Britain's Piano Man Mystery Plays On
Found wandering an island April 7, the man hasn't said a word but has a talent for classical piano
The human brain's function is to save information necessary for survival. Useful information is either moved to our long-term memory or sorted out if determined to have no further meaning for our lives.
Usually, this system works impressively, allowing for our survival in an environment that becomes more complex every day.
Usually. But sometimes it fails.
Where the normal function of the human brain ends, the story of the apparently mute Piano Man begins. He was found April 7, wandering near Sheerness Beach on the Isle of Sheppey, southeast England, dressed in a drenched suit and tie.
Since being found, the man has not spoken a word. The only hint he gave doctors at Medway Maritime Hospital, where he was first treated, is a picture he drew of a piano.
The mystery man drew the picture when he was given a pencil and paper by doctors, whose intention was to have him write down his name. Members from the staff of the secure mental health care unit where the man is now being treated say he doesn't draw in order to communicate.
Meanwhile, the man is able to play piano for hours, though opinions about the quality of his music differ.
The British press has compared the man's case to the genius piano player David Helfgott who became famous through the Oscar-winning 1996 movie "Shine."
Helfgott, aged 58, suffers from borderline personality disorder and has a formative past in several mental health care units. His greatest performance took place in 1970 at London's Royal Albert Hall, followed by a nervous breakdown and 10 years of psychiatric treatment. Today, Helfgott has revived his career and performs all around the globe.
Thus it could be the Piano Man is surfing the wave of Helfgott's story, perhaps as a highly intelligent illegal immigrant. Grounds for this assumption include the comment of the clinic's chapel pastor, who described the man as a well-educated amateur, saying he knew just "a small number of compositions, which he plays again and again."
Another hint at this alternative explanation of the Piano Man case is the obvious removal of all labels from his clothes -- a common strategy of illegal immigrants to hide their true identity.
However, no one can be completely sure whether the man is a genius actor or an unfortunate and helpless man who has lost his memory and thus deserves our full sympathy and engagement.
Being in doubt, it remains the duty of everybody to have a look at his picture and help identify him.
If you are from outside the United Kingdom and you have seen this man before, call the Missing Persons Helpline: +44 20 83 92 4545.
From inside the U.K., call 0500 700700.
The Italian newspaper Il Trentino recently reported that hotelkeeper Roberto Pincelli claims the mystery man to have been a guest of his hotel at the end of 2001.
Another recent report says that the man may be a Czech classical musician. AFP quoted a man who claimed to have played in the same rock band some years ago. No positive identity has yet been made.
Case 05-002720, Kent, 2005
A man was found wandering near the beach in Sheerness, Kent, late at night on the 8th of April 2005. He was soaking wet, as if having been in the sea, and was wearing a formal black suit and white shirt. He is described as tall and thin with short brown hair. Very little is known about this man as he has not been speaking with staff at the hospital where he is being cared for, but he has a talent for playing classical piano. When found he communicated with hospital staff by drawing a Swedish flag and a piano. / NMPH
Alexander Krabbe is a German medical student at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald, Pomerania.Autor:
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