The Harrowing Story Of 2 COVID-19 Conspiracy Theorists Who Were Lost At Sea

In early 2023, the Danian family of Michigan received word from French authorities that the search for their son, Isaac, in the waters near the Wallis and Futuna islands was called off, according to CNN. The Danian family had been searching for their son (pictured above, left) since September 2020. At the time that Isaac went missing, he left only a note for his parents behind. Burner phone packaging was also found, as The New York Times writes.

According to what Danian wrote, the COVID-19 pandemic was fake and the vaccines created to treat the virus were just as dangerous. In his letter, Isaac warned his parents the PCR tests used to detect infection were to be avoided — all part of a government plan to reduce the world's population, in Isaac's view. The last place Isaac was seen was on a boat in the waters off Wallis and Futuna islands, a French territory in the Pacific between Hawaii and New Zealand. At that time, Isaac and another man he had traveled there with named Shukree Abdul-Rashed (pictured above, right) jumped overboard.

A wannabe online guru

In their search for their son, the Danian family learned that shortly before his disappearance, Isaac, who was 20 years old at the time, fell under the sway of an online COVID-19 conspiracy theorist named Matthew Mellow (pictured above). With a history of depression, Isaac had grown increasingly paranoid around that same time period. In the note to his parents and siblings, he urged them to prepare for society's eventual end and through any means possible, avoid COVID testing and vaccines. Isaac wrote, sell everything you own and find a bunker (via CNN).

Isaac did contact his parents once after his initial disappearance, about one month later. The last time Isaac's family heard from him, his parents received a text message with a picture of their son alongside a man they'd learn later was Shukree Abdul-Rashed. Both men held freshly caught fish and were grinning widely, somewhere out at sea.  At Mellow's urging, according to The Times reporting, Isaac and Abdul-Rashed, another Mellow follower, had set sail across the Pacific on a boat captained by a man named Mike Schmidt. Their goal: find a place free from the virus and restart society. On a different boat, Mellow would follow a short time later (per NYT).

Mellow used the online handle Mortekai Eleazar

As The Times writes, the online guru propounding unfounded COVID-19 conspiracy theories on platforms like Youtube was born Matthew Logue, later changed to Matthew Mellow. With the online handle, Mortekai Eleazar, Mellow proselytized his own strange quasi-religious worldview, including extreme COVID-related conspiracy theories involving end-times predictions and Satan's influence on both the pandemic and the perceived emerging world order. Danian and Abdul-Rashed, from Rochester, New York, agreed to meet Mellow in Hawaii, where he lived. From there, both young men would set sail on captain Mike Schmidt's boat.

Mellow arranged passage for himself and the two men for $10,000 on two boats captained by two different men, neither one large enough to transport all three. Their final destination — Rarotonga Cook Islands. Schmidt himself followed similar fringe beliefs about the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide governmental response to the outbreak. Meanwhile, the Danian family filed a missing persons report with the Michigan police, aware their son's last known location was Hawaii. That's when the phone call from French authorities: A man fitting Issac's description was missing and feared drowned in the waters off Wallis and Futuna.

According to Schmidt, Danian and Abdul-Rashed jumped to avoid COVID testing

In their investigation of what allegedly happened, Captain Mike Schmidt revealed that weather and dwindling supplies forced him to find a port, according to CNN. After trying and failing to do so at a number of tiny islands in the South Pacific, Schmidt set his course for Wallis and Futuna. There, as elsewhere in 2020, authorities would require the men to take a COVID-19 test before they came ashore, which Danian and  Abdul-Rashed believed would affect their relationship with Jesus and allow Satan's influence into their lives — an extreme view, even for COVID-conspiracy sympathetic Captain Schmidt.

Instead of taking those tests, Danian and Abdul-Rashed chose to jump overboard. Could they have swam to shore? Schmidt couldn't say no, but that couldn't be confirmed, either. The unusual nature and certain inconsistencies in Schmidt's version of events were investigated — why had he not tried harder to help them once they were in the water? No guilt, though, could be pinned on the captain, per The Times. Seemingly, Danian and Abdul-Rashed had of their own free will undertaken a trip in the misguided belief the world was ending. They both willingly risked their own lives in remote waters in the Pacific. No trace of either man has been found.

Mellow now lives and proselytizes his extreme worldview on the island Huahine

According to 2023 reporting from The Times, self-styled online spiritual leader Matthew Mellow now lives on the tiny French-Polynesian Island Huahine. There, he continues to spread his extreme worldview and unfounded conspiracy theories to the local population. Back in Michigan, the Danian family pursues every avenue to find their son. Speaking with CNN, Isaac's mother, Abigail Danian, said, "It's possible that he wanted to go off the grid and he's in a manic state, it's possible that he was unwillingly kidnapped."

Referring to her son, Abigail went on to add, "It's possible that he drowned. If somebody said to you, your child probably died, would you just accept that and move on? That's not something we can do." As for Mellow and whether or not he takes any responsibility for their potential death, Mellow said (via The Times) "They studied these things on their own — maybe they watched my videos," but said the blame for what may have happened was not his. "They contacted me," Mellow said. Also according to The Times, Mellow added if both men did die rather than take a COVID-19 test, then they died "... in God's good graces."