Death of Jason Callahan

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Jason Callahan
Jason Callahan.jpg
Jason Patrick Callahan

c. April 18, 1976
DisappearedJune 1, 1995
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Died (aged 19)
Emporia, Virginia, United States
Cause of deathBlunt-force trauma following a vehicular accident
Other names"Grateful Doe," "Jason Doe"
Known forFormer unidentified decedent

Jason Patrick Callahan (April 18, 1976 – June 26, 1995), previously known as Grateful Doe and Jason Doe, was an American man killed in a car accident on June 26, 1995, in Emporia, Greensville County, Virginia. His body remained nameless until December 9, 2015.[1][2][3][4] Earlier in 2015, photographs of an unknown male surfaced on a Facebook page for the John Doe. DNA testing later confirmed Callahan to be the unidentified man.[5][6]


Callahan was killed in a vehicle crash, along with the driver, Michael Hager, after the Vanagon in which they were riding crashed into a pair of trees on U.S. Route 58 West around 1:30 PM on June 26, 1995.[7][8][9][10] Neither man was wearing a seat belt, which likely contributed to each of their deaths.[11][12] Found with Callahan's body were two scalped Grateful Dead tickets, a dollar in quarters, and a yellow Bic lighter. A letter was found, depending on sources either in Callahan's pocket or near the crash site, reading: Jason, Sorry we had to go, see ya around, call me #914-XXXX. Caroline T. & Caroline O. Bye!!!!. The phone number on the letter lacked an area code and never led to any additional clues. The letter also contained a small drawing that some speculate may be of Jerry Garcia.[8][13] The tickets were dated June 24, 1995, and June 25, 1995, respectively; the Grateful Dead performed at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., on these dates.[11] Neither of the 'Carolines' have ever been identified.[14]

Physical description[edit]

Photo showing Jason Callahan's tattoo

Before he was identified, Callahan was estimated to be between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one years old, had brown eyes with long curly brown or dark blond hair that had been dyed a reddish color.[13] There was a tattoo of a star on his upper-left arm and another possible tattoo, which was faded, on his right arm, both of which appeared to have been amateurishly executed. He was wearing a beaded necklace and his left ear had been pierced but he was not wearing an earring.[9][11] There was a scar found on his back.[3] He was a Caucasian, had no apparent dental work as his third molars were visible, and his teeth were fairly well cared for.[7][11] At the time of the accident he was wearing a red, tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt, Levi's jeans, white socks and black Fila running shoes.[3][7]


Note written by "Caroline O." and "Caroline T."

The vehicle's driver was identified as Michael E. Hager, 21, who may have picked Callahan up as a hitchhiker, and who authorities hypothesize may have fallen asleep at the wheel, as neither of the decedents had drugs or alcohol in their bodies.[15] It has been suggested that Hager may have agreed to transport Callahan because of their similar styles of dress, as they both appeared to be fans of The Grateful Dead.[8] Authorities attempted to identify Callahan through fingerprint analysis with the aid of national databases, but were unsuccessful.

When interviewed, Hager's family could not identify the unknown passenger, who had been reported to have been riding in Hager's Volkswagen Vanagon when he stopped to give his father a letter in Williamsburg, Virginia.[12][13] However, a detective from the area stated that this claim was not accurate, and that Hager was alone when he stopped to visit his father.[8] It is speculated that Callahan had actually been picked up between Fairfax and Gloucester, Virginia.

Due to the severity of the lacerations on Callahan's face, mortuary photographs could not be released to the public, although a facial reconstruction was later released.[8] In 2012, another facial reconstruction was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The man who had originally bought the tickets found in Callahan's pocket did not remember the person to whom he had sold them.[11] At least 221 missing people were ruled out as possible identities of the victim.[3]

2015 developments[edit]

Image of Callahan (left) compared to a reconstruction created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

In 2015, photographs surfaced of a young man wearing similar clothes to those worn by the then-unidentified Callahan, and who bore a strong resemblance to the reconstruction images. The person in these photographs was named Jason and was described to have been a fan of the Grateful Dead. He had not been heard from since 1995 and was known to have lived in both Illinois and South Carolina. It had not yet been verified whether this was indeed the John Doe as his former roommates and other friends did not recall Jason's last name.[14][16] The New York Post and BuzzFeed were some of the newspapers that covered the story.[5][17]

In January 2015, law enforcement conducted a DNA test to see if the John Doe was the same man as Jason Patrick Callahan, the son of a 63-year-old woman who had not seen or heard from him since June 1995, when he left home to "follow the Grateful Dead".[18] Callahan, who was identified as the young man in the photographs, is described as having been a white male with wavy blonde hair and brown eyes, standing between 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 meters) and 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall, and weighing about 160 pounds (70 kilograms). Callahan, if he was alive, would have been 38 at the time.[19] Callahan was not reported missing by his mother until 2015.[5][20]

Lt. Joey Crosby, spokesman for Myrtle Beach police, stated that Callahan's mother failed to file a report with police due to the nomadic nature of Grateful Dead fans. "She attempted to report it when he went missing but didn’t know which jurisdiction to report it to," he said.[21] Callahan's family also stated that they presumed he had gone to "live on his own, elsewhere."[6]

After initial tests proved inconclusive, additional DNA testing confirmed that the body was indeed that of Jason Callahan.[5][6][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DNA positively identifies 'Grateful Doe' as man missing from Myrtle Beach". WMBF News. NBC. 9 December 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  2. ^ "10 Bizarre Unidentified Body Cases". 7 July 2014. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Case Report – NamUs UP # 6095". National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  4. ^ Moramarco, Steve (6 May 2014). "8 Mysterious Dead Bodies". Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Li, David K. (15 January 2015). "Mom reports son missing 20 years after he left to follow Grateful Dead". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Brown, Jo (9 December 2015). "DNA identifies 'Grateful Doe' as missing Myrtle Beach man 20 years after disappearance". WBT News 13. Media General Communications Holdings. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "Jason 'Grateful' Doe". 20 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e Lohr, David (25 April 2014). "Grateful Dead Fan Remains Nameless, 18 Years After Fatal Crash". Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  9. ^ a b "John Doe 1995". National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Grateful Doe, Caledonia Jane: Ask the Question". 31 December 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Case File: 127UMVA". The Doe Network. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  12. ^ a b Warder, Robin (14 June 2014). "10 Mysterious Cases Involving Unidentified People". Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  13. ^ a b c "Grateful Dead Fan – Jason Doe". 25 February 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  14. ^ a b Griffin, Courtney (9 January 2015). "'Grateful Doe' may have ties to Myrtle Beach". Carolina Live. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  15. ^ Gettys, Travis (15 January 2015). "South Carolina woman reports son missing 20 years after he left home to follow Grateful Dead". RawStory. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  16. ^ "UPDATE: Imgur, you may have helped identify 'The Grateful Doe'". Imgur. 2 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Interwebs Now May Be Close To Solving A 20-Year-Old Cold Case Need Public's Help". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Woman Reports Deadhead Son Missing Since '95". 14 January 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  19. ^ Root, Tonya (14 January 2015). "Myrtle Beach police investigate missing person case, possible link to 'Grateful Doe'". Myrtle Beach Online. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Mom reports son missing since 1995, says he left home to follow the Grateful Dead band". Sun News. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Myrtle Beach police investigate possible link between missing man, "Grateful Doe"". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  22. ^ ""Julie Doe" - Transgender woman likely murdered in 1988, believed to be cisgender for 27 years". Nov 19, 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2017.