Some More Thoughts on Zachary Marr

“Empty handed I entered the world and barefoot will I leave it”

The words were scrawled on yellow columns, one word to each, which were lining the walkway I traveled down. The graffiti seemed particularly fitting for the occasion. I was walking down a path to the place where Zachary Marr had died.


The quote was a shortened, bastardization of a quote by a Japanese Monk, Kozan Ichikyo. He wrote it the day that he died in 1360. The full version is

“Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”

The winding path sandwiched between TD Garden and the Zakim bridge was presumably the same as the one Zach had walked just a few weeks before. I tried to imagine what he was thinking or seeing on that bitterly cold February night. Had he also read the words along the posts? Or were those written sometime after he had gone into the water? The sidewalk, if one followed it, led to a wide area directly beneath the Zakim, where the Charles River’s salty water lapped quietly at the cement footings.


It was an almost pleasant area by the light of day, a secret seeming place. Across the water to the right, one of the State Police buildings abutted the water, their patrol boats docked about only a few hundred feet from where Zach Marr had been that night. Despite the location, no one except the cameras attached to the bridges underbelly had seen what happened. Or at least, no one that we know of. For a reason we still cannot understand, Zack seemingly walked to this place, then along a catwalk under the bridge that runs parallel to the train tracks, separated by a fence.


The catwalk ends in a dead end, while the train tracks continue across a steel beam bridge.

Zach then apparently (according to reports of the cctv footage which has not been released) climbed up onto the railings by the water, and stepped off into the darkness.

I would give nearly anything to see that footage. Not for any sick pleasure or macabre entertainment; I suffered from nightmares for some time about Zach. In fact, the idea of seeing the video fills me with a sense of unrivaled dread. But something in me needs to see it, in some strange way. Maybe I feel like I will learn something I couldn’t understand before? Maybe I believe I will feel somehow vindicated? What was he wearing when he went over that railing? Was he moving clumsily, drunkenly? Or in the same surefooted, trancelike state I had seen on so many other eerie cctv videos of similar cases? Did it look like a simple accidental slip? Did it look like a resolute suicide? And even if I had these answers, what would they mean?

As I walked along the length of the catwalk I noticed the signs of homeless people’s camps; beds made of old blankets and cardboard, snack wrappers and cups, even some articles of clothing that could have been anyones. (Zach’s? Someone who was there that night? If he was somehow murdered, a suspect?)


The weather was warmer now, more bearable, survivable. There was probably no one else around the night Zach was here. It had been the coldest night of the year in Boston in recent memory; hypothermia could happen in only a short time and most of the cities homeless population would have had to seek shelter in more protected places. Still, I wondered if the police had tried talking to any of the regulars around North Station. I doubted it.

For most people Zach’s death was quickly accepted as just another accident. Just another drunk college age boy who wandered off into the water. I of course have difficulty accepting that. That theory leaves too many unanswered questions, and is simply too similar to the hundreds of other cases like it. I feel in my gut that something else happened that night, that there are still more puzzle pieces that need to be collected and fitted together before we can understand what.


13 thoughts on “Some More Thoughts on Zachary Marr

  1. Pingback: Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men | CryptidAntiquarian

  2. all so mysterious and all seem to be related in some way !! they have all gone missing, found weeks later in the same area that had been searched ??

  3. Great piece, Elise! I, too, have been haunted by this tragic, puzzling case, which I followed on a missing person’s forum from the time Zach was first reported missing. Your story and the photos really helped me visualize the area, which in news reports was always very confusing, as I have never been to Boston. Posters on the other forum wrote volumes speculating on his path that night, where exactly he ended up, whether he trespassed onto a maintenance area, and if he accidentally fell through a gap in a non-pedestrian area while trying to take a short cut to the train station. There was a lot of desire there to portray his death as logical and accidental. However, if I understand correctly, it has been concluded that he climbed up onto the railing pictured in the second-to-last photo and just stepped off??? If accurate, that scenario doesn’t seem at all accidental or logical. From what I’ve heard about suicides by planned falls into water in other cities, such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Detroit, the victims usually go to the middle of a very high / the highest bridge to jump (in order to die upon impact with the water). From the photo, it doesn’t appear that the catwalk is very high above the water, so, to me, it doesn’t even seem logical as a suicide, at least not one with any planning. Boston must have a high “suicide bridge.” I think most cities do. I agree with you that “something else” happened that night.
    I was surprised to read that you have viewed CCTV footage of victims entering the water in other cases of “mysterious drownings.” I had not known that videos existed and were available to view. (The common assumption seems to be that victims are killed elsewhere and then disposed of in water.) I had assumed that the BPD’s policy of not releasing tapes, out of respect for the victim and family, was the norm everywhere in cases of apparent or suspected suicide. I hope you don’t get criticized for expressing your desire to view the tape of Zach. I presume you would want to view it privately in the capacity of a researcher, and would not advocate for it to be posted on YouTube. I relate to your compelling desire to understand, to find answers, to make some kind of sense of the seemingly senseless, and most of all, eventually to be able to educate others on how not to be the next victim. Seeing the tape with one’s own eyes, is, understandably, the way to satisfy that desire. However, as the mother of a young man who fits the “type” and is about to head off to college in a very high-crime city with a river, though, thankfully, not (yet?) identified as one of the cluster areas for “mysterious drownings,” I don’t have the guts to view CCTV tapes of the victims, even if it were possible to do so. I admire you for having the courage to view them. Elise, could you, in a sensitive way, or without identifying the victims, please elaborate on what you meant by “the same surefooted trance-like state of many of the other victims?” I had not before heard of this, and find the description both chilling and intriguing. Also, in the footage you’ve seen, were any of the victims either talking or texting on their phones as they walked to the spot where they perished or disappeared?
    Again, thank you for the time and devotion you are putting into researching and writing about this baffling and horrific phenomenon.

