5 Creepy-As-Hell Stories Of Real People With No Identity
Today, it's impossible to interact with someone without leaving some sort of record. Whether it's a call record, a Facebook photo tag, or a leaked sex tape, it's all on a hard drive somewhere, and probably will be for eternity, or at least until the robot apocalypse. But despite this incessant note-taking by our future technological overlords, some people have achieved the impossible: They got their faces plastered all over the news (usually in corpse or mugshot form), and we still have no freaking clue who they really were.
Here are five people who managed to leave nothing behind, except a mystery as to their true identity and a whole bunch of baffled reporters, authorities, and dick joke websites.
We Know "Cheryl Ann Wick's" Killer's Identity, But Not Hers
In 1991, James McAlphin of El Dorado, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, because he's an asshole. The weird thing, though, is that we still have no idea who he killed. Well, to be clear, we know exactly who was murdered -- it was his girlfriend, "Mercedes," a stripper/prostitute whom McAlphin pimped for. However, after she was killed, police discovered that Mercedes wasn't her real name -- nor was her "real" name, Cheryl Ann Wick, her real name. Despite the fact that we know who McAlphin murdered (and that he got sentenced for it), we don't know who he murdered.
Has the Tyrell Corporation reported anything missing?
After she was killed, the coroner issued a death certificate for Cheryl Ann Wick and contacted her parents in Minnesota. This came as quite a shock to them, considering that Cheryl was alive and well in Minneapolis. After getting a good night's sleep to make sure this wasn't some Fight Club-esque gaslighting, the police confirmed that the real Wick was living in Minneapolis and had had her purse stolen a few years earlier, including her ID and birth certificate. Investigators snooped around and found more places the victim had lived and worked under names like Cheryl Kaufman, Shannon Wiley, and Kelly Carr, all of which were equally made up. People she had worked with said that Cheryl had variously claimed to be in witness protection (nope), that her father was in the Mafia, and that she was on the lam after pulling some bank robberies -- because if you're going to create a fake past, it should at least be something badass.
Did anyone try to remove her mask to see if Patrick Swayze was under there?
McAlphin claims to know her true identity and that he had met Cheryl's mother and sister, but he ain't saying shit. He refuses to give any information to the police unless they do something for him -- evidently not giving him a life sentence for murder wasn't enough. He's currently back in prison, serving 10 years for domestic battery, because once an asshole, always an asshole.
The case is especially frustrating to police because they have numerous photographs, fingerprints, and DNA from Cheryl, but, like the plot of Lost, the tangled web of identities and lies ultimately leads nowhere. People with any information about Cheryl's true identity are encouraged to contact investigators through a website set up especially for this case (and through our comments section; come on, don't leave us hanging).
"Joseph Newton Chandler" Lived With a Stolen Identity for 20 Years
In July of 2002, a man in his 60s named Joseph Newton Chandler was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and committed suicide a month later. With no will or immediately reachable family members, the state set about distributing his worldly possessions and money -- a task that quickly turned disturbing, but not for the usual reasons.
One of Chandler's friends started by tracking down the references he had listed on his lease, but they all turned out to be fake names and addresses. Next, he hired private investigators to try to find out where Joseph had come from, which led them to a small town in Texas ... where Joseph and his parents had died in a car crash in 1945. Joseph was 8 years old.
Above: not an 8-year-old.
Thirty years later, a 41-year-old man claiming to be Joseph Newton Chandler requested a Social Security card in South Dakota, and that's where the trail ends. Identification has been difficult, since Joseph mostly kept to himself, had few friends, and paid his taxes on time (perhaps the creepiest detail yet). Fingerprints are tricky, since he was cremated, and scouring his apartment and books for prints only turned up smudges, as though he was purposely trying to conceal them. Alternatively, he may have just been one of those people who lick their fingers before turning pages. Either way, there was something deeply, deeply wrong with him.
U.S. Marshals have taken up the case, believing that Joseph may have been a violent fugitive. They have contacted family members of fugitives all over the country to collect DNA samples in the hopes that one of them will show a match to Joseph. Without anything else to go on, however, police have speculated that he could be anyone from an escaped Alcatraz inmate to the Zodiac Killer, though we can't conclusively prove that the latter theory wasn't put forth by a certain former presidential candidate in the hopes of taking the heat off him.
He would have been the fifth-shadiest candidate this election.
"Lori Erica Ruff" Faked Her Life to Her Entire Family
In 2010, in the midst of a difficult divorce, Lori Erica Ruff committed suicide, leaving behind an ex-husband, Blake, and a daughter. Her house was discovered to be a total mess, and as they were cleaning it out, Blake found a lockbox in the back of her closet. Prying it open, he discovered a pile of shredded documents, scribbled notes, and identity papers belonging to a woman named Becky Sue Turner. Oddly enough, Becky had the same face as Lori.
Who among us doesn't keep driver's licenses of our doppelgangers, for fun?
Lori had always been extremely secretive about her past to her husband and in-laws, but they probably just assumed she was a reformed Juggalo or something. Thinking they may have finally revealed who she was, the Ruffs immediately set about trying to find Becky Sue Turner's family -- only to discover that Becky had died in a house fire in 1971, at the age of 2. Little is known about Lori before she requested a birth certificate under Becky's name in 1988, though her notes (and the general WTF-ness of her story) indicate that she may have been in legal trouble. Also, someone who had known her from her early days as Becky said that she claimed to have gotten breast implants and worked as a stripper. In fact, for a while there, it looked like the key to Lori's identity may have been her boobs.
