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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Mystery: The Man in the Plastic Bag

This has to be one of the most random things I’ve ever encountered on any website dedicated to mysteries, legends, or anything of that sort. On the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, there’s a story related to something called the Man in the Plastic Bag. I’d intended to cover it last year for Decemystery, but I honestly found it to not be worthwhile material. However, because I want to have fun and cover some of the simpler things I’ve amassed, I’m going to cover it for you all today.

The Story

According to the sources linked on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, this story originates from an answer on the website Quora and centers on a guy named Pedro. According to him, he and a group of his friends were hanging out when they found a man wearing boxer shorts, crouching, with a plastic bag over his head. Because of the oddity of this sight, Pedro and his friends did what most young people do these days: they took their phones out and started to take pictures of him (the one Pedro posted on Quora you can find as the cover image for this write-up). After the group took pictures of the man, they went up to him to talk to him, but the man simply walked away into the woods like nothing had happened.

This, while certainly an odd thing to come across, doesn’t exactly scream “mystery”. Though rather than treat this as some sort of giant joke, I decided to do a bit of digging online to see if I could find anything related to a possible death in California where a man had died with a plastic bag over his death. This was a lot easier said than done for a few reasons. The first is: Pedro never specifies the year this took place. While his post was from 2018 and he states that the phones they used to take the pictures were “smartphones”, that’s as vague as can be. The first iPhone was released in 2007 and the first smartphone was released in 1994. While I’d hazard a guess and say that this occurred around the early to mid 2010s, I can only guess and given how many deaths, be they murders or suicides, happen in California each year, finding information on this case was a nightmare. Despite that, I still did my best. I started off by Googling “California man with plastic bag on head”. This led me to a story from December 3, 2019 of a toddler that had been tied up; a plastic bag having been placed over his head. The child survived, but that made it significantly harder to find anything related to this particular story.

You see: all of the results for that specific search for the first three pages were on that story. There were very few exceptions; the ObscUrban Legend Wiki page for this story was on page two and a few articles (and a YouTube video) on a law enforcement officer who placed a plastic bag over someone’s head was on there. By page four, I got a few different results. From March of 2012, there was an article on a website called Patch about an elderly La Jolla couple that had plastic bags over their heads, but the cause of death couldn’t be determined. There was also a story from WGNTV about a man who placed a plastic bag over a girl’s head in the West Side in an attempted kidnapping. Though as you may have been able to guess, neither of these involve a man waltzing off into the woods with a plastic bag on his head. As for the next couple of pages, there was nothing, but I did find a pretty funny story from 2014 about a man who tried to rob a gas station with a plastic bag over his head.

My second course of action was to simply add “homeless” into the search, but this muddied the waters even more. See: California has a severe homelessness problem, especially in areas like San Francisco. This is largely due to the cost of living in California being obscenely high, which has also led to numerous people moving out of the state. As such, the death of a homeless person there is far from something abnormal.

What is abnormal (at least in my eyes) is searching specifically for “California homeless man” and getting a result for something that took place in Indianapolis. Look, I get that the story involves homeless people and plastic bags, but I don’t recall Indiana being anywhere near California. Unless Nevada decided to rename itself Indianapolis, I’ve got many questions.

Oh well, I digress. In a last ditch effort, I tacked on “found dead” into the search. This almost definitely got me added to a watchlist, but I’m sure that’s probably the fiftieth one I’m on. In this case, I got some new results, but some were also out of state. One involved a Bronx man found dead in his apartment with a plastic bag over his head and was from 2016.

Another result I got was a really morbid case from 2004 that involved an unidentified baby from 2004 in Stanton, California. The child—who was a newborn and was likely killed the day he was born—was found, along with a towel, newspaper, and a plastic bag. While this was definitely not something I’d hoped to read while researching this, it did make me a bit hopeful that I was on the right track to potentially finding anything related to the story Pedro had told. However, this was yet another deadend and this was where I gave up in the way of flipping through Google search results after Google search results. Every other one of the results was related to a murder or an out-of-state crime that had nothing to do with a man who had a plastic bag over his head.

With Googling having failed, I pulled out my secret weapon that I’ve used in the past few write-ups where I did detective work and went to other search engines. I didn’t go out of my way to search every possible engine though and instead simply went with Bing and DuckDuckGo. Alas, in both cases, I came up empty handed.

In a last ditch effort, I decided to try some reverse image searching, Now, as a disclaimer: Google’s anything but perfect. I’ve reverse image searched many things and gotten results that are just flat out nonsensical. In this case, reverse searching the image that Pedro linked on Quora yields results for “flesh”. There’s also only one result and it’s for the ObscUrban Legend Wiki page on this story.

With no information available on this case beyond one answer on Quora and a page on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki, I think it’s safe to say that the story of the man with the plastic bag on his head has come to a close. So let’s move onto the theories.


