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.


41 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.

  6. Heartbreaking and chilling. Are there toxicology reports done on these men? Have drugs been found in their system?
    What is the consensus? Murder? Or something unexplainable?

  7. All of these incidents have been troubling me. I believe something sinister is going on. Thank you for your research and compassion.

    • Why aren’t the cops investigating these crimes. And why are they all saying the are accidental or suicide w/o much detective work. All these men end up about the same area and cops do not think this is strange or suspicious?

    • Ive been really turning to the paranormal reasoning for many of these cases. They are always alone whwn caught on CCTV. Some just seem to walk straight towards the water. Boston has very old rich history and i do believe something is going on.

  8. Clearly it is obvious to police that there’s a pattern here to the number of young men disappearing – why else would their search for the missing head to the Charles River at such early stage(s) in their investigations.
    Cold dark nights, outside without coats, cell phones losing power, frigid water temps, intoxication from alcohol consumed either at bars or games – all stand out to me as commonalities.
    So tragic. Yet ALL cases still unsolved? Very tough for me to accept; let alone the loved ones of these men. I am truly NOT looking to turn this into some cause or movement about gender, but have any of you ever wondered if it were women “vanishing” into the night, if there would be more time and resources spent on an investigation? I think on some level, men may be expected (and are also likely to believe themselves) that they should be able to handle themselves and ward-off potential harm. Like honestly, if I had a flat tire on the side of the road, pretty sure at least someone would stop to offer their assistance. Conversely, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen men changing their own tires with no one else in sight and I feel bad because they’re not always particularly young – making their situation a lot tougher. Saddest and most maddening of all, are that there are perpetrators in our midst, simply watching and waiting for a time to target someone at a time when they’re most vulnerable.
    If I knew what I could do to help, I surely would. Thank you for reading my first time post. Peace.

  9. Interesting theory Erika …
    Always tough to know what the police have discovered and how much of that (if any) can be shared with the public without compromising the case.
    I also find it strange that I have yet to hear or see any news segments about grouping these deaths together in one story. Of course, not like it’s possible to watch every single news-clip. But it is the lack of coverage linking these deaths is what prompted me to google & stumble upon this forum in the first place.

  10. Only reason I can think that a man out walking, late at night would walk towards basically a nothing corner would be to urinate. Then with his back turned away from a street or walkway could easily be targeted.
    Forgot there are videos – will check out any I’m able to find.

  11. Please take Justin Marshall off of this list. His death was an accident; not a murder, not a suicide. It was a drunken accident. It was 7 years ago but his family doesn’t need to be the center of any witch hunt into what happened to him. They know what happened. He got drunk, went for a walk, distracted by cell phone usage, he fell into the water and drowned. He doesn’t need to be on this list, please remove him.

    • Until he is ruled out by evidence I see no reason not to include him as a possibility. If the family themselves truly does not want him included they are free to contact me to talk.

      • Don’t claim to feel for these folks and their loved ones and then not listen when people ask you to take them off your list. For heaven’s sake. That’s not compassionate. If you’re trying to get more attention on these cases and people say they don’t want to be a part of it, listen to them.

  12. I watched a documentary on Viceland about a drug in Colombia that is very easy to deliver and it renders the victim very submissive to any orders that the victim is given. The victim will calmly do whatever they are told, without resistance, and without any concern for their own welfare at all. The drug can be delivered simply by touch. This was the first thing I thought of when I read about these cases in Boston.

    • AMY!!! We are on the exact same page I was thinking the same exact thing. I forget what that Vice story was called but something along the lines of the most terrifying drug out there… it acted almost like a hypnotic except you follow exactly what you were told and have no memory of it. So scary

      • There is no way these cases are not suspect. They are so similar. I do not get why the families are accepting this as accident or suicide

  13. Another young man missing and again found in the Charles. I read your article that links to this one last year, right after Zachary went missing, and as soon as I heard about Michael Kelleher, I thought to check here for updates. I wonder why police aren’t saying anything, it’s too much coincidence and not logical.

    • Hi Cindy, Clearly we share the same opinion because we have each posted a comment saying basically the same thing. Being new to this forum, I should’ve clicked on Reply vs Post a Comment, in order to continue a conversation. I also notice there are several ongoing threads, about this same topic. Too bad they couldn’t somehow be consolidated.
      Elise? I hope you read this too !! Peace.

  14. So now the news is out that Michael Kelleher’s body was indeed found in the Charles River; followed by “police say fowl play is NOT suspected” !?!
    The “not” as I emphasized in caps, was also emphasized verbally by the news reporter. How is it that the police can be (or seem to be) so sure? I also wonder if family members of men originally considered missing, later finding out how their loved ones met their fate aka in the same way as many others, have ever shared and compared stories amongst themselves.
    Elise – Have you ever had conversations with family members and know whether or not they are aware of the case similarities?
    ~ Wishing all a fun and safe Marathon Monday !!

  15. Yikes Silvia – kinda harsh there in my opinion. I understand your point but at same time, Elise has no way of knowing if this “friend of the family” is legit and actually speaking on their behalf or not. Did it cross your mind that this person could even be a guilty party looking to quash any theories this Blog attempts to solve? Also worth noting is that Elise welcomed the family to get in touch with her if they had any objections.

    • Thank you Christine. I have tried reaching out to the people who claim to be family etc and they never respond to me, therefore I see no reason to believe they are who they say or comply with them. Its unfortunate that some people hold an unfounded negative opinion of me. Its nice to hear from people like you who understand!

  16. I took this walk yesterday, as part of a factfinding expedition related to the Kelleher case. Someone’s added some lyrics to “T.N.T. by ACDC to the poles at the end. Interestingly enough – and probably not a coincidence, be it suicide or homicide – Marr died in the early hours of February 13. Ichikyo died the 12th.

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