Germany, Forests, Teenagers and Canoes

German authorities have a mystery on their hands.

On September 5, 2011, a boy- most likely a teen- wandered into the administrative offices of City Hall in Berlin, Germany’s capital.

Claiming to know only his first name- Ray- his story is remarkable. He told authorities that he is 17 years old, that he had been living in the wild with his father, Ryan, for the last five years. Ray and his father had moved into the woods when his mother, Doreen, had been killed in a car accident. Ray might have been in the car accident too, as he told at least one person that he still bears scars on his legs from the tragedy. After the accident, his father moved them into the forest, where they lived as savages in the wild, until Ryan was killed during an accidental fall.

Ray claims he buried his father in a shallow grave, pulled out his compass, and began walking north to Berlin. His father, he explained, had always told him to go to Berlin, should anything ever happen.

The walk, it is estimated, was about 150 miles long.

Ray has no memory of where he was born, or who he is. He speaks only broken German, but is fluent in English. Authorities do not believe he is from England, as he is said to have a “strange” accent, one that is not easily identifiable.

Upon his arrival in Germany, an official directed him to a children’s support facility, and he successfully navigated the route, alone, via public transit. A city employee, who spoke with the boy at length, recalls he did not have any form of identification on him, nor did he seem to know what “identification”- such as a passport- even was. He was, however, well spoken and polite. His clothing was clean, did not appear disheveled, and had enough money in his pocket (a few coins) to pay the bus fare required to reach the youth support facility, though he did not seem to know how to count it.

He didn’t look like at all like a vagrant – he didn’t smell, he was clean, his clothes were clean but he simply didn’t know anything about who he was.

Ray came to city hall with a backpack, sleeping bag and little else, save for those coins in his pocket.

He was placed in a “care home” facility for 10 days, where his demeanor seemed unremarkable, and mostly normal. He interacted well with others, save for the language barrier, enjoyed watching TV, sleeping in a bed and taking regular showers.

A fellow resident, a youth, recalls Ray’s broken German causing an issue with verbal communication, but says they watched TV together and both enjoyed smoking cigarettes.

Police and mental health experts alike have all tried to speak with Ray, and while he’s friendly enough, he seems to lack any information that could help them identify who he is, or where he is from. Over and over again, they’ve hit a dead end. They have been unsuccessful in locating any missing persons reports that coincide with the timeframe Ray has provided of his disappearance. They haven’t been able to find any record of a fatal crash in which a woman named Doreen was killed either.

So far, the corpse of Ryan, Ray’s father, has not surfaced.

This story calls to mind one of James Darwin, who famously faked his own death in 2002, only to resurface years later, in 2007. Darwin was married at the time of his disappearance, with two sons. He was deeply in debt, and took out a life insurance policy on himself.

He was reported missing and presumed dead when he disappeared during a canoeing trip. The smashed remains of his canoe were later located, as was a single rowing oar. In 2003, Darwin was declared dead in 2003, allowing his wife to collect on the life insurance.

In 2007 he walked into a London police station and stated, “I think I’m a missing person”. He claimed to have no memory of who he was, or of his past.

Authorities quickly determined Mr. Darwin did, in fact, know who is was. After faking his death, he had reconnected with his wife, and had moved back home. His wife had successfully hidden him on their property, away from their sons, who, like everyone else, had believed their father to be deceased- until he walked into that London police station, that is.

Elation that their father was alive quickly turned to despair, as the brothers learned of the deceit their mother and father participated in for so many years.

While no one is willing to say that Ray, wandering in from the forests of Germany, is a long-lost criminal, there is sufficient reason to doubt parts of his story.

How is it, for example, that a boy who has lived in the wilderness for five years, emerges from the woods looking clean, and has money in his pocket?

How does a boy, who by his own account, has lived in the forest since the age of 12, have money in his pocket?

How does he have any sort of- even basic- working knowledge of public transit in Germany?

One wonders where a boy from the wilderness learned to smoke cigarettes, as he was reportedly fond of doing at the youth support center.

Due to his tender age and friendly demeanor, one wonders if Ray is not a lost boy from the woods, but rather suffering a psychotic break. Perhaps Ray is in a fugue state, having witnessed something so horrible (such as his father killing his mother) that his subconscious mind cannot bear to relive it.

Perhaps Interpol should expand its scope to include domestic incidents; Ordeals in which a mother was killed, and her husband and son disappeared- not just those cases that include automobile accidents.

Ray, while physically located, is still a long way from being found.

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