If the police report can be believed, if Melissa was right about Sue,
Judy and the poor woman who inadvertently uncovered the conspiracy, then
Sue has followed a classic pattern of behavior for vanishing, one that I
followed when I fled in 1969, one that was outlined in detail by Abbie
Hoffman in an underground rebel's manual Sue would have read: "Steal
If forced to go "underground," Abbie Hoffman says: "Build contacts with
aboveground people that are not that well known to the authorities and
can be totally trusted. You should change location in which you operate
and move to a place where the heat on you won't be as heavy."
Since Melissa, the Newark cop and myself had come incredibly close to
uncovering Sue, she cut out the cat and mouse game she had been playing
for months, and sought another location.
She may have adopted a good disguise, as Hoffman recommended.
"The more information the authorities have on you and the heavier the
charges determines how complete your disguise should be," he wrote.
"Only in rare cases is it necessary to abandon the outward appearance."
Since the staff of Unsolved Mysteries was beginning to sniff around as
well, Sue may have needed a very serious disguise. But Hoffman also made
it clear why it is so easy to disappear.
"In the usual case, the authorities do not look for a fugitive in the
sense of carrying on a massive manhunt," Hoffman wrote. "Generally,
people are caught for breaking some minor offense, and during the
routine arrest procedure, their fingerprints give them away. Thus for a
fugitive having good identification papers, being careful about
violations such as speeding or loitering ... become an important part of
security. It is also a good idea to have at least a hundred dollars cash
on you at all times. Often even if you arrested you can bail yourself
out and split long before the fingerprints or other identification
checks are completed."
When I was on the run, I was busted three times, once in LA, once in
Portland, Oregon, and briefly in New York City, and each time bailed
myself out before fingerprints were checked from my military tour of
duty. Now, 30 years later, this becomes much more difficult with
computers. But thanks to resistance by the NRA, and a Supreme Court
decision against background checks for gun purchases, fingerprint checks
still take three to seven days -- an easy margin for escape. For Sue, by
the October, the manhunt was so intensive that she needed to take
Hoffman's next step as if she -- like me and my best friend on the road
in 1970 -- made the FBI's 10 Most Wanted.
"The list is a public relations gimmick," Hoffman said. "Most FBI agents
are southerners who majored in accounting or some other creative field.
When you are placed on the list, go deeper underground. It may be
necessary to curtail your activities for a while. The manhunt lasts only
as long as you are newsworthy since the FBI is very media conscious.
Change your disguise, identification and narrow your circle of contacts.
In a few months, when the heat is off, you'll be able to be more
As I found out when I was on the road, acquiring phony identification is
easy. The 1990s have made it easier even than it was in the 1960s, but
both eras had one essential element, and active underground movement.
Before I flein the 1960s, but both eras had one essential element, and
active underground movement. Before I fled I had actively associated
with the Weather Underground, but never so much as to draw attention to
myself. I hung around Abbie Hoffman's Renaissance Switchboard on East
10th Street. One of my friends from this period actually survived the
explosion of the bomb-makers when it leveled the apartment building on
East 11th Street. He was blown down the stairs, and out of the building,
which saved his life. Th
Sue had the same advantage since she had associated with the underground
movements of the 1990s, Goths, Hells Angels and others who could have
easily helped her to escape without media or police or friends knowing
about it. Indeed, Sue's disappearance very much duplicated my own. I
vanished overnight, leaving my family to believe that I was addicted to
drugs and bottoming out on the street somewhere. As a matter of fact, I
did not contact any of my close friends in New York and New Jersey for a
whole year after I had left.
Hoffman recommended building a new identify, something I did, as did my
associate who made the 10 Most Wanted List.
" An amateur photographer or commercial artist with good processing
equipment can make passable phony identification papers," Hoffman wrote.
In an era of the home computer and advanced printing techniques, I could
manufacture a driver's license in an afternoon. My friend actually had a
contact at the New Mexico Division of Motor Vehicles, which processed a
legitimate license for him, from which he manufactured a host of other
materials, from library card to Master Charge.
While on the run, I used three different names. The first I had
developed in case I got caught going AWOL from the army, something that
allowed me to drink in Manhattan and survive a police check. Now with a
good scanner, you could take real ID papers, mask out the name, address
and signature with the click of a mouse and reprint any name you wanted,
matching everything via the computer paint program.
