Join 3,421 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Mystery Man Awakes in Seattle
August 20, 2009 10:37 AM   Subscribe

A well-dressed man wakes up in a Seattle city park. He has $600 in his sock and no memory of who he is or how he got there. He is fluent in English, French and German and has an apparent deep knowledge of European cultural history. He seems to have traveled the world. And he says he is a widower. Doctors suspect he is not faking it but they don’t know how to help. Police are stumped as well.

The man has provided a list of clues but nothing authorities are able to use to identify him.

Within hours of his story going online, a reader in Shanghai, China recognizes him. At least, now, they know who he is but they still don’t know how he ended up in Seattle. The story is still unfolding and the stories in these links may change.
posted by bz (75 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sounds like the viral marketing setup for a video game.
posted by localroger at 10:40 AM on August 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


He's the promotions director for a ski resort in New Mexico, isn't he?
posted by dersins at 10:42 AM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think there are enough video games where the protagonist has a mustache like that.
posted by Plutor at 10:44 AM on August 20, 2009


Give him a handgun and demand that he field strip it immediately. If he can, but still cannot remember who he is, run like hell in the other direction.
posted by jquinby at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2009 [47 favorites]


Editor's note: Within hours of posting this story online, a reader identified Jon Doe as Edward Lighthart, an English teacher he knew in China. The reader, David Akast, said Lighthart taught at English schools in China and "had an incredible knowledge of European cultural history."

Photos of Mr. Lighthart on the Internet suggest that it is he.

But it doesn't answer the key question of how he ended up in Seattle.

posted by strixus at 10:49 AM on August 20, 2009


Maybe it's Evan Ratliff!
posted by kmz at 10:49 AM on August 20, 2009


If it's viral, it's been in the works for a while.
posted by setanor at 10:50 AM on August 20, 2009


Hmm, looks like the mystery has already been solved. Too bad, because it sounds like it would have made for a decent TV show or something.
posted by TBAcceptor at 10:51 AM on August 20, 2009


And you find yourself in a park, in a large beautfiul city.
And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?
And you may ask yourself, Am I right? ...am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself Oh my god!...what have I done?
posted by msalt at 10:53 AM on August 20, 2009 [41 favorites]


Most comments in the thread accompanying the article are typical local newspaper crap but the sleuthing reminded me a bit of MeFi. I just hope this doesn't turn out to be some elaborate hoax as some in the threads have already said.
posted by bz at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2009


See also.
posted by klue at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2009


I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


Google Image search for Edward Lighthart brings up this page, which certainly seems to fit a lot of the details, and the photo seems pretty conclusive.

I wonder if there'll ever be any conclusive evidence of what happened to him.
posted by Naberius at 11:02 AM on August 20, 2009


You awaken in a wooded park.

>inv

You have 600$ in your sock.

>e

You encounter policeman.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:03 AM on August 20, 2009 [54 favorites]


See also
posted by nímwunnan at 11:07 AM on August 20, 2009


You encounter policeman.

drop all except cash

go north
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:08 AM on August 20, 2009


go north

You find a trusty brass lantern.
posted by hippybear at 11:15 AM on August 20, 2009


Does he still have both kidneys?
posted by Windopaene at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


go north

You are knee-deep in Shilshole bay.
posted by everichon at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


d

You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
posted by LordSludge at 11:26 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought that they killed Treadstone. Look for the capsule in his hip.
posted by willmize at 11:32 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sounds like something out of a Thom Jones short story...
posted by Bron at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2009


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

It is very dark here. You are likely to be eaten by Ken Griffey Jr.
posted by dersins at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2009 [14 favorites]


The Rebourne Identity.
posted by ericb at 11:39 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this part of Damon, Carlton and a Polar Bear?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:42 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


look jacket

You discover a small piece of paper and a teleportation access card in the pocket of the uniform.
posted by greensweater at 11:44 AM on August 20, 2009


I'll give the man kudos for setting up the backstory as to why he forgot his partner's birthday.
posted by maxwelton at 11:46 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eponysterical?
posted by cog_nate at 11:49 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Previously (different guy)
posted by cillit bang at 11:49 AM on August 20, 2009


is it _why?
posted by carlodio at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


My money's on hoax.
posted by rusty at 11:58 AM on August 20, 2009


WaitwaitwaitCRUCIAL!--TBAcceptor's link is a wikipedia article that many may skip, so here's the gold--a summary of the pilot episode from the protagonist's POV:

"I woke up in an island off the coast of Seattle. I didn't know how I got there ... or who I was. But I did seem to know everything else. There were things about me I didn't understand ... the brand, being colorblind, extreme claustrophobia. And while my gifts provided answers for others, I still search for my own. My name is John Doe."

