Internet rallies behind man found in Burger King bin
The man, who is believed to have dissociative amnesia, woke up in hospital with no memory of his name, identity or how he ended up naked at Burger King.
After nurses repeatedly asked him for his name he chose the initials BK and the name ‘Benjamin Kyle’ because of the Burger King connection. Doctors called him ‘The Burger King John Doe’ (John Doe is the American version of Joe Bloggs).
“I had no idea who I was. I couldn’t remember,” Mr Kyle told ABCNews.com. “I had no idea how I got there.”
National and international fingerprint searches have found no matches for the man, who can’t remember anything about his life or background. He has been fingerprinted by the FBI fives times.
“I’m not in any of the databases that they can search,” he said. “Basically, I don’t exist. I’m a walking, talking person who is invisible to all the bureaucracy.”
In the past few years he has appeared in newspaper articles and on American talk show Dr Phil, but no one has come forward to say they know him and he still does not know who he is.
But ABCNews.com reports that a website, www.findingbenjaman.com, a documentary film and internet sites such as Reddit and Twitter, are rallying behind Mr Kyle to solve the mystery of his identity.
Filmmaker John Wikstrom made a documentary about Mr Kyle and was frustrated to find how few resources there were for unidentified people.
“I’ve been working on this for almost two years now, and I truly believe within the next month, people all over the country will get him a new Social Security number,” Mr Wikstrom told ABCNews.com in an email.
“Their collective altruism, combined with the networking power of the Internet, is really something.”
Mr Wikstrom posted his documentary, Finding Benjaman online and has created a website dedicated to Mr Kyle. He also started a petition on the White House’s We the People website, an initiative that enables people’s causes to be addressed by the White House.
The petition needs to garner 25,000 signatures in 30 days for the White House to consider it.
“What’s really inspiring was how quickly people banded together to sign and spread the petition,” Mr Wikstrom told ABCNews. “Within one day, we got 6000 signatures, and the Vimeo view count is almost up to 100,000. That really seems to be the narrative of what happened. Since the government hasn’t been able to do anything, people are taking this into their own hands.”
Following the documentary’s release, Mr Kyle was able to get a special Florida state identification card, but the man with no memory still doesn’t have a birth certificate or Social Security number.
He has been told that because there is a presumption that he was given a Social Security number at some point, he cannot get another one.
“There are very limited situations where we’ll actually issue a new number,” Kia Green Anderson, a spokeswoman for the US Social Security Administration, told ABCNews.com.
A Reddit question-and-answer session with Mr Kyle has also created new buzz about him and generated a few leads about his former identity.
“Nothing is solidified, and we’re still on the hunt, but there were two people who believe they met him working at a Waffle House in Georgia,” Mr Wikstrom said.
It’s not an absurd connection: Mr Kyle recently got a job at a restaurant and said he was amazed to find that he instinctively knew how to operate the machinery. The skills led him to believe that he may have previously worked in a kitchen.
“There were also multiple people who reached out to Benjaman, offering to help him travel to Indianapolis and Denver, places he remembers various details of,” Mr Wikstrom said. “While Benjaman needs to continue working during the holidays, Benjaman indeed may travel next year, all because of the good samaritans of the Internet.”
Some people accuse Mr Kyle of faking his condition, but he insists there is no reason he would do so.
“You’ll find a lot of people who say it’s all bogus, that I’m faking it for whatever reason – but one thing’s for sure: I’m not getting rich out of it,” Mr Kyle said. “I’m 64. I’m trying to get on with my life as best as I can. I figure I’ve got 10 more years to live considering my social and economic bracket. I can’t make any long-term plans other than try to get along mostly day to day.”
Many living unidentified people suffer from mental illnesses that render them unable to remember who they are. Fingerprint scans do not often lead to matches, indicating they do not have criminal records and their faces do not appear in databases for missing people.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), working under the US Department of Justice, has several databases, but does not currently have one that includes the living unidentified. But after being presented with a number of cases of living unidentified, they are developing a new database that they hope to launch by the end of this year, ABCNews.com reports.
“The traditional system is in dealing with unidentified deceased, but we know there are unidentified living,” NamUs spokesman Todd Matthews told ABCNews.com. “We have to include the missing. They’re missing from somewhere.”