Marilyn Jean Hartman found a way to turn humdrum holiday travel into a daring adventure. Her unusual method of saving money on airfare means she never knows if she will spend her vacation in a fantastic island paradise or a dreary county lockup. Arrested in several states for her “bizarre habit of getting on planes without a ticket, a boarding pass or a passport.” This time she made it all the way to London. TSA needs to make a few changes.
According to Hartman, all sorts of people, “airport security, public transit passengers, jail inmates, President Barack Obama – have all conspired to compel her to sneak onto planes in an elaborate attempt to punish her.” She is destined to be forgiven “lengthy prison sentences,” she claims, “so she can do it all over again, and again.”
Nobody would ever suspect the “66-year-old with short, white-blond hair” as someone with sophisticated enough skills to defeat homeland security. It’s a good thing she hasn’t been smuggling explosives. She made it from San Jose to Los Angeles in 2014 but it took her a few tries to get on a plane. Early that year, she was busted on her way to Hawaii.
Her first vacation of 2015, to Florida, went off without a hitch. She caught a convenient jet out of Minnesota without a single raised eyebrow. She wasn’t so lucky later that year though and ended up in a Chicago jail. She wasn’t arrested until the second time she tried to catch a flight. Creatively, she tried bypassing security at both of the city’s landing fields. When she struck out at one, she tried the other.
Her usual modus operandi is to blend in with the crowd. “She usually tries to blend in with big groups to get past airport security.”
They were waiting for her at O’Hare when she tried to take a trip in 2016. That year she spent her vacation at a “mental-health facility, where she had already been staying.” The judge extended her reservation by an additional six months. This time, Hartman was living in low-income senior housing before she hopped the jumbo for Europe.
TSA at O’Hare didn’t get a passing grade on their most recent report card. She walked right through the scanners and caught an international flight this time. After catching a plane from Chicago, she made it all the way to Heathrow but “was arrested after arriving there Monday and was flown back to the United States on Thursday.” According to Chicago police, she was charged with “criminal trespass” which is a misdemeanor, and theft which is a felony.
TSA is still scratching their heads over what happened. “During the initial investigation, it was determined that the passenger was screened at the security checkpoint before boarding a flight.” Good thing she wasn’t a terrorist. “Upon learning of the incident, TSA, and its aviation partners took immediate action to review security practices throughout the airport,” they apologized in a public statement.
Chicago’s Department of Aviation is also happy it was only a harmless hooligan and not a state-sponsored agent of mayhem. “No passengers or visitors were placed in harm’s way because of the incident,” Lauren Huffman points out, before vowing to start collecting scalps. “We are working with our law enforcement partners to support a comprehensive and thorough investigation while continuing to maintain the highest levels of security at O’Hare Airport.”
Reporters usually refer to Ms. Hartman as the “infamous serial stowaway” when they write up her escapades. One called her “a homeless loner bouncing between women’s shelters and motel rooms up and down the West Coast over the past decade.”
The local judge is at his wit’s end. During a May 2015 court appearance, he read out “Hartman’s history, which included several attempts to escape from mental-health facilities in Illinois,” before giving her a lecture on her hobo habit. “The only reason why you’re not going to jail this time is because all these people that are here trying to help you still want to help you. I can’t figure out why that is.” Cook County Circuit Court Judge William Raines added, “There’s no more feeling sorry for you. I think you’re addicted to the attention.”
The thing that has authorities confused the most is that Ms. Hartman expects to be caught. It is not as if she is saying, “Catch me if you can,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Allen declares. For her, it’s just “come catch me.” The only problem is that TSA isn’t catching her.
Nobody really knows why she decides to hit the airport and see where she ends up. She just feels “the need to get on a plane to go away.” The voices in her head like to travel it seems. Hartman was interviewed for a magazine while cooling her heels in a Florida lockup. “They just hope I kill myself or act out against society. Goodbye, cruel world.”