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Marc Ramsden admits he’s told a few lies.
For years, he told the women he'd met using online dating sites outright falsehoods about himself — pretending to be a screenwriter, wealthy California ranch owner or military veteran. He'd tell his romantic interests that his parents were both Holocaust survivors, his mom was dead or that she'd once been an animator at Disney. None of those stories are true.
But when it comes to why Ramsden—who is really unemployed and living at a homeless shelter—lies to those in his life, the answer, he said, is complicated.
“That’s the thing, there is no grand plan,” Ramsden said while sitting down to talk with “Do You Know Mordechai?” podcast host Kathleen Goldhar. “I want to please people and make them feel good and it all culminates in nuttiness.”
The podcast follows the journey of Goldhar's close friend Arya as she discovered after an ominous knock on her door one Sunday night that the man she had been dating wasn't who he claimed to be. Arya wasn't the only one to have fallen for the elaborate deception. Through the podcast's investigation, Goldhar uncovers a series of women who say they were manipulated and lied to by Ramsden.
Ramsden admitted he’s “intensely uncomfortable with himself” and has “been living behind a mask” for years by creating these alternate personas for himself to bolster his real-life credentials and often used the fake name Mordechai Horowitz when meeting new romantic interests.
“It’s terrible, there’s no other way of putting it,” Ramsden said. “It wasn’t right and it’s wrong in so many ways.”
According to Ramsden, the lies began during his childhood as a way to conceal the truth about his family life. He said his mom had been a nurse and his dad was in finance. During his childhood, Ramsden said he moved from Toronto—where he was born—to Paris before settling with his family for a time in St. Louis.
But by the time his family arrived in St. Louis, Ramsden said his parent’s marriage was on the rocks and his mom was becoming increasingly less attentive to her children.
“Both of my parents, I know they love me, but they were neglectful, very neglectful. We were fed and clothed and got to school, but all the in between was pretty empty,” Ramsden told Goldhar. “She had been a loving and doting mother up until around the time we moved to St. Louis and then that kind of just went out the door and I remember feeling envious of people who had a seemingly better family life.”
As Ramsden tried to portray his own family in a better light, he said the lying began as part of a “gradual progression.”
“The first lies I remember telling were to cover up what was going on at home, you know. I think I started to paint a narrative that we were a much happier family and things were good,” he said.
The habit continued as Ramsden grew up, until they became completely enmeshed in the versions of himself he presented to others.
“A lot of the things that I tell, it’s born from a kernel of experience or truth and then sometimes gets distorted sometimes more than others,” he said.
Ramsden also placed the blame, in part, on his own mental health issues, telling Goldhar he had been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
“To appease my own anxiety, I would tell a lie,” he said. “It would only be temporary because I knew it was wrong and I would panic about it.”
The women who crossed his path, including Goldhar’s friend Arya, were often the victims, falsely believing they were in an honest relationship with a man they had met online, providing him with housing, food and love throughout the deception.
Ramsden told multiple women that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
According to Goldhar, he often used the ruse to his advantage, telling one woman he was undergoing treatment in Los Angeles, while he began to secretly date someone else.
“There were so many different motivations. I can’t remember, but it’s complicated,” Ramsden said of why he lied.
Ramsden acknowledged that the lies he crafted were often very hurtful to the women he dated after the deception was uncovered.
“You know I liked, and in some cases felt love, for people that I hurt and it is hard to bear,” he said while getting emotional. “I feel badly for everyone that has come in contact with it.”
The women later banded together to create a website to warn others who might encounter Ramsden through dating apps.
"He has created several elaborate fake personas to gain sympathy and admiration in order to obtain sex, food, money, and shelter from women, often manipulating and sustaining relationships with several women at a time while leading each to believe they are in an exclusive, committed relationship," it warns.
Ramsden, who hasn't been charged with any crimes related to his lies, told Goldhar he was no longer on any online dating sites and was “still struggling with these problems,” but was working to get help.
“I want to live an honest and open life,” he said, adding that his goal was to “find a regular job of some sort.”
Yet many of the women had warned Goldhar that Ramsden would likely come across as a sympathetic and “convincing” figure.
“He says, ‘Look I have problems, it’s true. I have a personality disorder and I lie,’” one woman known in the podcast as “Justine” said. “He can lay it out very clearly because he’s an expert at convincing you that he should be given a second chance, but he will not change. This is what he does. He’s a serial deceiver.”
To learn more about Ramsden’s complex deceptions, tune in to “Do You Know Mordechai?” on UCP Audio or anywhere you regularly listen to podcasts.
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