was experience. I have drank enough wine to know what a person can handle. But for all anyone knows the wine bag was punctured and leaked out in a puddle onto the backseat of the car. Or she dumped out both the Coke bottle and the wine next to her car in the dark. And managed to hit the same spot too. But I understand about the alcohol. If she was sober and hurt there would be no reason to leave the scene, no reason not to have the bus driver call police, no reason to dump alcohol in the snow if the alcohol was not opened. I was kind of surprised the police did not find the wine box in the trunk if when opening the trunk the would be murdered used that as an opportunity to grab the rag he stuffed up the muffler pipe.

    There are a lot of inconsistencies. Was the Coke bottle really found under the seat, but the wine box was found out in the open?

    And before anyone goes off the deep end because I am implying Maura Murray ran away, I do not have any proof of that. The strongest proof anyone has is that she has not been heard from in over 9 years. That suggests murder. I am not saying Maura Murray ran away. I am only saying IF she ran away.

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    1. "I would want to crash another one first to see what would happen. That part of the planning would take extreme courage and if I knew the time was near, it would have me nervous once I knew I had the right opportunity."

      Whoa...It's just possible that's exactly what she did. It would explain the accident on Saturday night.

      A bit far-fetched, but so is having two accidents in two days. Could it be the FIRST accident was deliberate? I wouldn't have even considered that possibility until reading your post.

      adam

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    2. That is a wildly interesting though Adam. I don't know if I could argue it to the forefront of my thinking ... but an interesting thought. What is spurred for me was the idea that sometimes the subconscious "acts out" patterns of our desires. I know in looking back over a long struggle to come to terms with a desire to leave my career, which I did eventually in a very specific way, I see that I seem to have "acted out" or practiced subconsciously for something that did not consciously blossom until late 2010.

      ~ John Green

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  20. I can't say I've spent any appreciable time thinking about how I'd disappear. This question reminded me, though, of the article I'd seen about the Wired writer who tried to disappear on purpose (and was found fairly quickly--though the $5000 reward didn't hurt). That led me to stumble onto this article, Gone Forever: What Does It Take to Really Disappear?.

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  21. Think about the credit card fraud. Maura is very bold about using another person's identity. I do not think she would have any issue with taking over the identity of someone her age who was dead already. Also her last name is common enough that she could still use it. Remember that woman who went missing for 7 years but was found living under her own name and using her own social security number? It is not like there is a ping for LE every time someone applies for a job using their own social.

    Hey, I just want to add one more thing. I worked for a few restaurants over the years (as a bartender) and it was clear that the restaurant hired LOTS of illegal immigrants. All the restaurant cared about was that you had A social security number. There is a huge market out there for social security numbers. The easiest ones to get are from deadbeat parents who want someone's wages garnished on their behalf. When you're working for tips, this does not even really matter.

    Maura could also be babysitting, cleaning homes, or tutoring - all jobs that rarely require a social security number. Or heck, maybe she is shacking up with a man who totally supports her and so she can stay off the radar indefinitely.

    But I agree with several posts here. $4,000 is certainly enough money to disappear on. I also agree that Maura is likely still somewhere north. She likely has a boyfriend but otherwise a very small circle of friends that she keeps at a distance. Maura still keeps her life very private, which is her natural state anyway. Chances are that if she works for someone, that person considers her to be a good employee. Maura would be careful to make sure that no one she is around would have any reason to doubt her or dig deeper into her past.

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    1. Without even looking, I have come upon sites that list hundreds of social security numbers of deceased people by name and age. And these days, you can find someone's address and phone number just by googling their name. (Probably not true in 2004...but a thorough hunt through public records would have revealed the same.)

      From what I know of identity thieves, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of brains or talent to get an identity theft under way. To avoid getting caught is a bit of a different story. But keep in mind, most identity thieves aim to take the identity of someone with money and credit. Maura wouldn't need that, so in her case she could steal the identity of someone unlikely to follow up on it.

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    2. You're right! all it takes is a simple trip to the library and look up children who have died, you can easily get their birth certificate. Saying that, we're now firmly in the digital age, so I presume you don't even have to leave your house now to steal someones identity

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    3. Another way to establish your identity without a SSN# would be through hospital records. Hmmm, now who would be able to get those for her?

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  22. It is still very possible she is alive. This guy Tim Carney started a new life and only came forward after the Disappeared show aired. That was 7 years later! http://triboro.patch.com/articles/missing-butler-man-timothy-carney-found-safely

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  23. Greetings all (except for the freak who goes at James once a week reasoning from non-existent premise to angry conclusion):

    So I found something that caught my attention. It almost certainly is nothing more than a coincidence. But it is interesting. So I thought I would share it.

    First, some context:

    Suppose Maura went to Ireland because family was there to help her transition. Assume any scenario you want. This would solve some problems in disappearing around employment, SSN and using her real name and thus being able to be a verifiable person for employment purposes, all still while getting away from life as it was known in the U.S. There are are quite a few people named Maura Murray in Ireland so you would be hard to find from the US. Not saying that this happened, mind you, but it is is among the wide vector of mysterious, baffling possibilities in this case and would be no less surprising than any other answer once the answer is known, if ever it is.

    Okay, so just assume for the moment that is where she went. So she gets over there to county whatever in the spring of 2004. She's 21, young, free now from all the BS that swamped over her. She begins to set up her life. Among the zillion little things to do is get an email account. You know how if you try to get your name on gmail it is always taken but it offers you the suggestion of your name with numbers following? But the problem is the numbers are just random so it is annoying. A lot of people then go ahead and change the numbers to something that matters, like their zip code (like I did) or say, their age.

    In that context, check out this link:

    http://currentobituary.com/Condolences.aspx?member_id=67&id=120752

    It is a condolence page for one Bridie Costello, an apparently much beloved matriarch of a big family. Specifically, check the 12th condolence down and note the name and email address.

    ~ John Green

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    1. Interesting...it seems like a married name to me however. She puts it together with "ollie."

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    2. You're going to have a bunch of Maura Murray investigators bombarding this women with emails now.

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    3. Hi Rose. I did not notice that. In fact, I am sure it did not say that before. I have to admit I emailed her. So maybe she got annoyed and updated it to avoid future emails.

      ~ John Green

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    4. I think some poster on this blog or someone related to it is going to find out what happened to Maura Murray. There are some real brains here....

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  24. It's very possible to disappear even in the US. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/01/18003522-pennsylvania-mom-who-went-missing-in-2002-turns-up-alive-in-florida?lite

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  25. I agree its still very possible she is alive. Here is a story just today! http://news.yahoo.com/pa-woman-disappeared-2002-found-fla-160655714.html A woman disappeared and was found after 11 years when she came forward. Amazing!

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  26. This woman took off spontaneously and was declared dead - just came forward yesterday after 11 years.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/02/3376125/woman-missing-since-2002-and-presumed.html

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  27. I think it would be easier to disappear with another person then alone. 1st thing that popped into my head when reading this was leaving my car somewhere and having the other person pick me up. Change appearance. Use cash only. I think you can disappear with any amount on money, but the more you have the further you fade from previous life. Leaving the country seems scary to me so I would probably pick a high tourist area where faces change all the time. Just some random thoughts on this question with not a lot of planning behind them.

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  28. It would be more difficult for me to disappear, since I can't drive. However, I would take a greyhound (paying in cash) to a large city somewhere in the western US. I'd stay in a cheap motel for a while, and work on changing my appearance. (I would purposely either lose or gain weight, change my hair, etc.) Afterward I had done what I could, I would take another bus to another large city somewhere on the east coast, and look for a bunch of temporary cleaning jobs. I might also look for a nearby religious community (any kind, really) and claim to have run from my family because they were angry to the point of violence when I told them I wanted to learn more about the faith of whatever the group happened to be. I figure this could give me a group that was willing to support me and keep me hidden.

    I might also consider, before I left, leaving a suicide note near a large body of water close to home to throw the search in the wrong direction.

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  29. I would buy a rental property, in a distant city, in the name of a trust as opposed to my own name. I would leave one unit vacant(however, I would put my chosen alias on the mailbox). The trust would hire a property management company and allow the alias to pay rent in cash. I would pay rent as the alias, in cash, for about six months. Then I would go and live in my apartment.

    I think the key is establishing an identity before your current identity goes missing.

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  30. Here's a case where a woman did just so-- found a girl who had passed away in one state but born in another, requested her birth certificate, went to another state and got an id card, then went to another state and changed her (false) name, applied for a SSN, and officially disappeared.
    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021243552_janedoexml.html

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  32. I'm coming into the conversation two a half years late... but this question got me thinking, so here I go:

    Let me first say that I would never disappear without letting my loved ones know that I am okay. I would never knowingly cause them that pain and confusion. I have no desire to disappear, and if I ever do disappear, please come and find me because it is HIGHLY unlikely that I walked away. :>)

    Now, if I did want to disappear, here's what I'm thinking: it wouldn't be that hard. I'd find some materials on how to disappear ... probably not on my own computer, so I didn't leave clues. I'd go to a public library or a bookstore and see what I could find. Now, I should back up for a minute. If I HAD to disappear, at least for a while, because of a threat to me or my family, domestic violence, a crime I had committed, etc. I might move more quickly --- that is, I might just pack a bag, get in the car, and go, and do some of this research I'm describing while on the road. Either way, at some point, I'd either ditch or hide the car and start taking buses and/or walking a good bit until I got to a place where I felt I could stay. Would it be in the middle of nowhere? Probably --- although the argument could be made for disappearing in a big, crowded city where everybody is too busy to notice. I would hide out for a bit, assuming I had bought food and had a place to stay, thinking out my plan. The biggest challenge would be to find a job without revealing my identity --- so that would be my first priority. I might try to do freelance writing under an alias and set up a Paypal account with an e-mail under a new name that I set up at a public setting (using a computer there).It would only be a little money... so I don't know that I could keep an apartment. I might be staying in a hostel up in Polebridge, Montana... just a hop and a skip from Canada. Just a few more thoughts on this. I'm out of time. I would find people who seem to be loners, out of touch with other people in their families, and those people would be my friends. We could all "hide out" together. I would never give anyone my real name. I would create a life story for myself, actually written down, by pulling pieces of many other stories together and by using my imagination. So... the bottom line is that I think disappearing takes a continually working imagination, and it requires careful, careful tracking and monitoring of self and others. It would be exhausting for a while... maybe for good, unless I was able to withdraw almost completely from public life and public interaction, just living out in a cabin in the woods. :>)

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