Vanishing Point: How to disappear in America without a trace
There are many good reasons to want to disappear from society. There are many bad reasons to want to. There are many good ways to disappear from society and there are many bad ways to disappear. While I won't delve too deeply into the whys of disappearing, I will cover my opinions on how to disappear successfully.
This essay covers what I consider to be the most salient points on how to disappear and remain successfully hidden in American society. If you have further suggestions, please don't hesitate to E-Mail me at the address provided at the bottom of this text so that I may include your ideas.
You should consider the resources of the individual or organization which you're hiding from as well as their degree of motivation for finding you. Always over-estimate the resolve of those seeking to find you yet keep your estimations reasonable. Greatly over-estimating your opposition can cause you to behave in predictable, patterned ways, however. It is the predictability of your actions based upon your opposition's controlled stimulus which can get you caught.
If your opposition are police authorities, rest assured that they have decades of experience to back them up whereas to them, you're nothing more than another faceless fugitive on the run. To them you're no one special; it's not usually personal (unless you've killed a cop in which case they will get you -- and I hope you'll have an "accident" on the way to the police station.) To you, however, being hunted down is quite personal. They know how you will feel and will use that against you.
If you've entered the United States illegally to start a new life, (or are planning to) you must contend with immigration officials which have historically been under-staffed, poorly-managed, and staffed by incompetent (though often voraciously brutal) thugs -- high school dropouts -- who only want to carry a gun but couldn't make it in the police force. Unlike police officers, immigration officials didn't get into their line of work to help people; they got into their line of work to keep you out of the country and to track you down and throw you out if you do get in. Their desire is to subject you to their control, feeding their power trips, making themselves feel manly. Unlike police officers, they aren't out to help society, they're out to inflict misery upon the hapless and the down-trodden.
I mention this because you must understand who your opposition is when you go on the run and try to hide. The objective is for you to disappear and start a new, normal life somewhere else. Illegal immigrants face the exact same problems that those who wish to become anonymous in America face. The house wife who's been beaten into the hospital too many times faces the same problems which illegal "wet backs" face. The opposition, however -- those detailed to finding the house wife -- are quite different than those trying to find a cop killer. Know who'll be out looking for you when you run and hide.
The resources of your opposition will dictate greatly your behavior and decisions. If you're running from an abusive ex-husband or ex-wife, think of what their resources are and determine whether you should stay in the same State or whether you should leave the country entirely. If at all possible, plan your escape as much in advance as possible and work to limit your opposition's resources. This mean that you clean-out bank accounts if you can and you destroy all vehicles the opposition has easy access to so that they may not be used to track you down. (And they can't be sold to finance private investigators to look for you.) You destroy said vehicles in a safe and non-violent way, by the way; you don't want to hurt anyone and thus strengthen the resolve of the authorities.
Another important aspect of running from a spouse or boy/girlfriend: If they have firearms, think about getting them. If you are comfortable handling any firearms your opposition might have which you feel could be used against you, acquire them and -- if they're small hand guns -- deposit them in a postal box as soon as you can. The postal box on the end of any business district street is fine and it doesn't matter that it's close to your house or apartment that's you're fleeing.
Leaving the firearm in a visibly-safe state will make it easier on the postal employee who runs into the firearm when he or she empties the postal box you drop it into. I suggest routing any firearms which might be used against you to the postal service because postal employees have standing orders not to touch what may be evidence and to contact the police. (The letters and boxes taken from the postal box will also be subjected to several day's -- if not weeks -- delays as they are checked and the origination and destination addresses checked. Because of that, you shouldn't deposit any letters you might feel to write in the same box as they will be delayed.)
The police will keep any firearm you deposit into a postal box for a long, long time, perhaps even destroying it even though it's not been used in a crime. The fact that you are missing will mean that the firearm will not be returned to your abusive spouse or boy/girlfriend to be used against you. More: In many States the right to purchase another firearm will be either revoked or denied until the disposition of your whereabouts is ascertained. Dropping your opposition's firearms into a postal box will effectively transfer ownership to the police and de-claw your opposition greatly.
