Let’s Disappear

The content below is from Episode 118 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you watch Netflix’s Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet
    • This 6-episode series tells the story of 5 different criminals/crimes that were or are being committed via the internet.
    • Episode 1 is all about Swatting and a kid who had no real-life skills other than swatting and making bomb threats
      • Swatting is the action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.
    • Episode 2 is about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.
      • His death went from tragic mugging victim, to subject of conspiracy theorists, and finally to FOX news making a full report on how Seth was connected to wikiLeaks and Russian spies.
    • Episode 3 is about the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally with the tiki torches and Neo Nazis.
    • Episode 4 talks about a serial sextortion case where a young guy was hacking young women for their nude pictures and blackmailing them.
    • Episodes 5 and 6 are part of a 2-part story about a very intelligent hacker that was detained by the FBI using unconstitutional tracking technology called the StingRay.
      • The hacker’s name is Daniel Rigmaiden and his story is one of the coolest criminal cases I have ever heard. The coolest detail is that all the money he stole from the taxpayers was actually paid back in full…. and then some. He is the perfect criminal. He is my hero.
  • A lot of true crime documentaries are about old murder cases, but this show talks about modern problems that arise around the internet and how our legal system struggles to keep up with the advancement of technology.


  • When I was 18 and had just graduated college I was STOKED for college. I couldn’t wait to start fresh and start over with a completely new social network.
    • Well, I did room with my best friend from High School and my sister had already been a student at SRU for 2 years before I got there so it wasn’t a “completely” new social network… but it was new enough that I could change.
    • I remember I first got really sad over not being able to see my parents and old friends all the time and the first weekend was a bit lonely. But once that pupa stage was over, I shed my shell and began stretching out my new metaphorical butterfly wings.
      • I know comparing myself to a butterfly isn’t very masculine, but that is ok. Because part of finding out who I was in college included the fact that I don’t have to be masculine all the time.
    • The point is, that people are complex. They don’t usually fit perfectly into the lives that they are born into. That is why it is important to explore. Explore different places, ways of living, and people.
      • When we explore we gain knowledge and experience of how we might live our lives differently. And that is important because otherwise, we might try to live out a life that doesn’t mesh well with who we truly are… and that can be catastrophic…. such as a person willing to just disappear.
    • Of course, you may just want to disappear because of legal or financial problems.
      • Either way, the logistics of disappearing in today’s society sounds fascinating and really difficult.
    • There are a lot of reasons to want to disappear and this episode, this podcast, is not about exploring why anyone should or should not disappear.
      • If you are feeling emotionally or mentally “Not OK” then go seek the advice of a behavioral health professional.
      • If you’re in a tough home situation, call a support line like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you have a child with you, call 1-800-4ACHILD for immediate assistance.
    • This episode is about the logistics of disappearing and how that is even possible in today’s society. It is a fun thought experiment.
    • And for anyone under the age of 18, here is a note from
      • Stay put if you’re underage to avoid making problems worse. People are bound to come looking for you if you’re a minor. Chances are you will have a hard time making money and getting anything else you need to get by. Going on your own is tough, lonely, and even dangerous at times. Once you hit the legal age of adulthood in your country, which is usually 16 or 18, more opportunities open up to you. Keep in mind that being out on your own is usually worse as a minor. When you’re found, you will be taken home anyway. Unless things are very bad or even dangerous, find other ways to improve your life at home.
      • Even if you don’t think your friends and family will miss you much, you are better off finding safer ways to change the situation than simply disappearing. There are many resources out there that can help you deal with bad situations until you’re ready to leave.
  • Cat and Mouse in our world
    • Now that we’ve got that important disclaimer out of the way, let me clarify what sort of disappearing I’m talking about:
    • As adults, it is totally legal to just up and leave. Of course, there are things like financial and legal obligations, but for the most part, we can just leave and law enforcement won’t care.
      • If you have a warrant for your arrest or have been subpoenaed to appear in court, that is a different story. Refer back to Episode #91 titled Bounty Hunting lol…
      • Also if you have a bunch of debt it might not be the best thing to just up and leave. Collection agencies will come-a-knockin’.
    • As far as family and friends go, you have some decisions to make. Do you tell them you are leaving or give them a note? Up to you.
    • This episode is more about a cat and mouse type situation and this has been done before:
      • In the summer of 2009, a journalist by the name Evan Ratliff had just written an article for Wired Magazine about people who fake their own deaths and wanted to try something new.
