5 incredible stories of people with memory disorders

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Human beings often take memory for granted, not truly appreciating the little things like being able to remember a street name, or what the weather was like two days ago. But what if you couldn't remember anything that happened in the past 20 years? Even worse, what if you couldn't forget any of your mistakes, regrets, and hopes gone awry?

Check out these incredible true stories of harrowing memory disorders that you simply won't forget.

Brad Pitt

He has one of the most famous faces in the world, but don't be shocked if Brad Pitt can't remember yours. Pitt believes that he may have prosopagnocia, or face blindness, according to CNN. People with prosopagnocia are unable to recognize the distinguishing characteristics that make each person's face unique.

Some with prosopagnocia will often look for other visual cues to identify strangers, such as voice, body language, and other distinguishing physical characteristics. But Brad Pitt's fame has definitely helped put a face on this neurological disorder.

Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan was one of the most unforgettable presidents in recent memory. But when Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994, some people began questioning when the conservative icon's mental deterioration actually began.

Reagan was known to experience memory lapses with names during his time in office, one time accidentally referring to Vice President George Bush as Prime Minister Bush, according to Time. Former White House correspondent Lesley Stahl recounted in her book "Reporting Live" that in an interview with Reagan in 1986, the president didn't seem to remember who she was. Stahl says she came close to reporting that Reagan was senile before he regained his alertness by the end of the interview.

However, Reagan's doctors continuously denied claims that the president's mental health was deteriorating. After the public announcement of his condition, Reagan made far fewer public appearances until his death in 2004.

Agatha Christie

English author Agatha Christie would probably most like to be remembered for her wildly popular detective novels that captivated the world during the early 20th century. But few could easily forget about Christie's 11-day disappearance in 1926, which the author claims was brought on by amnesia.

In December 1926, Christie became front-page news after she mysteriously disappeared without a trace from her home in England. Eleven days later, Christie was found in a fugue state, living in a spa hotel in Harrogate, England, living under a pseudonym.

Doctors initially diagnosed Christie with suffering a brief lapse of amnesia, but others were more skeptical about the author's disappearance. Christie's husband Archie had asked her for a divorce around that time, and the same night that Agatha had disappeared, Archie had left to be with his mistress. Many think that Christie's alleged amnesia might have been the result of depression and stress, while others believe it was just a publicity stunt. Regardless, Christie's 11-day disappearance in the 1920s continues to baffle people to this day.

Anterograde Amnesia

What do Dory from Finding Nemo and Drew Barrymore's character in 50 First Dates have in common? They both suffer from anterograde amnesia, the inability to create new memories while long term ones remain intact.

Anterograde amnesia is usually caused by benzodiazepine drugs or head trauma. Those who suffer from this type of amnesia can remember things like how to talk on the phone or drive a car, but not necessarily who they were trying to call, or where they were trying to go.

While anterograde amnesia has been used as plot points in notable movies like Finding Nemo, 50 First Dates, and Memento, there are many harrowing stories of real people with the disorder. Michele Philpots wakes up every day thinking she is living in 1994 after suffering brain damage from two car crashes. According to The Mirror, while Philpots forgets things like addresses or phone numbers, she still can remember the pattern for entering in the numbers on a phone.

Benjamin Kyle

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In 2004, an unidentified man now living under the pseudonym Benjamin Kyle was discovered unconscious and naked outside of a Burger King in Richmond Hill, GA. The restaurant's employees called 911, and Kyle was taken to the St. Joseph's/Chandler Hospital in Savannah, where it was discovered he suffered blunt force trauma in his skull. More shockingly, however, was that Kyle couldn't remember who he was.

Kyle has been able to recollect some of his earlier memories from life pre-2004, including being in the Denver metropolitan area and walking through the University of Colorado at Boulder's campus, and possibly in the Indianapolis area as well. Kyle reportedly has extensive knowledge of restaurant equipment, suggesting that he might have worked in that industry at some point in time.

But some have been skeptical about Kyle's alleged memory loss. While hosting a Reddit AMA, two Reddit users commented to Kyle, saying that they recognized him from working at a Waffle House in Kennesaw, GA. However, Kyle states that the Reddit users didn't reply when he reached out to them. In February 2015, genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick stated that Kyle had cut off all contact with her when she was close to finding a DNA match.

While extensive genetic testing throughout the years has shed light on bits and pieces of Kyle's past, nothing conclusive about his identity has been revealed. And even after years of media coverage and a dedicated website, no family members, friends or acquaintances have come forward saying that they know Kyle. But without a social security guard or any document stating his identity, Kyle is stuck in personal limbo.


While memory disorders have proven to be unforgettable medical mysteries, they have also served as fodder for thrilling storytelling fiction. David Baldacci's upcoming novel Memory Man focuses on a rising football star named Amos Decker, whose career collapses after suffering a violent helmet-to-helmet collision. Decker gets hyperthymesia, an extremely rare condition that makes him unable to forget anything.

Two decades after suffering the heavy blow, Decker's life is once again unraveling, with the murder of his wife, young daughter and brother-in-law. But over a year later, as Decker is barely scraping by, a mysterious figure confesses to the murders, just as a horrific event brings his hometown down to its knees. Now with the chance to finally find out the truth of what happened to his family that night, Decker must use his incredible memory gifts and confront the burdens that go with them to bring closure to his ongoing nightmare.

David Baldacci is the #1 New York Times bestselling novelist behind The Target, The Finisher and countless other works. Baldacci's work has been praised for its gripping suspense and intrigue, and his latest novel Memory Man will surely be an unforgettable treat for readers.