Private detective agencies don't usually operate for free. If your opposition has no financial resources to draw upon, they are limited to a great extent. If you're a criminal, they'll still use the police agencies of the country to track you down, of course, at which point it's simply a matter of time before they find you. If you're not on the run for a criminal act, police authorities will have no reason to try to find you and, lacking private detective services, your opposition will be working alone.
If you're running from the IRS, know that your opposition has unlimited resources and, depending upon how much money you owe, a broad spectrum of motivation for finding you. If you're running from the criminal law, you should know that you will eventually get caught regardless of what measures you take to hide yourself. It's only a question of time before they find you.
In summary, stay motivated and work to reduce both the motivation and the financial avenues of your opposition. Know who your opposition is and what they'll likely employ to find you. Work to reduce the effectiveness of what your opposition is likely to do to find you. If your opposition has weapons which could be used against you, give them to the police by using the post office.
Before you go to ground, destroy as much of the old you as possible. You want to go beyond making yourself disappear: You want to make it seem as if you never existed. This means that you should do as much of the following as possible before and after you disappear:
Every place you go, you inadvertently leave pieces of yourself. Every article of clothing, every door knob, every carpet, every telephone, every toilet seat you use will contain pieces of you. Your skin is flaking off all the time. You need to decide whether there is a risk of the authorities or private investigators looking for you tracking you through your blood type or DNA (which can be worked-up by using pieces of your hair.) After you weigh the risks, take the precautions you deem are needed.
Running is the easiest part. Hiding is a bit harder. Staying hidden is the difficult part. The difficulties are determined by the resolve and resources of those hunting you. If the government wants to find you, they will unless you are willing to sacrifice everything.
It's getting harder and harder to hide in America. There used to be a loose defacto "underground" of "freedom loving" people -- hippies, if you will -- who would provide aid, shelter, and comfort to those on the run from Authority (or The Establishment, The Man, The Fuzz, The P. I. G.)
These days, however, in our increasingly paranoid and dangerous society, offering assistance to strangers is a bad idea: It gets people killed. One must rely upon professional organizations which assist people who need to hide from abusive people. Professional organizations, however, will want you to have a virtuous reason for running and hiding and will want to help you by reporting you to the authorities if they feel they should. None that I know of assist you if you're running from a law enforcement agency. (Note: Foreign agents operating in America might be willing to assist you yet that falls outside the scope of this commentary. Arrive at the embassy of your choice and make your offers and perhaps they'll grant you provisional security from police authorities.)
The hippies have given way to another class of citizen. These are the so-called "skin heads," punk rockers, and New Age nuts. While many are social misfits, most interact with "regular society" in their off-hours and rock-out at night or on the week ends.
The anti-establishment and socially disassociated populace has always existed and has always been an asset to those on the run. Your job is to find them if you need them. Be honest with such people since they know the score and will shine you on if you're a lying jerk.
The idea is to run and hide only as long as you have to and then start rebuilding your life under a new identity. Homeless shelters, job placement services, and day labor can give you hope and help while you're struggling to make your new life. You're using a computer so I assume that you have food and shelter now and possibly employment. Save up your money before you run and you'll give yourself a chance.
If you're in a city or town, you stand a better chance of feeding yourself and keeping yourself from freezing to death. There are often shelters run by Christian, Muslim, or Jewish organizations which will feed you and put you up. It may be dangerous to do so simply because such places are usually -- nearly always -- in dangerous neighborhoods. If you're wearing the wrong color face, you have to compare the possibility of violence and abuse against hunger. If you look like you're on the run, you could be victimized in the city. Those who would victimize you know you won't go to the cops. You're on your own in an area where punks band together out of boredom.
Finding work is your best bet. You're using a computer right now so it is assumed that you have a job (or are married without a paying job) and as such have some marketable skills. Even without marketable skills, you can find employment if you're willing to work hard.
Suppose you're a wife looking to leave an abusive husband. Suppose you're a teen-ager looking to leave an abusive mother or father. How would you feed and house yourself when you run and hide? If you're young, you can expect to be raped, drugged, and horribly abused when living on American streets so you must consider that fact and go for a children's shelter instead.
There is often food stored in people's garages in rural areas where the population density is lower than the major cities and there's few homeless people on the streets. Freezers containing food are common. Gardens containing vegetables in the back yard is common. Theft should be considered a last resort however since the object is to rebuild a new, normal life, not a criminal one. It should be a last resort because there are other ways to get food.
