Yes, I've seen Titanic.
February 11, 2014 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in stories (real or fictional) about people who have intentionally changed their identities following some sort of disaster in which they were presumed dead.
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Mad Men.
posted by eugenen at 6:55 AM on February 11 [8 favorites]

not a tragedy - but patrick mcdermott faked his own death and then was found because he kept checking the website put up to find him.
posted by nadawi at 7:00 AM on February 11

Fade to Black by Wendy Corsi Staub
posted by SisterHavana at 7:00 AM on February 11

Not a tragedy but in a recent episode of GIRLS (Season 3, Episode 4), Jessa found out that one of her friends faked her death in order to end the friendship.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 7:09 AM on February 11

Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on February 11

I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:19 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Two well known examples of faked deaths (rather than tragedy) are John Stonehouse and John Darwin.

The Mad Men-type identity switcheroo was also the central conceit of godawful 90s movie Sommersby.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:30 AM on February 11

Eddie Izzard's character in the recent Day of the Triffids TV miniseries
posted by thebazilist at 7:31 AM on February 11

[uh, spoiler alert] it's a crucial twist in Agatha Christie's Murder in Mesopotamia
posted by AFII at 7:35 AM on February 11

The Principal in Simpsons
posted by spunweb at 7:36 AM on February 11

The Mad Men-type identity switcheroo was also the central conceit of godawful 90s movie Sommersby.

Which was a bad remake of a much better French movie called The Return of Martin Guerre.
posted by The World Famous at 7:38 AM on February 11 [4 favorites] lists numerous real examples, or at least alleged examples. Quite a few are just people who vanished and were never found. I gather this is harder than it looks.
posted by Naberius at 7:41 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]

One of the dangling threads that was never resolved of Downton Abbey (Season 2 I think) was about a long-lost cousin who was presumed dead on the Titanic. I don't remember any details and may have mangled that description, but the story line never went anywhere.
posted by mikel at 8:03 AM on February 11

Get Shorty, film and novel
posted by dirtdirt at 8:05 AM on February 11

Sucture, and to an extent, Gattica.

The 1973 film Who?, adapted from Algis Budrys' novel teases this theme.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:14 AM on February 11

Joshua Abraham Norton wasn't presumed dead (he just moved away from town for a while) but when he returned as Emperor Norton he was pretty spectacular.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:17 AM on February 11

I believe The Emperor's Children includes this re 9-11 and the WTC, though it's been a while since I read it.
posted by traveltheworld at 8:53 AM on February 11

Richard Wright's "The Outsider".
posted by Melismata at 8:58 AM on February 11

This is one of the central themes to the thriller Dark Tide (which I got because I thought I was getting the book about the Boston Molasses Flood). Family man dies in an act of terrorism, then it turns out that it's not what it seems. Clearly evocative of WTC without going there.
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 AM on February 11

Julia Roberts' character in Sleeping with the Enemy faked her own death at sea, and changed her identity to escape an abusive husband.
posted by kythuen at 9:40 AM on February 11

Douglas Coupland's novel Miss Wyoming involves a celebrity surviving a plane crash and taking the opportunity to abandon her identity.
posted by Durhey at 9:46 AM on February 11

Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones.
posted by trivia genius at 9:58 AM on February 11

A theme in many novels of Joyce Carol Oates is people who assume new identities after something tragic or traumatic in their lives.
posted by archimago at 10:08 AM on February 11

The Late Mattia Pascal by Luigi Pirandello is probably my favorite example of this.
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 AM on February 11

Oh, come on people: The Third Man.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:18 AM on February 11

I Married A Dead Man was made into a movie as No Man Of Her Own, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and remade as Mrs. Winterbourne, with Ricki Lake.

Also, my dad's law office was in a building the former owner of which faked his own death by drowning so he could run off with his mistress. He was caught within a year or two by an insurance investigator.
posted by SobaFett at 10:26 AM on February 11

In the Last Emperor the identity change is neither voluntary nor after a presumption of physical death, but it still mostly fits your criteria.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:26 AM on February 11

Sam Raimie's "Dark Man" may fit.
posted by Gungho at 12:08 PM on February 11

Anna Anderson claimed to be the surviving daughter of the Tsar of Russia. It was finally proven in 2007 she was not.
posted by annsunny at 12:38 PM on February 11

Another not arising from an accident is Exit the Rainmaker.

"Jay Carsey appeared to be a successful president at a southern Maryland college, with a devoted wife and admiring colleagues, when he suddenly disappeared. Carsey made a new, low-scale life for himself in Texas, while those left behind struggled to come to grips with their incredulity at his abandonment and the resultant change in their lives."
posted by yclipse at 2:49 PM on February 11

[SPOILERS] What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman.
posted by Violet Hour at 4:40 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

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