John McAfee Netflix movie questions whether or not he’s really dead

I’ll say this much about John McAfee, the flamboyant, conspiratorial antivirus software pioneer who was worth more than $100 million at one point during his life — and who once stipulated that I could interview him only if I met him dressed as a woman.

I’m 98% sure that he’s dead. Okay, 99%.

As absurd as it may sound to allow even the smallest margin for error, it is what I screen of Run with the Devil. Particularly, the fact that This Netflix documentary has just been released from director Charlie Russell, about the bad boy of tech who was found dead in a Spanish jail cell last year, makes two explosive — and I do mean two Very explosive — claims about McAfee.

Running with the Devil, The Wild World of John McAfee

One is salacious enough to preclude repeating it here, but you’ll know it when you come to it. It’s about three-fourths of the way through the almost two-hour front-row seat to the life of a man that Run with the Devil describes as “James Bond meets Scarface … with a little Indiana Jones.”McAfee is accused of committing an act against a family member. It is chilling stuff.

The second allegation is: It’s that John is still alive. That one is courtesy of an ex-girlfriend who helped John escape a dragnet in Belize after he’d been accused of shooting his neighbor in the back of the head.

The founder of the famous antivirus software company, had moved to Belize to live the wealthy life of an ex-pat. To bask in the sun, the sea, and the gorgeous girls in a Central American hideaway that’s home to Mayan temples. This is a place where you can swim with whale sharks. You will also find abandoned islands that have only one tree.

John met the girlfriend mentioned above and was soon matched with a well-connected relative after everything went wrong. As absurd as it sounds, this made John’s run for the police after the murder investigation much easier.

“It’s me, John”

Run with the DevilThe video ends with a tranquil shot of waves lapping against a shoreline and the same girlfriend telling camera about a strange telephone call. One that came two weeks after McAfee’s body was found in a Barcelona jail in June of 2021.

When was the last time John was in touch?

She scratches her face and then turns to look down.

“Um … I don’t know if I should say. But, two weeks ago, after his death, I got a call from Texas. ‘It’s me, John. I paid off people to pretend that I am dead, but I am not dead.’”

She goes on to recount how John — the live version, the one supposedly hiding out today in Texas — asked her to run away with him.

john mcafee
John McAfee speaks to the media in this file photo outside the Beacon Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida in 2012. Image source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Let’s have a good time and make people laugh. Roll your eyes. But if you know anything at all about him, then you’re probably already aware that, first of all, he’s done this kind of thing before. To avoid being deported back to Belize, he faked a heart attack in Guatemala custody. It’s also not clear what the girlfriend gains by making this up.

Sure, it’s a weird possibility to entertain. But when you’re dealing with a loquacious computer nerd who loved money, disguises, guns, and women — and who wouldn’t stop telling anyone who would listen that shadowy people are out to kill him — a faked death actually belongs on the less-weird side of the John McAfee ledger of completely mad exploits.

John McAfee, 1945-2021

And it wasn’t just that bad guys were out to get him. They wanted you too.

McAfee started to rant about the Internet of Things in one of his last conversations with me. It’s a sector he described as “a hacker’s wet dream.”

“We’re approaching a situation where we won’t have the resources to stop, prevent, or recover from the potential damage coming down this pike,”John explained it to me.

If that’s indeed the case, I asked him, what would it take to make people think twice about filling their homes with smart thermostats, refrigerators, lightbulbs, and the like?

“Basically, a catastrophe,”He replied. “When it was about entering World War II, what did that take? The annihilation of America’s Pacific fleet … We’re lazy. We’re indolent. We just think the best is going to happen — and if the worst happens, someone will take care of me. But they won’t. Not this time.”

The code that didn’t belong

A profile of John was my project the year before. The Guardian. John was kind enough to send me a photo of him that I could use with the piece. This is the kind of photo that makes your heart sing. “He totally did it.”

The grainy image shows a shirtless John standing in a dining area. His hand was resting on what appeared to be a sheep that was sitting on top of a table. For some reason, a gun scope had been placed on top. 

Run with the Devil, at one point, suggests that John’s vocation was so obvious in hindsight, because the man who once stood at the vanguard of antivirus software and security was, himself, the virus. He was the code that did not belong, that didn’t fit, operating according to some mysterious purpose, a tenant of the dark side.

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