If you're out in the desert or the woods, either running or holed up somewhere, you should face up to the fact that you're going to lose weight. The idea that with a rifle and a box of ammunition and a book of matches you can survive for a long period of time is wishful thinking. There are a lot of "survivalists" in the United States who, like their self-professed "militia" intellectual colleagues honestly believe they could survive in the woods if they had to.
That's nonsense. There was a time when it was possible but those days are long over. Biodiversity in the major Westernized societies has been decimated, often with pollution and introduced pests. Disease among the plants and animals you would eat must be taken into consideration. The deer you eat, the fish you eat, and the rabbits you eat will sustain you only for so long (if not make you violently ill) and then your body is going to need other foodstuffs. You can delay the eventuality of malnutrition with multi-vitamins but eventually you'll need to forage wider and wider for fruits, nuts, and vegetables -- not to mention fresh water which is often in very short supply. (Camp grounds, don't forget.)
If it was easy or reasonably possible to survive in the woods, everyone who hates their jobs would be doing it. Don't kid yourself: If you're on the run, you must remain in contact with human habitation and either work for or steal food or get food from a shelter in the city. If you're holed up some where (in a tent in the hills overlooking a city, perhaps) stock up on canned goods if you can. Don't rely on what you can pick up from the land. You run the risk of drawing attention to yourself as you visit the city (assuming you've got a hide out in the woods or desert) but you should consider adopting the risk since the alternative -- malnutrition -- is worse.
I mention this because the idea is to hide until you can rebuild your life and start living a normal life. If you eat nothing but fish for three months, malnutrition is going to reduce your chances of getting a job or having enough energy for working day labor -- or having the energy to run again if your hiding place is discovered. Keep yourself as healthy as possible by taking the risks needed to obtain processed foods.
Farms are a good place to find food but they're also a good place to run into dogs and farmers on horseback with rifles who also have access to telephones to report you. Orange groves, walnut trees, strawberry patches et al. often run along highways and they could be raided successfully and safely every now and then. You could work on a farm as "stoop labor" picking lettuce, oranges, grapes, and nuts in many States of the United States.
Road blocks, police check points, sobriety checks, immigration check points, agricultural check points: You may be stopped and searched, your identification examined, and possibly compromised in America for these reasons while traveling on America's highways. Even if "they" don't have the check point up specifically looking for you, accidental catches happen frequently. (Ask any Highway Patrol Officer stopping a vehicle for a broken tail light. The California HP has the largest felony arrest record of any police agency anywhere in the world.)
If there's a road block up looking specifically for you, you'll probably not have much of a chance anyway and you probably deserve to get caught. Usually, however, a road block is up looking for someone else or, as is common during holidays, sobriety checks can get you examined by the police. You'll want to avoid that.
There's really nothing you can do about stationary check points except either avoid them entirely or comply with the check point's attendant and smile your way through and just hope your face isn't in their book.
Roving check points and random sampling is something you have no control over. You may try to fall out of the set of profiles that cops are trained to look for to reduce the chances of getting randomly stopped and searched. Profiles cops learn to focus on are different from city to city, town to town, but you can bet that most of the profiles consists of:
Your goals are to manufacture a new life under a new identity complete with legal recognition under your new identity. To acquire that goal, you must be ready and willing to do what it takes -- without compounding any criminal activities you might be wanted for. As mentioned before, that means discarding all your friends, your family, and your way of life in favor for new friends, a new way of life and possibly a new marriage with a loving wife or husband to create a new family.
What you want to do is make your new life to the point where if you're ever caught, your employer, friends, and neighbors will express disbelief when the cops haul you away. While getting caught shouldn't be part of your goals, you should consider the possibility and plan accordingly.
This is very important if you build a new family: Your wife or husband should be told who you really are before you get married. Since you're working to become a respectable, productive member of society, your prospective spouse should know your past before you get married!
Finding out your real name isn't Michael Johnson after five years of marriage won't help your wife maintain support for you when the cops come to haul you away. Letting her know you're on the run and for why you're on the run before hand means that you'll have support if they ever do find you.
Much has been written already about your problems and how to deal with them so this essay doesn't attempt to address them. Additionally I don't presume to claim to know what's best for you and your loose-nit organizations since your efforts are totally outside of my experience even as I share some of your goals. I'm (Fredric Rice speaking here, by the way) a vegetarian and I find the vivisectionists trade and the animal fur trade to be worth destroying totally -- however my venue is to employ completely legal avenues of recource. Still, if I may offer what I feel to be a salient point about the plight of direct-action liberationists: Your mind set.
Where there's water, life is possible. True, it may be very difficult and very hard to live, depending, but anyone who's driven, hiked, or camped in the American South West will have noticed that cities and ranches crop up where there's surface water or where there's been a well dug.
Within the state of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado, there are deserts, mesas, mountains, and forests where normally people never or rarely visit; not-so-secret places where there's water, access to a road within a day's hike, and where a fairly rugged individual may hide while remaining basically healthy, marginally well fed, and reasonably sane.
In this section I'll look at two such environments, neither of which I would recommend, but one of which I'd suggest is a reasonable way to live in basic health while either on the run, hiding out from the law, old girl friends, the draft for an illegal war, putative wives and such.
The first South Western environment (the one I wouldn't recommend except for the most hearty individual) is the Mojave Desert among the volcanic rocks where there's water if you know where to find it, and where shade from the relentless Sun can be built, if you know how to build it.
Some years ago my brother Desertphile was tracking across the Mojave Desert in the dead of night, hiking a long distance from one water hole to another, using a hand-held Global Positioning System device, topo maps, and a backpack containing mostly water and tarp equipment for emergency shade.
While crossing the mouth of a small side canyon out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, he stumbled across squatters -- or more accurately their dogs -- living in a number of small trailors covered with camouflage netting over paint-splotched shade tarps. With no roads of any kind, the people living there had managed to some how drag small mobile trailors into the high desert and had been living there hidden from the outside world.
One possible wide spread area of interest would be the area between Las Vegas, Nevada, and some 30 miles West of Baker, California, North of the 15 highway -- perhaps within the hills along North Cima Road. Much of the lands located there are owned by the Federal government however ranchers subsidized by tax money run cattle which can be poached, and there's water which can be found.
South of the 15 highway is more volcanic and has less water unless you go to Soda Springs off of Zyzzyx Road where there's a ranger station and the Desert Studies center (filling up canteens there from the spring could be done without suspicions but filling up drums of water might cause people at Soda Springs to suspect you're living out in the desert.)
North of the 15 highway your topo map will show numerous springs, tanks, and stock ponds, many of which will contain water, and many of which will be dry -- but will not be listed as dry on the map so you need to investigate, take notes, take GPS coordinates, and plan thoughtfully.
Also North of highway 15 is cattle subsidized by U. S. Forest Service; cattle that has overgrazed and destroyed much of the plants and displaced much of the animals that used to eck out a meger existance in these lands. Poaching is illegal, of course, and could get you strung up, drained, and jerked like deer meat if you're caught, so perhaps you could look at cows -- what edward Abbey called "slow elk" -- as an emergency food source.
If you plan on poaching, you should do your homework and learn how to butcher a cow and transport batches of the animal from the place where you butchered it back to your camp, figuring out how to wrap what you can't carry to keep flies, vultures, and other animals out of your meat until you can return for the rest of it.
Still, I'd recommend not poaching in the high desert out there not only because it's illegal, not only because if you're caught by a rancher he may decide to dump your carcass into a volcanic rock crack, but most importantly because you don't want to draw attention to the fact that you're living in the general area. A rancher coming up short on his count might very well put down the shortage to "natural causes" but if you leave remains to be found and the remains show that the missing cattle was butchered and carted off, the Feds like nothing better than to mount up a nice desert posse to come look for you.
For setting up a squatters camp in the deserts North of Highway 15 and West of Baker, I might choose somewhere in the Iron Mountain range, North of the military base, and South West of the bombing range. Here's what I would do:
Books and a laptop computer would be provided for entertainment and perhaps the mood to write a book of my own would strike. I would expect boredom to be as big a problem as food, water, and shade so more thinking about creative ways to remain occupied would have to be done.