Apparently he knows lots of stuff on TV, too. And not just European empires.

...

I say we ask Ed how many dimples are on a golf ball and go from there.
posted by JaiMahodara at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2009


Wow, cog_nate, that's funny. I did not know that. I did know about Benzine, Belize and Branch on Zero and I knew about Battle Zone, Blizzard and Below Zero but I did not know about 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate.
posted by bz at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2009


XYZZY! XYZZY!
posted by Aquaman at 12:37 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know this one. The ice was on the road and the "crushed lemon" was actually a car!
posted by bondcliff at 12:38 PM on August 20, 2009


Don't get me started about that John Doe TV series. I still want to find the writers and beat the backstory out of them.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:43 PM on August 20, 2009


JaredSeth, if I recall correctly the series creators did explain what was supposed to happen at the end online somewhere, some time after the show got canned. I seem to recall reading it and being disappointed.
posted by reptile at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2009


You are knee-deep in Shilshole bay.

Steal yacht.

Cruise to Hawaii.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Found it, here.
posted by reptile at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2009


I hope it's not a hoax.. it's a very interesting story.
posted by iohyem at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2009


Well Dressed Man? It's gotta be Frank Booth.
posted by Strshan at 1:07 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Recall that Ludlum took the name Bourne from the case of Ansel Bourne^, which is one of the earliest documented cases of a probable dissociative fugue.
posted by dhartung at 3:48 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


from setanor's comment: the guy has a business with a web site.

on this page, he sure looks like rip taylor to me.
posted by bruceo at 3:53 PM on August 20, 2009


Know who else had a moustache and was fluent in German?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


A well-dressed man wakes up in a Seattle city park…

Just a thought: would we even be hearing about a random amnesiac discovered in a park if he wasn't well-dressed and didn't have $600 in cash?
posted by ixohoxi at 4:13 PM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Kaiser Wilhelm?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I did not know about 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate.

That's how you know it's working.
posted by rokusan at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Next let's solve the mystery of why the Seattle Times couldn't take a more flattering photo.

Also, Jon Doe?
posted by kirkaracha at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2009


A well-dressed man wakes up in a Seattle city park…

Just a thought: would we even be hearing about a random amnesiac discovered in a park if he wasn't well-dressed?


Depends. Did his music define the Woodstock Generation?
posted by rokusan at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


reptile, thanks.

Although, after reading that, I want to find the writers and beat the backstory back into them.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


can he play the piano?
posted by HuronBob at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


can he play the piano?*

Can he play the violin?
posted by ericb at 5:55 PM on August 20, 2009


Wait, John Doe was the sequel to Brainstorm?
posted by localroger at 5:56 PM on August 20, 2009


Editor's note: Within hours of posting this story online, a reader identified Jon Doe as Edward Lighthart, an English teacher he knew in China. The reader, David Akast, said Lighthart taught at English schools in China and "had an incredible knowledge of European cultural history."

Photos of Mr. Lighthart on the Internet suggest that it is he.


Neat!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 6:07 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. I really should refresh more often....
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2009


"I find myself in tears that I don't know if I want the memories," he said.

Am I the only one who finds this remarkable?
posted by Beardman at 6:46 PM on August 20, 2009


Update
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Know who else had a moustache and was fluent in German?

This guy?
posted by armage at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2009


The $600 in the sock is the oddest detail, I feel... and that includes the moustache.
posted by Kattullus at 7:46 PM on August 20, 2009


Am I the only one who finds this remarkable?

It dook me just over 1 hour and 24 minutes to ask everyone. I found 3 other people who found it remarkable. Two in Uruguay for some reason, and a walrus in the antarctica.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:10 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of the story of Barre Cox.