Take it away, list of clues.
Implants are given individual serial numbers and can be traced back to the doctor who performed the surgery. Unfortunately, Lori had been cremated, leaving the Great Boob Job Caper at a dead end. Fingerprints, DNA samples, and photo recognition turned up nothing, and a team of investigators, including Social Security officials who catch identity fraudsters for a living, have struggled to find any evidence of her before 1988. Her trail is so thoroughly hidden that it is suspected that she hired a professional "identity broker" to assume Becky's name, a service usually reserved for spies and international thieves. Wait. Holy shit, she could've been DB Cooper?
UPDATE, 10/24/16: Eagle-eyed readers have pointed out that The Seattle Times recently ran an investigative report revealing that Lori Ruff was in fact Kimberly McLean, a Philadelphia woman who ran away from home at the age of 18 in 1986. Investigators are still unclear as to why McLean dropped off the grid and assumed a new identity.
Lyle Stevik Is an Untraceable Suicide Victim (Despite the Internet's Best Efforts)
In 2001, a man checked into a motel under the name Lyle Stevik, left cash on the nightstand for the room, and (we swear this is the last one where this happens) hanged himself. Police quickly discovered the name and address he had given at the front desk was fake. He had no other identification on him and had failed to tell his entire life story to any of the motel's other patrons, for some reason, so no one knew who he was.
While identifying someone with no identification isn't all that uncommon, police had to deal with the fact that Lyle was apparently the most nondescript person in existence. He had no scars, no tattoos, no tan lines, and he was kinda tall and kinda skinny, which also describes like half of Cracked's staff. Fingerprints, DNA, and dental records turned up nothing (after this article, we wonder why they even bother with that stuff). The autopsy found that he had been perfectly healthy, and his age was pegged as somewhere between 20 and 35. Police weren't even able to accurately determine his race. The only identifying aspect that anybody mentioned was that he had a "slight" Canadian accent, but there are dozens of Canadians in the world, at least.
The trail went cold for our indeterminate possibly Canadian mystery man -- that is, until the internet got wind of it. Taking a break from their dank memes and Nazi frogs, internet detectives combed through the evidence to glean some clues to whom Lyle Stevik really was, latching on to minutia like the attachment of his earlobes or how many oxygen isotopes he had in his body when he died. According to one popular theory, he may be Robert Heintz, a kid who went missing in Ontario in the '80s, though Heintz's sister ain't buying it.
Which would make this even sadder if even his own sister didn't remember him.
While they haven't been able to figure out who he was yet, the sheer fact that so many people have spent so much time making sure that this mysterious suicide victim isn't lost forever almost makes you forget about the other horrible things that come out of the internet. Almost.
And as we'll see next, sometimes the internet actually delivers ...
Benjaman Kyle Was Found in an Alley With Total Amnesia
One morning in 2004, a Burger King employee ambled out to the dumpster to discover a naked man lying on the ground, his body filthy with fire ants. Presumably muttering that she doesn't get paid enough for this shit, the woman discovered that the man was not dead and he was immediately taken to the hospital. When he came to, he was determined to be in good health, apart from his formic accessories. Oh, and he had no fucking clue who he was.
We love telling you all the time about how stupid you are for thinking that movies reflect real life in any way, but in this case, it's straight out of a crappy Fox pilot.
Even this looks like a promo headshot.
The man had only the tiniest fragments of his former life, remembering time in Denver and Indianapolis, his birthday, and the fact that he was pretty sure his name was Benjaman (with an "a," which sounds like a superhero with all the powers of a Benja). Other than that, he was a ghost. When several attempts to stab him failed to produce any hitherto unknown martial arts skills, doctors were forced to conclude that he wasn't a disavowed government assassin, making Ben a nonetheless fascinating, if somewhat less awesome, mystery.
Ben was shuffled around to different hospitals and shelters, becoming an administrative nightmare since he had no identity, much less insurance. He eventually adopted the name Benjaman Kyle -- or BK, in honor of his ersatz birthplace (we're assuming he started wearing a crown everywhere, too). Ben contacted his senator, who got the FBI involved, but fingerprints, DNA tests, facial recognition software, and searching old federal records turned up ... well, you know the drill.
The National Mustache Registration Bureau had no records of his whiskers, either.
However, once again demonstrating the immeasurable power of a bunch of people with nothing better to do, the internet came to Ben's rescue. Ben started a Facebook page to try to find his family, which eventually caught the attention of genetic genealogists. People all over the country submitted DNA profiles and family lineages to try to find a match ... and it worked. Eleven years after Ben woke up in a Burger King parking lot, a close relative took a DNA test and confirmed that the two were related, and Ben said that he reunited with his family soon after. He has chosen to keep his true identity a secret, which leads us to believe that he may be a superhero after all.
For more mysteries fit for a Robert Stack narration, check out 6 People Who Just Friggin' Disappeared and 5 People Who Vanished Mysteriously (And Appeared Awesomely).
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