Very likely after a couple of weeks it would be discovered what was forgotten and what's needed to make living in the area possible. Hiking at night into Baker, California, every other month or so to draw money out of the bank, purchase canned goods, and visit the local Taco Bell would be possible however if anyone was looking for someone doing so, that points an arrow straight at them.
A better place to hide out and set up a long-term living camp far from any human being would be within the Virgin River Gorge. During a drive from Utah to California along the 70 and then the 15 highway, one passes through the Virgin River Gorge carved by the Virgin River. On a topo map the rough longitude and lattitude coordinates would be somewhere around:
West 113 degrees 45.659
Approximately 2394 feet
The gorge itself is long and wide, consisting of a seemingly endless series of canyons, ravines, cliffs, and spires, most of which is impossible to get to on foot. Highway 15 passes right through the gorge and follows the Virgin River for some distance before the hills disappear and the desert opens up to the West toward Valley of Fire and the Moapa Piute Indian Reservation lands.
A great deal of fresh water is available in these canyons all year around though most of the waterways are muddy. Fresh, clear water is found in fairly straight runs of the Virgin River and in standing, deeper plunge pools created when the river's course changed slightly over the years.
Hiking and camping among this gorge is difficult, to understate the case. Sheer cliff walls one or two hundred feet high create box canyons and box ravines and together with sharp shards of rock and soft but lose sandy rock, the gorge's innermost secret areas are very difficult to get in and out of and getting lost is easy.
Five years ago I was visiting the Valley of Fire where far to the South along a dirt road behind the Piute fireworks and casino there's a good water spring that's rarely visited by wheeled vehicle. Being in the general area I drove East into the Virgin River Gorge and parked some distance from the GPS coordinates offered above.
With a backpack containing food, water, matches, bedding, compass, camera, GPS unit, USGS aircraft photographs of the gorge, and other equipment I parked my vehicle along a turn out on the highway and hiked into the gorge.
After walking in for about two hours I set up camp, got ate something, got out my book, and read until it got too dark to read, then I set out my sleeping bag and laid down on it (it was about 80 degrees at midnight there.)
Around an hour after dark I heard someone pounding metal on rock and I stood up thinking someone was pounding on the highway some distance away, at first, yet walking a little around my camp I placed the pounding toward the South West. After about 5 minutes of the noise it stopped and all that could be heard was the crickets and frogs some distance in the river and the far-away drone of the big rigs using engine breaking on the highway 15 decline.
In the morning I went looking for the source of the noise and I found a desert hermit living along the Virgin River in among trees, some of which he had relocated himself some years ago. The old guy had a large camp and a motorcycle. I took a GPS reading, returned to my car, and moved it to the West side of the highway, then returned to camp with the guy for the rest of the day, that night, and then left early the next morning.
This month -- just a week ago -- I found that the guy had left, gone to live with his daughter whose husband had died but his story is relevant to this section of this piece. Some of the relevant aspects of his squatters camp:
Two other areas spring instantly to mind when it comes to long-term squatting near water. Ceder City, Utah has a muddy river going through it, bounded by a shallow canyon with a bike trail along one side and a busy highway on the other. I've found a person camping there long-term once and it looked fairly comfortable.
The other location is along the San Gabriel River above Azusa, California, along Highway 39. Camping there long term is fairly dangerous due to the large number of illegal Mexicans and the large number of gun nuts that frequent the area, shooting into the hills at night without a care in the world that somebody might be camping or living in the canyons.
In summation of this section, people on the run, in hiding, or otherwise wishing to step out of mainstream society can do so safely, in health, and without risk to one's sanity though it seems to me that to do so some contact -- if not support -- with others still living in society is needed.
There are secret, hidden places in America's South West among the deserts, mesas, mountains, and forests where people can hermit themselves, with or without the aid and support of others. But to do so required planning, creativity, and foresight -- as well as a willingness to pack up and relocate if a site that's selected turns out to be inappropriate after awhile.
Incidentally, the U. S. Forest Service generally allows for campers to remain at a site for 14 days after which their rules dictate that the camper must leave. What constitutes leaving will depend upon the individual Ranger who discovers a camper. Some will allow that moving a mile from one's camp constitutes leaving at which time the 14 day limit begins again. Other Rangers will demand that the camper leave a particular geographical area after 14 days.
