5 People Who Were Declared Dead, But Weren’t

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It’s the moment that you are officially dead, when you are registered as deceased. Only sometimes, people aren’t dead at this point. How does this happen? Well, there are obviously some genuine mistakes and missing people are often officially declared dead after a while (in absentia). But people can be declared dead for more sinister reasons. These reasons can range from insurance scams, possession of property or even, as one of our cases reveals, to ensure a better voting result (allegedly).

Bureaucratic Balls-Up

There are often mistakes with automated computer databases. If the computer says you’re dead, you can’t just shout at it to prove otherwise. The paperwork, distress and anger must be draining on anyone in that situation. Imagine if you will then, poor army veteran, Jerry Miller of Florida. He was declared dead by the Veterans Administration not once, but four times – cutting off his military pension. To add insult to injury, he also received a request from the VA this year for $94,000!

Canoe Off Into the Sunset

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You might recall the John Darwin case back in 2007, where a man who had been declared dead by his wife suddenly reappeared. He had convenient ‘amnesia’ about the insurance scam he and the wife pulled in order to pay off mounting debts. He had disappeared in 2002 after canoeing out to sea near Hartlepool. The subsequent sea-search uncovered Darwin’s wrecked canoe – odd as the sea was like a mill pond that day. He was declared dead in 2003, despite being back at home! Wife Anne claimed £25,000 and the £130,000 mortgage was paid off. The scam didn’t pay off entirely as the Darwins were caught and sentenced to 7 years in prison each, after buying a house whilst on holiday in Panama.

Election Error

In Houston, Texas, many people woke up one day, sat down to eat their breakfast, opened their mail and found out that they could no longer vote because they were dead. High school nurse, Terry Collins, was one such person. She tried to call to register her status as ‘very much alive’ but after hours and days of being on hold, gave up. This was supposedly a yearly ‘purge’ of deceased voters. As it stands, Houston has revoked the purge until after elections, but elsewhere in Texas this is not the case. It seems that many of the people on the list were black or Hispanic, which led to claims of ‘fix’!

Medical Muddle

It sounds like the start of a Victorian Gothic novel, but there have been several cases of people waking up in a morgue, after being pronounced dead by medical professionals. This happened to June Burchell of Sussex, who has a rare condition called Cataplexy. She has been declared dead three times and woken up in the morgue twice! Cataplexy is similar to Narcolepsy, but in June’s case it made her appear to be dead.

The Last Stand

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During World War 2, Japanese soldiers were told that they were to not surrender or take their own lives during war, under any circumstances. Some took this a little too literally. When the war ended in 1945 a few cells took to the jungles and remained there in hiding for many years. The last of these, Hiroo Onoda, was officially declared dead in 1959. He was finally discovered in 1974 by a Japanese backpacker who was looking for “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda and the Abominable Snowman, in that order”. He still took convincing to come out of hiding!

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