X-Message-Number: 14124
From: "George Smith" <>
References: <>
Subject: Re: Amnesia story
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 11:46:09 -0700

In message  #14117: "Woman loses identity...", James Swayze recounted the
televised story of a woman who purportedly lost her memory and was then
"adopted" by other people (truckers), given a new name, etc.

This sounds all too much like the kind of stories spun out by some of my
former institutionalized psychiatric patients.  One patient (not one of
mine) became quite famous in the 1980's, appearing on popular television
talk shows with her stories of criminal abuse by sinister underground
criminal organizations - all of which was a complete fabrication including
even the name she gave at the time.

It is worth remembering that about 20 years ago the US dumped most
institutionalized psychiatric patients on the streets (swelling the
so-called "homeless" problem) assuming that they would willingly take their
daily medications and be able to operate normally in society.  Many did.
Many didn't.

Sometimes those that have not done as well come up with some fairly amazing
stories, like this one.  I would be interested to discover WHY she
purportedly stole a car BEFORE her purported amnesiac episode and, more
importantly, if there is any objective evidence to support ANY of the
incidents she related.

I would not be the least surprised to discover that she (1) never stole a
car, (2) never was injured in a car, (3) cannot find nor name any of the
people who "adopted" her, (4) isn't even now who she claims to be (false
name) (5) has a psychiatric history.

One point that stretches my imagination is to believe that no one would have
either gone to the police or other authorities to try and determine who this
"amnesiac" was.  This implies that there exist autonomous subcultures within
the US where one can anonymously live completely outside the system.  Those
that appear to be such ("gypsies" are one group which come to mind) are
usually incredibly insular and bonded by blood relations - not likely to
take in strange amnesiacs and thereby court charges of kidnapping from the
authorities they already distrust!

Again, this kind of wild, adventurous tale of hidden societies reminds me of
the kind of nonsense tales spun by ex-psychiatric patients.  They feel a
need to be center stage in amazing dramas set outside the mundane realities
of normal life - a clear compensation for their own feeling of low

American television has an abysmal record of seeking sensationalism and
dressing it up as fact when it turns out to be abject nonsense.  Geraldo
Rivera types abound.  (I still remember his much hyped television
"documentary" in which he "exposed" an international child sex-slave and
abuse conspiracy - which the FBI after careful investigation had already
rejected as an urban legend - and no public correction nor apology from Mr.
Rivera to date to my knowledge).

The reason I am going on about this is because I DO feel that we can gather
valuable information from the experiences of GENUINE amnesiacs relevant to
our interests in cryonics.  (More fuel for serious investigators like Thomas
Donaldson, et al).  But it is equally important to not include conscious or
unconscious confabulation as fact.  We ALL do unconscious confabulation (we
call it dreaming) but the conscious sort can be a serious problem when
trying to sort out what is true.

Clinically verified experiences of amnesiacs is helpful.  I doubt that this
one woman's story is true, however.  I wonder when she will be on Geraldo
Rivera's next dog and pony show?

George Smith

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