It was a tale so gruesome, Marline McPherson could no longer remain silent, says the Albany Times Union. In the early 1990s, near an abandoned Hells Angels hangout, she supposedly witnessed a man’s murder at a street card game. The next day she spotted a hand sticking out of a shallow grave next door. When the apparently conscience-stricken woman gave police this chilling account in 2006, it prompted a five-day search in brisk temperatures, one detectives call the “The Big Dig.” They never found a body. They did make an arrest: McPherson, who had made up the entire story to get back at an old boyfriend.
Making false reports is a crime; penalties can range from a misdemeanor to a felony carrying up to seven years in prison. What would compel someone to make up such tales? Anna Engel, president of the Capital District chapter of the American Psychiatric Association, said human beings are prone to tell white lies or embellish. “It can go from the little innocent things like, ‘The dog ate my homework,’ which has always been implausible, to something extreme,” said Engel. “It all depends on a person’s background, something that has happened to them, how they think, what they’re going to get out of it, what’s at stake.  One may be more bizarre than another.” Motives could include revenge, jealousy, deep psychological issues – and more, says Louis Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. False stalking cases have been linked to a condition called “false victim syndrome,” in which the “victim” may be compensating for feelings of inadequacy by stating he or she was somehow desired. Or the person may simply crave attention.