Famous People Whose Identities Are Still Unknown

Not everyone who stumbles into fame is interested in all of the gross stuff that comes along with it. If you're even remotely well known, you'll have TMZ relentlessly stalking you for photos of you at your worst, or digging up dirt on your mysterious and questionable past. We know that Zachary Quinto sneezed seven times in the past week, but there are also those rare people of notoriety who evade that kind of scrutiny, un-ogled by the prying eyes of the curious. Here are a few mysterious strangers who you may know...without knowing them at all.


If you know modern art, you know Banksy. You've probably seen pictures of his stencils on the sides of buildings, depicting rioters throwing flowers instead of molotov cocktails, or the Mona Lisa saying something caustic about society. Banksy's art only appears when no one is around, and even in this era of constant surveillance, no one has caught him. Despite being the subject of a documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy has managed to remain completely anonymous. He's even engineered false news reports about Banksy getting arrested and having his identity revealed. The artist maintains his anonymity for a good reason, though; if anyone ever discovers his identity, he's got about a million counts of vandalism coming at him.

Thomas Pynchon

You may know Thomas Pynchon as the guy who wrote the book that the film Inherent Vice was based on, but even smarter people know Pynchon as a guy who's adamantly opposed to appearing in the media, making him something of an extra-special target for hunters of the famous. Only a few photos of Pynchon actually exist, and they're all very old, and the personal information that we know about him is limited, most of it revealed by an old friend of Pynchon as a kind of revenge for Pynchon allegedly sleeping with his wife. Despite his avoidance of nearly all media, Pynchon has made multiple appearances as himself, with a paper bag over his head, on The Simpsons... because Pynchon considers Homer to be his role model.

The Stig

British car program Top Gear has employed a mysterious driver called "The Stig" since 2002. The Stig's one and only purpose, as an expert-level driver, is to determine the best possible lap times for specific models of cars before amateur drivers take over to try and beat the Stig's time. Spoiler alert: it never happens. There have been three Stigs since the first appearance of the character, with the first two leaving after their identities were exposed. The third Stig, however, has maintained his silence, even during the show's uncertain future and restructuring following the departure of the entire cast of hosts. Sleuths continue to try to discover who this masked man really is.

The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer claims to have killed at least 37 people, but despite his high-profile six-year killing spree, no one has definitively been able to prove his actual identity. Dozens of people have been suspected and connected to the killer through circumstantial evidence, but nothing has been proven. The scary truth is that he may still be living among us, retired after becoming bored with killing people. There has to be a point when the whole serial-killer thing loses its appeal, and when no one can solve your complex cryptographic riddles, the fun must quickly drain out of your Batman villain-style spree of destruction. Here's hoping he's dead anyhow.

The Residents

More or less anonymous since their first recordings in 1974, the surrealist band The Residents only appear in public while wearing giant helmets shaped like eyeballs or skulls, bleating out noisy songs about bizarre bible stories, human deformities, or terrible things that happen at carnivals. While most people assume that The Residents are one and the same with their management company, The Cryptic Corporation, those claims have been denied repeatedly by both the band and associated acts. As of today, no one has actually seen any of The Residents unmasked, or un-eyeballed.

Tank Man

A single man stands alone in front of a line of tanks, halting their progression toward Tiananmen Square in China. Moments after this iconic photo was taken, the unknown man was dragged off of the street by two more unknown people, allowing the tanks to progress towards their destination, where protesters were gathered to fight against government corruption and for freedom of speech. No one has ever identified the man, with many believing that he was executed for impeding a military operation, while others believe that he remains in safe anonymity because of the possible repercussions of the act, even over 40 years later. Either way, everyone agrees: that dude had some serious stones.

"Max Headroom" Guy

In 1987, an unknown intruder broke onto the airwaves during a broadcast of the evening news in Chicago, and later during an airing of Doctor Who. Wearing a rubber mask in the likeness of cyberpunk hero Max Headroom, the man spent a minute moaning, screaming, talking about Coke and gloves, and eventually, had his naked butt smacked with a fly swatter, because the '80s were pretty awesome. The person responsible for the creepy television intrusion has never come forward, and the blurry broadcast offers very few clues about who he may have been. But "Max Headroom" Guy, we salute you. Come back soon.

DB Cooper

On the day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a mild-mannered man calling himself Dan Cooper got on a Boeing plane with a bomb in his briefcase, quietly informed the flight crew that they were being hijacked for a ransom of $200,000, and flawlessly executed the only unsolved act of air piracy in history. To this day, the FBI doesn't know if Cooper survived his leap from the plane during the hijacking, or if he just plummeted to the ground due to his inexperience with skydiving. Many different suspects have been implicated as the notorious Cooper, but the case remains unsolved, and the criminal remains a kind of folk hero to some for sticking it to The Man.

Though maybe not for much longer, as a dedicated group of amateur sleuths called Citizen Sleuths have spent the past ten years investigating the Cooper case, and they think they've cracked it. They examined a tie found on Cooper's plane seat and, armed only with the knowledge that nobody ever washes their ties, ever, detected tons of elements on it, including titanium. Thing was, titanium was super-rare during Cooper's time, so it would only be found in certain places — places like Boeing itself, who had been working on a new plane that utilized titanium.

In short, while Citizen Sleuths haven't exactly pinpointed which Boeing employee they think became DB Cooper, they've pretty much zoned in on it being somebody who worked in machinery or engineering there. If true, then this wasn't some rebel flipping off The Man — it was just some disgruntled assembly-line guy presumably angry he got passed for a raise again. DB meant "damn Boeing!" all along.