    • Thank you for the comment MarlMari!
      Your understanding is right, the path Zach took (which I myself have walked several times) does not read as accidental to me in anyway. He walked from Boston Public Market basically straight down a road toward North Station/Zakim Bridge. North Station Commuter Station is located within/under TD Garden and is hard to miss. People speculating he was trying to head there to get home want us to believe he ignored multiple signs and went straight through to a narrow sidewalk, far easier to miss and which seems like a place you probably shouldnt/aren’t allowed to go. Its almost as if he literally just started walking in a straight line from BPM into the water.
      Since I don’t think you can sanely believe it was an accident, the next scenario is suicide. This too is flawed. As you pointed out, the catwalk is only several feet above the water. You would have to believe that Zach thought that drowning in frigid water seemed like a good choice for suicide, and that with a tall bridge available directly above him.
      It is very accurate to say I don’t want anything that would be disrespectful to the victims or their loved ones, and I understand why the footage was not released if indeed it shows the victim’s death. I’m not positive that is the case of the Zach Marr video though, as I have heard it described in many convoluted ways (‘entered’ the water, ‘stepped into the shadows’ and ‘left the cameras view’ to name a few). Regardless, I can’t help but think it might give some answers about that fateful night.
      As for videos of similar victims, I haven’t seen any depicting the moment a person goes into the water, and as far as I know there are none in existence (besides perhaps Zach’s). But there have been similar bizarre cases where the victim was caught on cctv not long before ending up dead. One example is the video of the Jamison family who would go missing in the wilderness. Another is a young man last taped standing outside a bar in a confused trancelike seeming state. (If I can remember his name I will add it.) Most other people caught on camera before going missing can be seen walking calmly toward their final destination, most also not seeming drunk enough to logically blame the deaths on intoxication. Both Franco Garcia and Eugene Losik were caught on camera walking calmly and surely. Christopher Brahney was caught walking at an even pace, scarcely slowing to cross streets, not even using crosswalks. (I urge you to look the video up on youtube). He ended up dead in the water. Elisa Lam is another example. Many say it seems like the victims were drugged somehow. Of course the authorities usually want to say that the victims were clumsy-drunk enough to fall in the water, but can’t explain why they can walk long distances just fine up till the point of falling in. I hope I have answered your questions, and I hope your son can be convinced to be safe wherever he goes!

      • John Szistak is another case I was trying to remember. Last caught acting strangely outside a bar on cctv. He seems fine for a while, then suddenly seems very disorientated, then begins pulling off articles of clothing. He was later found in the river, no signs of foul play.

      • Dear Elise,
        Your posts are intelligent, insightful, and compassionate–the compassion part sometimes gets missed when writing or reporting about topics with some mystery surrounding them, so I applaud this aspect of your posts!
        I think Zach’s disappearance and later recovery really stuck with me because I remember how brutally frigid that particular night was here in Boston. Your photos really help illustrate the sequence of events, because even though I know the area, I had difficulty visualizing the areas police would discuss. Might you know the distance from the bar to the spot he went into the water? I might go out and measure it at some point, out of curiosity.
        With these mysterious deaths, I feel like I vacillate between thinking they make no sense whatsoever, and believing that we try to fit what we don’t understand into specific, tidy patterns. Lately I’ve read about the smiley face killer(s)–a name that may look good on message boards about urban legends, but trivializes the lives and deaths of too many young men–and it just doesn’t make sense to me that so many men are turning up in waterways. I keep trying to wrap my head around this, reminding myself that alcohol is often involved in these deaths, and yet Zach’s last 30 minutes or so of life just haunts me.
        Thank you for sharing your words!

      • Its not a particularly long walk, maybe only ten minutes with no stopping for traffic and its almost a straight line. Its almost as if he pointed his feet in a direction and just kept walking straight until he hit the water. Thanks for the comments, if you go out sometime and find anything interesting let me know!

  4. You took the walk in the daytime. Have you ever recreated it at night when there isn’t as much visibility in the area? I think it likely that he thought he could scale the small fence and get onto the bridge. He was wrong and ended up in the water, instead. Nothing more sinister than that.

    • I have gone to the area during the day and at night, several times. There are definitely some dark areas under the bridge, but the tracks next to the walkway are moderately lit at night, and regardless of that its not really the kind of place one would be climbing around in the dead of night, even if you were drunk. Theres really nothing down there to draw anyone to the spot.

  5. Zach was a close friend. We were neighbors and he was at my house nearly everyday. He could not have been sane when he walked off the bridge. Hypothermia or drugs are the only seemingly causes, but I feel as if something is being hidden from the public eye and from his family. I’ve walked that path so many times now, from when he went missing until when he was found. Knowing him, he would not have left his cousin and he would not have walked there. He was unfamiliar with Boston and it seems very strange he would have walked towards the water without any questioning where he was going and any guidance. Someone must have been with him, probably a stranger. I strongly believe his cause of death was not hypothermia.

    • Thank you for your comment Emily, and I am so sorry for your loss. I never knew Zach so I could only imagine his motivations on that night, but I always found it all to be too suspicious to ignore. I hope that his loved ones can one day have closure about the incident, and that we can stop similar things from happening again. I think about Zach nearly every day, especially with how often I pass by the places he once walked.

      • I think it’s very suspicious too, I’ve been following your article on the case of disappearing men but just found this one about a week ago. There’s definitely something more than what meets the eye. If you find something else out about the disappearing men, I’d love to help research it or anything! It’s just very strange and with the anniversary coming up, it’s hard to believe nothing further has been investigated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s