Saturday, 10 July 2010

Forgotten life

Can you imagine spending six years not knowing who you are, trying in vain to find out, your whole life an almost total blank?

Benjaman Kyle* was found beaten, unconscious and naked outside a Burger King restaurant in Richmond Hill, Georgia, on August 31 2004. When he came to, he could remember almost nothing about his life.

He thought his date of birth was August 29 1948, he thought he was called Benjaman, and he had blurred memories of Denver and Indianapolis. And that was that. Everything else was locked away inside his brain, as irretrievable as a teenage waist size.

Had he ever fallen in love? Been married? Had children? What work did he do? Was he good at it? Did he earn a lot of money? Did he smoke? Did he drink? What was his favourite food? He had little idea about any of these things, there was just a big black hole where his memory ought to be.

It must be so incredibly weird, not knowing all these absolutely basic facts about yourself and your life. How odd when people ask you simple questions and you have no answer, just a baffled ignorance.

The police, the FBI, the media, DNA experts and a private detective have all tried to track down who he is, but drawn a blank. He appeared on national TV and there was a flood of leads, but they all went nowhere.

Inevitably some people have claimed his so-called amnesia is just a big publicity stunt and really he can remember everything. Of course they have no proof. And what would be the point?

In reality he must be desperate to retrieve his past and fill the huge void where his life should be.

* He called himself Kyle as a reference to Burger King (BK)

See also his Wikipedia entry (which also has another picture)

22 comments:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I hadn't heard about this case. It's simply dreadful and in some ways, seems like Alzheimer's Dementia in that information cannot be retrieved from an afflicted brain.

Amnesia is not uncommon after serious trauma such as the beating he took. I hope he finds out who he is soon.

Baino said...

Why would anyone want to fake amnesia. It's incredible that nobody recognises him though. Imagine if you wanted to escape your past, feigned amnesia and never paid your debts, I bet you'd be found toot sweet

kylie said...

i'm with baino, why would someone fake it?!
it must be horrible

Nick said...

Heart - Yes, I guess it's a bit like Alzheimers, except that hopefully if he discovers some key details about his identity that'll trigger off a lot of other memories.

Baino - Other people have faked amnesia in the past, but it would be hard to get away with it for six years without someone exposing you.

Kylie - It must be dreadful. He's living in a kind of limbo, lacking the normal identity the rest of us take for granted.

Grannymar said...

There was the "Piano Man" found wandering by Kent police in 2005, who drew a grand piano but four months later was identified as German care worker... To last for six years without anyone picking up some link or trail is most unusual. I'd say he was genuine.

Now I often get stuck for a word, or forget what I have walked into a room for... but six years of that would be hell on earth.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Yes, some relative or friend or co-worker would surely have identified him in six years if he was faking it? I bet he'd love to get stuck for a word occasionally, instead of his whole life being stuck.

Rummuser said...

Actually, it would be a nice experience to go through one of these unbelievable amnesias. Particularly if the police cannot find anything on record! Imagine being able to make a complete new start.

Nick said...

Ramana - Interesting thought. Just suppose he DID commit all sorts of crimes in his pre-amnesia period? As you say, he could start afresh with a clean slate and nobody any the wiser.

So what crimes are YOU trying to hide?

Brighid said...

How very frustrating it must be for him. Strange and sad that no one has come forward to claim him. We all need others to make our lives whole. Boy howdy I would not want to be in his shoes. Is there no sluth who took on this case?

Los Angelista said...

I feel awful for him. He must feel so rootless, so alone without any history or past. Memories truly are precious, good or bad.

Suburbia said...

Can't imagine how frightening it must be to not know yourself, a little like dementia I guess.

Nick said...

Brighid - Very true, we all need others to make our lives whole. And he's lost most of his others. Plenty of sleuths on the trail, but so far they're only hitting dead ends.

Liz - Indeed, memories are so precious and right now he's got so few to enjoy.

Suburbia - I hadn't thought of that. Yes, it must be frightening. You don't know what nasty things might be hidden away in your past.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Quite so, if it's a publicity stunt or some kind of scam, to achieve what exactly? As you say, amnesia often follows severe blows to the head.

Terra Shield said...

Poor guy. I somehow think memories (good or bad) are really, really important.

Rummuser said...

Nick, believe me, you don't want to know.

Nick said...

Terra - Memories are the stuff of life. My own memory is pretty lacking, so I have an inkling of what Benjaman is going through.

Ramana - That bad, huh?

Wisewebwoman said...

I've always been fascinated by the books and movies about this topic.
Though to drift without self-knowledge must be extraordinarily painful.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - That's it, it's like he's drifting down a river, not knowing where he's come from or what's happened on the way.

Clare said...

Is it just me, or would this be strangely liberating? He has a completely blank slate to start life all over again. I'd find that thrilling.

Nick said...

Clare - I suppose you could look at it like that. But it sounds like he really hankers after his forgotten identity, it's really important to him, and he can't just start again from scratch.

Clare said...

That's true Nick. While I'd love it (I wonder what that says about me! :), he clearly doesn't and that's a tragedy.

Nick said...

Clare - Well, hopefully you won't meet a mugger in some dark alley....