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Stateside Podcast: The disappearance of Isaac Danian

Isaac Danian, a white man with light brown hair and a yellow shirt, sits next to Shukree Abdul-Rashed, a Black man wearing black swim trunks, on a boat at sea. Both are holding up silver fish they've caught.
Courtesy of Abigail Danian
Isaac Danian (left) and Shukree Abdul-Rashed (right) were both convinced to head to the South Pacific after watching conspiracy-laden YouTube videos from Matthew Mellow. In his videos, Mellow told people he was planning to establish a new Christian society in the South Pacific and asked them to join him.

In the fall of 2020, a young man from Michigan, Isaac Danian, left his parents' home in Grand Rapids. A few weeks later, with little more than two phone calls to his folks, he disappeared, seemingly without a trace.

Isaac Danian, a white man with light brown hair, takes a selfie of himself in a plaid shirt
Courtesy of Abigail Danian
Isaac Danian's parents say that their son's mental health issues seemed to worsen during the pandemic before he left without warning to join Matthew Mellow in Hawaii.

The story of what happened to him is one-part mystery, one-part pandemic parable. Much of it has been unspooled by journalist David Wolman. He wrote about Danian and another believer, Shukree Abdul-Rashed from upstate New York, who went missing around the same time for the New York Timesrecently.

We talked to Wolman about the YouTube conspiracy theorist who convinced the men to join him in the South Pacific in hopes of establishing a new Christian society, as well as the mysteries surrounding the two men's disappearance at sea.

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Music in this episode byBlue Dot Sessions.

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April Van Buren is a producer for <i>Stateside</i>. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.