The Greatest Deception

by Amy Rice

The Woman Who Wasn't There

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 18th, Mount Saint Mary College hosted the documentary screening of “The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception,” directed by Angelo Guglielmo Jr. Director Angelo Guglielmo, a charismatic, funny, and energetic storyteller, was present at the event to talk with the audience, answer questions, and sign copies of his book after the film.

Director Angelo Guglielmo speaks to the Mount community. (Photo by Laura Boctor)

This documentary told the story of Tania Head, a fraudulent September 11th survivor who was able to deceive the country with her fantastical rendition of her fictional experience escaping from the World Trade Center on that fateful day. “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” first aired in April on the Investigation Discovery Network, and smashed rating records. It was no surprise as to why, after the audience was transported into the delusional mind of Tania Head and her close-knit family of survivors that, as Guglielmo described, “had no idea she was holding a very, very dark secret.”

Tania Head tells a terrifying story about her experience in the World Trade Center on that dark day. Head was on the 78th floor when the second plane hit. She flew through the air and hit against the marble wall. Her arm and body were on fire. Head recalls “the man in the red bandanna ” later identified as Welles Crowther, rushing over to her and trying to put out the fire by frantically waving the red bandanna. With her arm dangling off, burnt to a crisp, Head was able to make her way down 78 flights of stairs and into the arms of a firefighter who carried her to safety. She was the only person on her floor to survive. Head spent two weeks in the hospital for her arm. She was in a wheelchair, and struggled to even stand up.

Head also lost her newly wed husband, David, in the terrorist attack. Needless to say, she was traumatized. She joined the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network to find relief and support. Head quickly became deeply involved with its members and created strong bonds and friendships. Other members admired her strength and courage; many believed her story was the most terrifying they’ve heard. Nonetheless, she was positive, charismatic, and didn’t seem to let negativity influence her life. She was even recognized by New York City’s Mayors, Bloomberg and Giuliani, administering tours of Ground Zero alongside them. She was an integral part of the Survivors network, and essentially the face of it.

The New York Times began to gain interest in Head’s story, and decided to do a feature on her. However, Head became withdrawn, panicked, and refused to answer their questions. Eventually, it was revealed that there was a serious problem with Tania Head…

Alicia Esteve

Alicia Esteve/Tania Head (Photo courtesy of Guglielmo)

She didn’t exist. There was no survivor named Tania Head. In fact, her name wasn’t Tania Head, it was Alicia Esteve. She was never married to David, and worst of all, she was never there. She was not in the World Trade Center on September 11th, but in her home in Spain. She is a delusional, mentally sick, pathological liar that broke the hearts and trust of hundreds of survivors that looked up to her for inspiration and strength. Her arm was severed in a car accident in Spain, which is why her story seemed  believable. She made up a false identity and sold it to the public and the survivors.

Alicia Esteve, the woman who contrived the ultimate deception, was never seen again until September 14, 2011 when Guglielmo spotted her on the streets of New York. She denied talking to him, and demanded that he leave her alone. Ironically, the documentary had only started because Esteve wanted Guglielmo to record her story. What she and Guglielmo both didn’t know was that it was the beginning of the revelation of the greatest deception.

In addition to the film, Guglielmo co-wrote a book with Robin Gaby Fisher on the same topic.