10 People Who Reportedly Lived After Death

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We all know the rumors of Elvis being alive and working at Walmart are bunk. But there are other notable and notorious folks who, although not employed by Walmart, may have lived far beyond their official date of death — if they had been granted an official date of death at all. Some disappeared into thin air and were never heard from again. Others allegedly resurfaced years later under assumed names. And one allegedly dead person may have toured the U.S. after his death in the form of a traveling, circus sideshow mummy.

10. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, but various theories suggested she lived for many years afterward.
After successfully making her mark as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart attempted to do one better and fly around the world. She instead flew into thin air, disappearing somewhere over the Pacific in 1937. Declared dead in 1939, a skeleton that may have been hers was found in 1940 on a remote Pacific island, although that, too, disappeared after reportedly being carried away by giant coconut crabs. Other theories insisted Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, survived but were captured and then executed by the Japanese during World War II. The most bizarre theory surfaced in a 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives, which claimed Earhart was living in New Jersey as a woman named Irene Bolam. That theory pretty much bit the dust when Bolam sued the publisher for $1.5 million in damages, the book was pulled off the shelves and a researcher said Bolam didn’t really look like Earhart, anyway.


9. Butch Cassidy

One theory suggests Butch Cassidy lived until after World War II.
Bank robber, train robber and legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy died in a shootout in Bolivia in 1908. After all, the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford said so, so it must be true, right? Rather than perishing in a bloody shootout, however, one theory suggests Cassidy, whose real name was Robert LeRoy Parker, ended up getting his face redone by a plastic surgeon in Paris and returning to the U.S. Various books are filled with anecdotes of his sightings, including one from an American doctor who swore he had just seen Cassidy based on a bullet-wound scar he recognized.


8. Anastasia Nikolaevna

Grand Duchess Anastasia was rumored for years to have escaped the massacre that claimed the rest of the Russian royal family.
The teenage daughter of Russian czar Nicholas II, Anastasia Nikolaevna earned the nickname “Sunshine” and was known for her wit — perhaps enough wit to survive the firing squad that slaughtered the rest of her family and several servants in 1918. Rumors persisted for years that she had somehow avoided the massacre, and those rumors seemed to be confirmed in 1991 when a mass grave containing the royal family was unearthed, and Anastasia’s remains were nowhere to be found. Amateur archeologists nosing around in 2007, however, found additional bodies that matched the DNA of dear Sunshine, proving she had indeed been murdered with her kin at the onset of the Russian Revolution.


7. Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid may not have died in an encounter with a New Mexican lawman in 1881.
Billy the Kid may have kidded a lot of folks who thought he was killed in an 1881 encounter with Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico. On the other hand, Brushy Bill Roberts could have been kidding a lot of folks, too, when he popped up in Texas in 1949 claiming to be the infamous gunslinger. Billy the Kid, born William McCarty, would have been 89 in 1949. Roberts was allegedly 89. Roberts also had knowledge of little-known details of McCarty’s trials and tribulations in addition to reportedly sporting the very same scars in the very same places. Dissenters say Brushy Bill had inaccuracies in his stories while Sheriff Garrett and others had sworn witness to McCarty’s dead body. A few years ago, a petition to exhume The Kid’s New Mexico grave was made, then blocked, since the remains had washed away in a flood in the early 20th century. At least six books debate the matter of The Kid’s alleged death and even more facts pack the Billy The Kid Museum in Hico, Texas.


6. Joseph Force Crater

Judge Joseph Crater disappeared without a trace in 1930.
Nicknamed “The Most Missingest Man in New York,” Judge Joseph Force Crater had only been an associate judge on the New York Supreme Court for four months in 1930 when he hailed a cab one night and was never seen again. Rumors swirled that had been killed by his showgirl mistress’ other boyfriend, who was a member of the mob, or killed because he was about to blow the lid of corruption in Tammany Hall. Others said they spotted him alive and well in Europe or the South Pacific. A 1951 letter, found in the safe deposit box of a 91-year-old woman who died in 2005, noted her husband had helped kill Crater and bury him beneath the boardwalk on Coney Island — but no such remains were ever found.