      • He decided to vanish and asked the general public to try and find him. He tried to stay hidden for 30 days but was found on day 25 by some computer-savvy participants.
      • There is a YouTube video where Evan tells this fantastic story. It is about 1 hour and 25 minutes long though. I have included it on the blog.
    • I bring up Evan Ratliff’s little experiment because I think in just 13 years it would be very different. Technology and societal norms have changed more than one might think since the summer of 2009.
This is Evan Ratliff and his multiple disguises.
  • How to Disappear:
    • The first step that I can think of right off the top of my head is to wear a mask. It is globally accepted to wear a mask in public now and that would conceal half of your face so just wear one all the time.
    • Next good rule to follow: Travel alone to cut down on the risk of discovery. 
      • This is a big one if you are planning on disappearing with a child… consider that you might be committing the crime of kidnapping…
      • People come with baggage… even people who are trying to not be found, so travel alone. Other people in your party will add all sorts of unforeseeable variables to your vanishing equation. If there are other people with you that means there will be other search parties and a larger paper/digital trail for them to follow.
      • Eventually, you will probably find a group here or there to hang around. When you do just be sure to have a bunch of fake names and identities to use for each of them.
    • Travel light
      • I can’t tell you how much I love to travel with nothing but a backpack. It allows me to maneuver airports, train stations, and Ubers with ease. Plus, once I get where I am headed it takes me MUCH less time to settle in before I can start enjoying my surroundings.
      • Trying to do all those things with a large suitcase is a very different story: I have to check my suitcase at the airport and wait for it once I arrive. I have to lug it around everywhere I go and I have to unpack once I get to my destination. Not fun.
      • This ease of travel by having less stuff is amplified when you are trying not to leave a trace. Only pack the essentials. When you are preparing for your disappearance set everything out on your bed or perhaps the floor and decide what is actually necessary and what is just excess stuff.
      • some things I would bring: large backpack, warm clothes, a rain jacket, sturdy shoes, a tent, a sleeping bag, maps, a compass, a pocket knife, and a first aid kit.
    • Technology is a wonderful tool, but not when you are trying not to get caught
      • Get rid of all social media. Delete everything you can from your accounts and then deactivate them. No posting what you had for breakfast or how swoll you are getting at the gym.
      • Be sure to delete browsing history and cookies from your computer and phone. Doesn’t matter if your device is protected by a password. If someone with any computer knowledge is looking for you then they can get around that.
      • This does mean you have to Leave your computer and phone at home. I know, we’ve become so attached to our devices, but They can be tracked. Refer back to my recommendation segment and about the StingRay device: that is a portable device that can pull your cellular information with great accuracy and MANY law enforcement agencies have them at their disposal.
      • If you choose to use a public device like at a library or internet cafe (yes internet cafes still exist), then be sure to be extra careful. Everything you do on a public device is public. If you log back on to your old social media account, that will likely get you caught.
    • Now is a good time to reinvent yourself because you will want a new name.
      • I choose Barry Hammaker… Barry Jay Hammaker
      • My story would be that I’m new in town because I’m looking for a quiet place to write my book… and I would have some writing to fall back on… like the mess that is this blog lol.
      • Not just your name, but also reinvent what you look like.
      • Change your hair (I would just go bald or grow out my hair and dye it blonde).
      • Change your clothing (I usually dress casual so I might start wearing sweater vests and dorky stuff like that).
      • As I said before, I would wear a mask, but I might also wear a hoody and sunglasses a lot to hide my face.
      • I am a heavyset guy so I could lose a bunch of weight.
      • If I was worried about security cameras, I could use the infrared LED part on LED remote controls to attach to some sunglasses… this actually blurs your face on security cameras.
    • ALL cash, no cards
      • Anything other than cash has a clear trail to be followed and cannot be used
      • But you will need money so take out a bunch of cash before you bounce. Not too much at one time though because that looks suspicious. Take a gradual amount of money out over time.
      • Instead of carrying all that cash on you all the time, find a secure spot for your travels and only bring what you need. Your journey will be cut short if you get mugged with all of your money on you.
    • Pick where you are going?
      • If you are leaving the country you need a passport. Also check the country’s travel restrictions. You might need a visa or something more extensive.
      • If you stay in country, pick a city or town that fits your budget.
