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I Don’t Get the Forest Boy

I’m going to be honest; I don’t get the Forest Boy.  I don’t understand why he did what he did, I don’t understand how it could be publicized for 9 months and not be solved prior to this point, and I cannot fathom how no one called shenanigans before this point.

The story: An English-speaking boy emerges in Berlin saying that he is a 17-year-old boy who has been living in the woods for five years with his father.  His father died and he buried him in a shallow grave, and continued to live in the woods on his own for five days until he emerged with few memories.  He told the police his mother’s name was Doreen, and she died before they went to live in the woods.  Additionally, he knew his birth date.

On Wednesday, CNN reported that the Berlin police were finally releasing an image of the Forest Boy in hopes that someone could help identify him.  He had been living in Berlin since he was found back in September.  So… that’s the first thing.  Why wasn’t a photo released prior to this point?  Such a simple thing to do.  Truly, how many people are found each year with no memory of who they are that we can’t dedicate a little media time to throw their image out there and ask the public for help?

And then, today, we discover that the whole thing was a nine-month-long hoax.  The boy came clean (Why now?  Why not deny the story of the girl who identified him?  Why didn’t he change his appearance to disguise himself before he started the hoax?) and admits that he is now 20 years old.  From the Netherlands.  When he left home at 19, he was reported missing by his family, but because he was an adult, they only conducted a small investigation.  He has been living on government assistance for the last seven months in Berlin.  Which may have been his motive: to have a roof over his head and food.  But aren’t there more concrete ways one can go about conning the system that won’t be unraveled the moment a photo is released?

And somewhat more amazing, no one questioned the validity of his story.  He didn’t slip up at any point?  Say anything so bizarre that it would make the police question whether or not this boy had buried his father in a shallow grave in the woods?  Nine months is a long time.

I’m trying to figure out why I find this hoax so fascinating.  But I do.  Forest Boy occupied my mind all through yoga.

And on a side note, thank you so far for the movie recommendations.  I’m moving them into the body of the Roundup so people can find them, and I’m going to come back and asterisk the ones the twins end up seeing.  So many good ideas on that list; 90% of which I had totally forgotten about until this point.  Go Internet!  Please keep them coming.


1 It Is What It Is { 06.15.12 at 2:58 pm }

The whole thing was surprising to me as well (why not release a photo earlier when this hoax could have been exposed and all those man hours saved trying to find the shallow grave, etc).

I do know that there are similar stories of amnesia, brain injury, etc. that are true but why the authorities were so slow to act is beyond me.

2 a { 06.15.12 at 7:01 pm }

9 months? Ooookay. I don’t get it either.

3 tigger62077 { 06.15.12 at 8:27 pm }

My first thought upon reading the story (before the hoax reveal) was that it was probably a hoax. Things just…seemed off. His appearance, the story, it didn’t all mesh. Glad to know my hoax radar still works sometimes.

4 St. Elsewhere { 06.16.12 at 1:31 am }

Oh well, I almost thought that this was Mowgli 2.0 …

I was not aware of the Forest Boy…what action will be taken against him?

5 Mijk { 06.16.12 at 2:59 pm }

Beijng dutch I’ve read quite a lot about this but it still confuses the heck out of me. The boy didn’t give ermission to have hos photo shared but it seems to me that is not a reason not to do it. They want to make him pay for his board but it seems to me police ows his family something aswel. They reported him missing 3 days before he turned up in Berlin and a couple of months ago his dad died without knowing where his troubled son was…

6 soleil { 06.17.12 at 12:35 am }

I wonder why he didn’t do a simple hoax. Rock up at a hospital and claim amnesia, no outlandish attention grabbing story required. I guess because something more complex than simply requiring the fundamentals of life was what he wanted, to be special, have that attention. It’s a very sad story.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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