5. D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper seemed to have pulled the perfect crime when he disappeared into thin air in 1971.
D.B. Cooper committed what seemed like the perfect crime on Thanksgiving Eve 1971 when he hijacked a Northwest Orient flight, parachuted out with an extorted $200,000, and promptly disappeared. Experts believed there was no way the hijacker could have survived the jump, and the FBI case had been largely dormant in recent years until a woman came forward in 2011 saying she was Cooper’s niece and he had, in fact, survived for years after his jump. At least she waited until D.B., whom she knew as L.D., died before going to the FBI. And she also poked a hole in the notion it had been a “perfect crime” by noting Cooper showed up Thanksgiving morning after the hijacking covered in bruises and blood with the news he had lost most of the cash before he hit the ground.


4. Adolph Hitler

Hitler's death in 1945 was shrouded in mystery.

Hitler and Eva Braun; Photo credit: German Federal Archive

The story that is now universally accepted as fact holds that Adolph Hitler shot himself while wife Eva Braun snacked on some cyanide as Russian troops closed in on their bunker in April 1945. Their bodies, as per Hitler’s previous request, were taken to an outside garden, doused in petrol and set aflame. Russian officials, however, not only refused to confirm Hitler’s death but also spread rumors that he was still alive. Even top U.S. officials believed that Hitler might be alive. Hitler sightings continued across Europe for a couple of years until the publication of a book, The Last Days Of Hitler, put the matter to rest. KGB agents secretly exhumed the burial site, which contained about 10 bodies, in 1970. They burned and crushed the bodies and scattered the ashes in a nearby river to prevent the site from becoming a Neo-Nazi shrine.


3. Jesse James

Jesse James was supposedly shot to death in 1882.
Outlaw, gangster, and veritable poster child of the Wild West, Jesse James was supposedly shot and killed in 1882 by a fellow gang member. Several movies and books have supported this version of history. Yet not long after James’ “death” rumors spread that he had not bitten the bullet but somehow made a sneaky escape. That theory took on new life in 1948 when a 101-year-old man named J. Frank Dalton surfaced in Texas claiming to be James. Although James’ surviving relatives did not buy the man’s story, when Dalton died three years later, a local sheriff who examined the body confirmed Dalton resembled James, based on the burn marks, neck-rope marks from a failed hanging, and 33 bullet-wound scars that riddled the body. That theory was busted, however, in 1995, when the original Missouri grave was exhumed and the DNA found to match James’ surviving family members.


2. Jim Morrison

One theory posited Jim Morrison faked his own death.

Photo credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

Rumors and Jim Morrison’s death go together like whiskey and bars. First there were rumors of how and where he died. Choices include a heroin overdose in a Paris nightclub or hacking up blood in a bathtub. Then came the rumors that Morrison had not died at all on that fateful night in 1971 but had staged his own disappearance. The authors of the 1980 book No One Here Gets Out Alive further fueled that rumor. In a reissue of the book in 1995, however, the authors recanted their theory, noting there was enough evidence to prove that Morrison did die, so at least that question was cleared up. Morrison’s garbage-strewn and graffiti-riddled Paris gravesite has also been cleared up, thanks to a power washer his parents bought for the cemetery.


1. John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was reportedly killed by a soldier in 1865, but some theorists believe the body was misidentified.
Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 but his notorious killer, John Wilkes Booth, may have lived for years following the assassination. According to one theory, the soldier who shot Booth dead in a barn got the wrong man. The real Booth allegedly assumed the name David E. George and ended up in Enid, Oklahoma, where he confessed his true name and crime on his deathbed in 1903. Not to let Booth escape once again, the undertaker mummified the remains and put them on display until they were purchased by a showman who toured the country with the mummy as a circus sideshow. The mummy passed from owner to owner through the years and reportedly toured with carnivals through the 1970s before disappearing. Experts who examined the body on more than one occasion through the years verified it was Booth.

Written by

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated humor books, hundreds of published articles, poems, illustrations, a weekly radio show and column, a full line of wacky artwork and numerous awards.