The Internet Just Helped Solve a 20-Year-Old Mystery

Posted: Dec 10, 2015 10:20 AM
The Internet Just Helped Solve a 20-Year-Old Mystery

Back in January, a user known as Greymetal posted a gallery to the image sharing site Imgur hoping to give an unidentified deceased (UID) man his identity back. The collage was a variety of pictures--including facial reconstructions and pictures of clothing--that belonged to a man who had passed away in a car accident in Emporia, VA. on June 26, 1995.

The man had no ID cards or wallet on him, and the family of the driver of the car did not recognize him either. It was suspected that he had hitched a ride from the concert with someone he met at the show. His body remained unclaimed.

As the UID was wearing a tie-dye shirt and had ticket stubs from the Grateful Dead concerts that was held the weekend before in Washington, D.C., he was dubbed the "Grateful Doe." Now, 20 years later, and thanks to that fateful Imgur post, we now know the identify of Grateful Doe: He was a 19-year-old named Jason Callahan.

The Imgur gallery quickly went viral shortly after it was published, and spawned a subreddit, r/GratefulDoe, to discuss the case and try to give the man his identity back. As the gallery was shared around Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter, it managed to jog the memories of exactly the right people to help give Jason his name back. A man recognized the man in the reconstruction, and thought that he lived with him briefly in Illinois in 1994-95. While he couldn't remember the last name of his former roommate, he did recall that he was from the Myrtle Beach area. This led to media coverage in the area, and finally, a major lead.

A woman named Margaretta Evans saw one of the stories about Grateful Doe, and realized that the man pictured may actually be her son Jason Callahan, who she hadn't seen or heard from in 20 years since he left to go follow the Grateful Dead. Evans eventually filed a missing-person report. (She explained that she wasn't sure in which jurisdiction she was supposed to file for a missing adult, and that she assumed her son had just decided to go on his own way.)

A Russian Ham Sandwich
Derek Hunter

DNA tests were then submitted to various labs around the country to compare to Grateful Doe, and on Wednesday, a match was finally confirmed: Grateful Doe was indeed Jason Callahan.

While it's unspeakably tragic that a mother had to learn that her long-missing son had passed away two decades ago, it's amazing that a small pocket of the internet cared enough about an unclaimed body to work tirelessly to give him his name back.

Since the successful identification of Grateful Doe, the subreddit has been working to help identify other UIDs. If you have any information regarding the identity of any of their profiles, please contact the appropriate authorities.