...The disappearance of Barre Cox was a major news story in 1984. A minister living in San Antonio, Mr. Cox disappeared in July during a trip from Lubbock to Abilene. His ransacked car was later discovered, and an extensive search led by the Texas Rangers turned up nothing. ... Only when he auditioned last month for White Rock's vacant pastor position did his two lives come together: someone in the congregation recognized him as Barre Cox, a name he said he had never heard.
posted by neuron at 8:36 PM on August 20, 2009


Lighthart has a sister in Las Vegas. She told The Times today that he lived with her for a year and a half but left last month after her roommate said Lighthart could no longer stay without paying rent.

"He just disappeared," said his sister, who asked not to be identified for personal reasons. She tried to report his disappearance to the police, without success.

She said he didn't have a car and left his belongings behind, including his computer. "We never got along very well," the sister said. "He would disappear for eight or 10 years at a time and then pop back up. It's obvious he's got issues."

She said Lighthart, 53, is very intelligent but had emotional problems.

Until contacted by The Times, she didn't know where he had gone and had no idea why he'd come to Seattle.

"Financially I can't support him," she said. "He has all the skills it takes to work and he won't. I simply can't support him.

posted by granted at 9:11 PM on August 20, 2009


Wow. It sounds like a century ago this guy might have ended up as Emperor Norton.
posted by Naberius at 9:21 PM on August 20, 2009


Okay... so, maybe I should have entitled this: "A well-dressed flakey guy wakes up in a Seattle city park."
posted by bz at 9:54 PM on August 20, 2009


The reality that he probably has some emotional/psychological problems and suffered some sort of breakdown that gave him amnesia makes a lot of sense, but really killed the whimsy of the whole thing.
posted by whoaali at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2009


Were you hoping it was time travel, like I was?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:33 PM on August 20, 2009


I was gunning for abduction.

(plus, I'm thinking sis was the nuttier. lives in vegas..wasn't able to "successfully" report the disappearance of her brother to the cops...

fascinating tortured historian? widowed 20 yrs ago, hit with amnesia, and only able to remember european history and the loss of his wife? whimsy lives. ah, romace....<3<3
posted by JaiMahodara at 12:35 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


the whimsy of the whole thing

Yes, because the first thing I think when a guy suffers a traumatic brain injury which leaves him with no recollection of who he is or how he got there, is "O ho! How jolly! What a lark!".
posted by ixohoxi at 5:03 AM on August 21, 2009


Yes, because the first thing I think when a guy suffers a traumatic brain injury which leaves him with no recollection of who he is or how he got there, is "O ho! How jolly! What a lark!".

Yeah that was kind of my point. His story sounds like the beginning of a more romantic version of the Bourne Identity, but of course the actual reality is rather horrible.
posted by whoaali at 9:13 AM on August 21, 2009


A followup article posted this morning.
posted by bz at 9:17 AM on August 21, 2009


Yeah that was kind of my point.

Ah, I see.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:41 AM on August 21, 2009


I'm interested to see if they'll expound on the Tina thing, which seems to be a nugget that hasn't panned out, yet. Is it the one erroneous movie scene that slipped into his conscious? His friends say he never marrried, did he just reveal a terrifying scene from his past that he'd never told a soul about?
posted by redsparkler at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2009


plus, I'm thinking sis was the nuttier. lives in vegas..wasn't able to "successfully" report the disappearance of her brother to the cops...

The disappearance of a peripatetic, flaky adult who's been thrown out of his apartment for not paying rent is unlikely to get a super-enthusiastic response from an overstressed, underfunded police department. Especially if he's had prolonged periods of being out of touch with the sister before.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2009


All we know is, he's called The Stig.
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:47 PM on August 21, 2009


"O ho! How jolly! What a lark!"

...Ok, fair ixohoxi. I'm as kind and understanding as the next mefite, but Let It Be Known that if I personally suffer brain trauma which damages me in a unique way, I hope someone deigns to write a musical about it.
posted by JaiMahodara at 10:11 AM on August 24, 2009


« Older The top 10 fake-chicken sandwiches in the U.S....  |  Fifty years ago, those decryin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments