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From www.snopes.com


In November 2001, a 28-year-old Japanese woman named Takako Konishi was found wandering around a landfill and truck stop in Bismarck, North Dakota. Ms. Konishi had recently arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on a flight from Tokyo on 9 November and had then headed to Bismarck on a bus, where she was picked up the next day by man who thought she was lost and in need of assistance. Unable to communicate with Ms. Konishi (because of her limited command of English), the man drove her to the Bismarck Police Department, where she "showed officers a crude (handwritter) map of a tree next to a highway, drawn on white typing paper, that she apparently made in a quest to find the money buried by a Fargo character."

Fargo, as most of us know, was a 1996 film by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, about a pair of petty criminals hired by a husband to abduct his own wife in a scheme to bilk her wealthy father out of the ransom money. The plan goes awry, the wife ends up dead, and fleeing kidnapper Carl Showalter (played by Steve Buscemi), attempting to keep as much of the ransom money for himself as possible, buries his cache of cash in the snow beside a highway. Fargo was a work of fiction, but the Coen brothers' prankish placement of an opening title announcing that the film was "a true story," that "the events depicted . . . took place in Minnesota in 1987," and that the story "has been told exactly as it occurred" fooled many a credulous movie-goer back in 1996. The prospect of finding money buried by a fictional movie character was apparently what impelled Ms. Konishi to come to North Dakota. (Coincidentally, a subsequent Coen brothers film -- 2000's O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- dealt with the efforts of three escaped convicts to retrieve loot one of them had stashed in a hidden location before he was caught by the law.)

Bismarck police attempted, in vain, to explain to Ms. Konishi that Fargo was a work of fiction and that no treasure trove of frozen cash was to be found in North Dakota. Since she had not broken any laws, was in the USA on a valid visa, and had adequate means to provide for herself, they had no reason to detain her, or even to file a report. Ms. Konishi expressed a desire to go to Fargo (presumably to continue her search for the non-existent money hidden by a fictional character), so police drove her to a bus station; she then boarded a bus to Fargo and took a taxi from there to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, to "stargaze" (presumably she wanted to see the Leonid meteor shower).

A few days later, a hunter stumbled across Ms. Konishi's body in a grove of pine trees in Detroit Lakes. Medical examiners could determine no specific cause of death, but the presence of sedatives in her system and exposure were believed to have been contributing causes. Her death was ruled a suicide after the discovery that she had mailed a letter from Bismarck to her family in Japan expressing her intent to commit suicide (and had disposed of most of her belongings before leaving Bismarck).

Why Ms. Konishi came to Bismarck to search for a non-existent treasure -- and commit suicide -- remains a mystery.

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