"If you use a phony state and city papers such as birth certificate or
driver's license, choose a state that is far away from the area in which
you are located," Hoffman said.
By the time I got to the west coast, I found the underground center in
LA and purchased a complete set of identification, a real set from a
real person who had sold his ID for dope. With these, I could travel
freely, and easily avoided a check of national records -- since more
than one piece of ID usually gives credibility to the lie. But I had
other options, and grew up in a era where the draft card also provided
me with an additional piece of ID that few police would challenge. At
one point, I owned six or seven blank draft cards, liberated from the
local draft board. I could have been anyone I wanted at any time, and
often was, especially after I got busted, since the fingerprints check
after my flight, gave away my real identity.
Hoffman recommended building more than one set, but cautioned against
having both sets on you at the same time, since that gives away the game
once you are searched.
"If you sense the authorities are close to nailing you and you choose to
go underground," Hoffman wrote, "prepare all the identification papers
well in advance and store them in a secure place. Inform no one of your
possible new identity."
Sue, with her experience at disappearing at college, long ago learned to
deal with the most pressing problem about going underground. The fact
is, Floyd, Joel, Ridgeway, Hardin and the other proponents of the "Sue
is dead" theory, have fallen for the underground gimmick. Each has
repeated the same phrase over the long months saying: "How could she
still be alive, she's been away so long? No one could stay away for so
Which is exactly the point of going underground, to convince people by
sheer length of time that you are dead. It is what I did. It is what
Abbie did. It is what most of the Weather Underground did through the
decade of the 1970s.
But there is a psychological price, one that plagued me when I was on
the road. While I was nearly caught once in Phoenix, and was the
passenger in a car chase through Portland, Oregon, and had many other
close encounters during my time on the run, it was the isolation that
nearly defeated me.
"Living underground, like exile, can be extremely lonely," Hoffman
wrote, "especially during the initial adjustment period when you have to
reshuffle your living habits. Psychologically, it becomes necessary to
maintain a few close contacts with other fugitives or folks above ground
... This means communication. If you contact persons or arrange for them
to contact you, be super cool. Don't rush into meetings. Stay OFF the
phone! If you must, use pay phones. Have the contact person go to a
prescribed booth at prescribed time. Knowing the phone number
beforehand, you can call from another pay phone. The pay phone system is
superior to debugging devices and voice scramblers. Even so, some pay
phones -- that police suspect bookies use -- are monitored."
Sue was a fanatic about using public telephones, taking this advise from
Abbie's book to heart. At school, she would seek out a different public
phone for each call she made, and even then, use a different phone in a
bank of phone for each call she chose to make. She was so paranoid about
phone use and took Abbie's advise to the point that she rarely -- if
ever -- used the telephone in her apartment to call out, almost always
making her way to one of the many local public phones. In fact, she
vanished on her way to make such a phone call.
"Personal rendezvous should take place at places that are not movement
hangouts or heavy pig scenes," Hoffman wrote. "Intermediaries should be
used to see if anyone was followed. Just groove on a few good spy flicks
and you'll figure it all out."
Sue had grooved on such flicks since high school, and had already worked
out this drama in college. But in the months that followed her vanishing
from Nutley, she managed to take Abbie Hoffman's advice to a new higher
level, fulfilling a fantasy she she'd had since I knew her.
"Communicating to masses of people above ground is very important,"
Abbie wrote. "It drives the MAN berserk."
By allowing herself to be sighted in various locations around Newark and
the state, Sue kept people wondering about her, kept her name in the
press, and made her friends and family worry that much more about her,
made her revenge -- if that's what this was -- more poignant. Was that
really Sue they saw? What is she doing on the street? Is she walking
around in the fugue? Is she alive or dead? But Sue was careful -- except
in a very few cases -- to maintain the veil of doubt. No one could
certain it was her.
But then, when we uncovered Judy as her companion and we began to get
closer and closer to her, Sue must have panicked. Perhaps she had no
alternative plan. We learned that when Melissa first came to Newark, Sue
and Judy picked up and moved from 5th Street to 6th Street. But when the
Newark cop came, and when I arrived and left my business card, Sue
freaked out, she and Judy making their visit to the woman who had given
But that was not enough. Sue needed time to set herself up with a new
plan. Police said she fled the state for another location. I think she
left behind a distraction, someone who would confuse the trail, giving
And that distraction, I believe, came in the shadowy shape of "the man
The Man from Next