1. The man was trying to commit suicide

First up on our list of theories is easily the darkest and most depressing of them: the man was trying to commit suicide. This is something that I seriously contemplated deeply because, while I’m not extremely well versed in suicide and the methods in which people use to end their lives, I’ve never heard of anyone using a plastic bag to do so. While I know that California has some strict gun laws, suicide by gun isn’t the only way people end it all. Heck, in California alone, thousands of people have jumped from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It’s to the point that the bridge is said to be very haunted. If this story took place in or near San Francisco, I imagine that this man would have heard of those stories and likely gone there. Familiarity is generally something a lot of people go in times of great distress (at least in my experiences that’s how it is).

Of course, not everyone is the same. People have committed suicide in an array of ways and as such, judging the validity of a theory like this based off of what is and isn’t normal isn’t right. As such, take what I say knowing I’m not trying to judge in that regard. There are many other ways to critique this theory, not the least of which being how there’s no news on a deceased man’s body being found with a bag over his head; though it isn’t unusual for those who commit suicide to go deep into forests or out to sea to die so they’ll never be found (this is done for an asortment of reasons, such as preventing shame for their immediate loved ones or simply so nobody ever knows they committed suicide). Because of this, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this theory holds any water.

2. It was a hoax

The second theory we have posits that this entire story was made up by Pedro and his friends. One of them, or perhaps Pedro himself, placed a plastic bag over his head and assumed the role of a homeless man and one or all of them took pictures of him. While there’s no evidence to back this claim up, I think it’s worth mentioning that the lack of any publicity on this story really puts a major hole in the theory’s credibility. Though I leave it up to you to decide as to whether this is the case or not.

3. The man had a mental illness

This is a theory that was proposed by a friend of mine on Discord who goes by Seriff Pilcrow, who also assisted on the theory about the man trying to commit suicide. Seriff’s someone I’ve had help me on several topics I plan on writing about this year related to medical mysteries and as such: I must thank him greatly for all of the assistance he’s provided me.

With that said, his initial theory was that the man likely suffered from some sort of mental illness. I contemplated this and I think I can piece together a likely scenario. It’s possible the man was mentally handicapped and may have wandered off from his home (or a mental institution he was confined to) and may have found a plastic bag, put it on, and then wandered off again when Pedro and his friends approached him—likely because he was scared, nervous, or unsure of the situation that he was in.

Of course, this is pure speculation. Though in my experiences, situations like this typically fit the profile of someone who’s mentally handicapped. This theory would also explain why there was no news on the man; nothing happened to him and he was found by his parents, guardians, or hospital staff.

4. The man was on drugs

This theory is one that I’m extremely partial to. The idea is that the man was drugged out of his mind, likely on LSD or another powerful psychedelic, and believed the plastic bag to be something it wasn’t, like a pillow, teddy bear, or giant titty.

If you’ve ever heard of stories about people on LSD, you know that the trips they can have are quite interesting (to put it lightly). As such, the idea that the man was tripping isn’t exactly outlandish. It’s also very common for many homeless people to be drug addicts (not to mention alcoholics), so this theory is, in my eyes, extremely likely. It’d also explain why it never made the news; if the man either took the plastic bag off or it fell off as he rolled around on the ground, the trip likely wore off and he went about his day afterwards.

5. A… cryptid?

Yeah, for whatever reason, the ObscUrban Wiki has in its theories section that this individual wasn’t a normal man at all, but rather a cryptid. While I love to visit this website and love its collection of weird, enigmatic stories, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this to be one of the most baffling things on there—far more than any one cryptid, alien, or entity could ever hope to amass. Nothing in the story dictates that this was anything more than a normal human with a plastic bag over his head. Unless the story conveniently left out that they could see he had 5 eyes, 3 noses, and a giant antenna hidden under his plastic bag, I fail to see why this was necessary. Oh well, I spent time ranting about it, so I guess I could discuss the theory itself.

This theory states the man was in fact a cryptid. It’s very silly.

My Take

I honestly wasn’t sure what theory (besides the cryptid one) I wanted to pick. They all had legitimate reasons to be the truth behind them, but I ultimately think the man was on drugs. Given how common it is for homeless people to be addicted to drugs, coupled with California’s proximity to the border, I find it likely that the man was probably tripping and thought the plastic bag was something it wasn’t. Of course, I also think the other theories—once again, sans the one about the man being a cryptid (which I find incredibly silly)—to be roughly as likely.


While California may have outlawed plastic straws, it seems that the epidemic of plastic bags on heads rages on—and so does the mystery of what the truth to why this man had one of them over his head. No matter what the case was though, I believe this is one of those stories that showcases that not every so-called mystery requires a giant humanoid, an alien, or a sea monster. Sometimes, the most mysterious things happen in your hometown and involve a man with a plastic bag over his head.

1 comment:

  1. And I thought it was someone trying to imitate Shia LeBouf.