So being discovered squatting can cause problems beyond any warrants that may be pending for your arrest. Being able to show a bank account might save you from being arrested and detained as a vagrant yet I believe that how you look -- your appearances -- when you're discovered (if ever) would dictate what happens to you (if anything.)
That goes for what your camp looks like: If your camp looks like you've been there for a long time and looks like you intend to be there a long time, any Ranger discovering you squatting will have a different opinion on what to do with you than if your camp looked like you just got there. If discovered you could claim you've been there for three days and plan to "return back to work after my vacation is over in four days" and perhaps you'll be believed. That could keep you out of the vagrant hatch long enough to relocate.
Then again it's anybody's question on whether you'll be asked to show identification and whether you'll be checked for wants and warrants. My experience when encountering Rangers and other authority types in the South West is that they'll make sure you have enough water, know where you are, have a hat on, and aren't committing suicide in stupid, irresponsible ways, they'll ask you to be careful out here and to on their way. Squatters who look like they've been camping for a long time may get run into the local police station so I'd suggest you keep your camp looking new and have a good story to tell about calling a friend to come pick you up i a few days -- and make sure the name and telephone of your friend is valid even if said friend isn't aware that you're squatting.
Fright hopping isn't safe and unless you're in fairly good shape I wouldn't recommend it... And even if you are in fairly good shape, I wouldn't recommend it unless there's a very real and pressing need to get out of an area fairly quickly.
If law enforcement is after you and they know you're in an area, of course, then they'll likely have all fright trains and passenger trains monitored and scanned however there are lots of places to hide on fright trains, most of them quite dangerous.
There's a great deal of information available on the Internet about how to safely hop freight trains and you should check them out with the URL links offered below in this section. But this section will offer a fairly brief summation of what you need to do to hope frieght trains as an emergency means of escape.
The dangers are considerable and you would have to decide what's acceptable to you and what's too dangerous. If you can't hitch hike and need to leave an area without being seen, you may feel that the dangers of fright hopping are acceptable.
Since this piece is about disappearing from America's view and -- with any luck -- reappearing somewhere else to restart a normal life in some other place, it may be that you'll want to travel with as many worldly possessions as you can carry. This isn't a good idea and for reasons that were described at the beginning of this piece.
That would be probably a minimum of the stuff you would need to take when hopping a freight train. Information about where trains are going is something you can get from workers in rail yards since they'll usually assist you -- everyone except the Bulls whose job it is to keep you out. Rail workers who are paid minimum wage ad may not speak the language are often willig to help inform you about which direction a train is going.
Some cars are more dangerous than others. There are lists of cars in the order of preference available all over the Internet yet for now, here's what's been suggested in a preliminary scan of such texts:
There are many reasons why you should avoid parking inside of grain or gravel haulers, and avoid parking inside full cargo containers but the primary danger is that of shifting cargo. You can be burried by gravel, crushed by crates, crushed by moving cars that weren't tied down well, and get crushed by damn near everything.
But as mentioned above, open box cars are getting rare. If you're planning on hoppig a freight train, find a place to hide where you won't be seen and watch a number of trains go by and see what kinds of cars there are to get a feel for what kind of transport you can expect.
From time to time I get people emailing me asking about religious organizations, International organizations, or other ways to drop out of the "Rat Race" and my response has always been that to drop off the grid successfully, one must have large amounts of money or be willing to live in abject poverty and hunger.
From what I've been reading and from the emails of people who have dropped off the grid from time to time, there are ways to drop out of the rat race, and the three suggested methods described above have been shown to me to be viable.
But there are some primary aspects of one's behavior and attitude that one must meet before dropping out and disappearing into some work enclaive like these:
Justice James C. Nelson was asked to rule a case where a suspect's trash that had been discarded. The contention was whether the evidence contained within someone's trash can be used against them in a court of law. While Justice Nelson affirmed, he felt compelled to express the growing realm of trackability and loss of freedom, issues that are covered in this document.
This is a fitting Opinion for inclusion in the Vanishing Point document since the ability to locate wanted individuals by their purchasing habits is always just around the corner, lacking only the motivation to instigate such measures. The technology is already there with -- as the Justice notes -- "discount cards" that are used by so many people to purchase their foods and other goods.
Check out a related web page: Eric Goldsworthy firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.amglam.com / E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank