The Longform.org Guide to Fugitives
From Whitey Bulger to the Barefoot Bandit, six amazing stories about life on the lam.
The story of how Benjamin Holmes, wanted by the FBI for arson, spent two decades hiding in plain sight. (Also the story of how, when Holmes finally came back to see his wife, she shot him.)
Being a fugitive wouldn't appear to be as exciting as its myriad fictional treatments; the main qualities it requires are patience and paranoia. Holmes seems to have had an abundance of both. It was many months, for example, before he even had a friend send word to his wife that he was alive. He lived briefly an hour away in a friend's apartment in Lorain, Ohio, then moved back to Youngstown and lived in a racing-car clubhouse owned by friends. It was back in his hometown that he perfected his guises. His face had been altered by the burns, his skin lightened. Formerly he had been clean-shaven and bespectacled; he grew a beard and long hair, got contacts and developed a limp. He learned never to look people in the eye when talking to them -- "That's when they really see you."
The Quaid Conspiracy Nancy Jo Sales • Vanity Fair • January 2011
On the run in Canada with Randy Quaid and his wife Evi as the try to evade "the Hollywood Star Whackers":
I found the Quaids sitting in their car outside a Chinese tearoom on a block glowing with red and yellow neon lights. Nobody was around. It was night. Their car, a black Prius, was crammed with stuff—clothes, coats, shoes, papers, a pillow, blankets, and an excitable Australian cattle dog named Doji, who was hoarse from barking while he was in the pound when his owners were being detained by Canadian immigration.
The car smelled of fast food and dog pee and Randy's cigars. I asked the Quaids if they were living in their car. "Only on nights when we're too terrified to leave our stuff or don't feel secure," Evi said. "We used to have a Mercedes. This whole ordeal has forced us to become incredibly green."
A Touch of Eden Russ Baker • Esquire • December 1999
A visit to the French hideaway of Ira Einhorn, co-founder of Earth Day, who had avoided arrest on murder charges for nearly 20 years. Einhorn was extradited to the United State. in 2001 and is now serving a life sentence.
It's remarkable to see him in the flesh. Ira has kept the world at bay for most of the eighteen years since he was accused of murder and took off, vanishing and humiliating the American justice system. Now it's finally closing in on him. Six years ago, he was convicted in absentia. Today, an extradition order sits on the desk of the French prime minister, and authorities in Pennsylvania wait impatiently to bring him back in shackles. But Ira, the master at making the best of a bad situation, is again on top, at least for now. The word is that the prime minister, Lionel Jospin, who has had the paper on his desk since May, has been too busy to affix his signature to it. So Ira sits on the precipice of defeat, a life sentence hanging over his head, yet still frustrating the most powerful country in the world, which should have no trouble enforcing a key agreement with an ally--that criminals who flee punishment will be sent home. For the moment, Ira Einhorn, convicted killer, tends his sumptuous garden here in the South of France.
Correction, June 27: This article originally referred to Evan Ratliff's Wired article as "Vanished." (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Max Linsky is the co-founder of Longform.org.