      • When you are picking where you are going you might as well plan the trip. Buy the tickets (plane, train, or automobile)
      • Airports and ship docks require ID and that means leaving a trail. Bus and trains typically don’t require ID so that might be a good option.
      • If you plan on really roughing it you could also use a bike or walk, though those do increase your chances of being seen on the street. If you use your own car there are traffic cameras and your license plate will be photographed at toll roads and traffic lights.
    • If you are evading people like in Evan Ratliff’s situation then you might want to buy tickets that throw people off your trail.
      • You can buy a ticket to NYC and just never board it… not cost-effective, but would probably slow down your pursuers.
    • What are you going to do for work?
      • You will need money when you disappear so where are you going to work?
        • I think I would find an under-the-table labor job like construction or landscaping.
      • But keep in mind that under-the-table jobs come with the risk of your employer screwing you over with less legal risk to them.
      • I might try to be a waiter or work in retail. Reminds me or Better Call Saul, the AMC show that had a major criminal lawyer who had to disappear and wound up as a manager at a Jamba Juice… he hated it, but he was kept under the radar for quite some time.
    • The last thing I could think of is to completely change my personality… or at least as much as I could
      • I walk fast and wobble when I walk. So I might try to incorporate a new gate by slowing down and walking with a fake limp/swagger.
      • Maybe I would start wearing a turban or join a local book club.
      • Whatever it might be, I would try to act differently. People can recognize you by the habits you keep, the walk you walk, and the talk you talk. Changing ones personality can really throw people off. I know! I could become a priest! lol jk, that is Such a cliche disguise.
  • In Japan, there are agencies called Yongie-Ya
    • In Japan, one’s respect or shame is very important. Acrewing lots of debt from failed businesses, dishonoring one’s elders, or being known as a social pariah can all be reasons to want to disappear… and some businesses have learned to capitalize on that.
    • From
      • “Japanese culture is “Sekentei” which basically means it’s a culture obsessed with keeping up appearances, “pride and honor” rule above all, and “shame” is a very heavy burden.
      • These agencies are known as “Yonige-Ya” which means “Fly-by-Night shops”, originally dedicated to helping people escape loan-sharks, nowaways their cause is far more noble, the Majority of their clients are victims of domestic violence, who with nowhere left to turn, chose to flee.
      • Unlike your traditional moving agency, the Yonige-ya prepare your next residence for you, they apply to the government to keep your new address and contact info private, they prepare school and nursery paperwork for your children, and meticulously prepare your escape, all in complete secrecy.
      • On the day of escape, they arrive at the house shortly after the abusive spouse has left and rapidly box up all your belongings, they then transport you along with your children and belongings to your new home. The service doesn’t end here though, they continue to give their clients advice on how to remain hidden and help clients with any separation or divorce paperwork that may be needed.”
    • The cops don’t search for the disappeared person known as a “Jouhatsu.” Cops only have an obligation to search for someone if they have committed a crime… not for someone who has left on their own free will.
      • Jouhatsu or johatsu refers to the people in Japan who purposely vanish from their established lives without a trace. This phenomenon can be seen all over the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. However, it is likely more prevalent in Japan given certain cultural factors
    • So if someone is looking for the Jouhatsu, they have to hire a PI (private investigator). But a PI is going to have a hard time finding the Jouhatsu thanks to “The Personal Data Protection Act” that severely limits what private info is accessible even to the cops and even after a person dies.
    • Because Japan values personal freedom quite highly, the whole of society over there has a different mentality towards those who wish to leave their life behind.
    • Don’t worry. I’m not going anywere lol. The entire time I was typing up this episode I kept getting this weird feeling that someone would assume I myself am planning to disappear. This was an oddly morbid topic to explore. I didn’t expect it to be like that. IDK I thought I would find a lot of fun articles about trying to hide in today’s society because what I found was A LOT of article and disclaimers about why people shouldn’t disappear. But fear not, I’m not going anywhere. I just thought it would be a fun thought experiment to preoccupy my mind with.
    • I like challenges and trying to disappear in the world today would DEFINITELY be a challenge, but one I think I could accomplish. I think I would probably pick a secluded forest somewhere and just camp out for a few months (not including winter lol… I’m not that tough).
    • But what would you do if you had to disappear? If you were being hunted either in an actually dangerous situation or perhaps a more fun experiment like the subject Evan Ratliff’s article, what would you do to remain hidden?
    • How do you think you would fare? How long would you last?


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