Mystery men

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It's not every day that missing persons resurface with no idea what's happened to them, but it seems to happen often enough to at least be deemed noteworthy. Here are two of my favorite examples from recent history:

The missing canoeist
Englishman John Darwin was presumed lost at sea five years ago when his canoe washed up on a British beach. Extensive searches produced no leads, but his family, lacking a body, could never fully accept that he was dead. Then, last week, Darwin walked into a police station and told a desk clerk "I think I am a missing person." Darwin has no memory of anything that's happened over the past five years, but has no signs of illness or bodily injury -- he's simply a blank slate.

According to the BBC Health website, amnesia patients struggle to imagine new and future experiences as well as being unable to recall events from their past. Participants in a new study "were asked to imagine something new and not something they had experienced previously. Those with amnesia could not imagine plausible future events or general fictitious experiences. Researchers said the results showed those suffering from amnesia were 'forced to live in the present.'"

The piano man
piano man 2.jpgStranger still is the 2005 case of the so-called "piano man," who was found wandering aimlessly in a own on the English coast, no possessions save the suit -- soaking wet -- he wore on his back. Very agitated but unwilling (or unable) to speak, he was taken to a hospital where staff gave him a pencil and paper to help him communicate. He sketched a highly detailed and shaded picture of a piano, so they showed him to one in a common area, and he sat and proceeded to play classical pieces like a virtuosos for four hours straight.

The man's image and story were disseminated throughout Europe, and despite a massive outpouring of potential leads, the mystery was finally solved when the man suddenly began speaking, after four months of silence in the mental hospital. He revealed that he was a German musician and mental health worker who had recently lost his job (perhaps triggering a mental breakdown). Whether or not he was faking four months of amnesia, or was simply keeping quiet in some twisted attempt to create a stir, we may never know -- either way, that's extreme behavior!

December 3, 2007 - 5:33am
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