The Desert Sun in Palm Springs has been all over the bizarre story of Michael Boatwright, the Navy veteran from Florida who woke up four months ago speaking only Swedish in a Motel 6 in the desert. As unlikely as the story sounds, the facts check out and doctors have diagnosed Boatwright, 61, as a victim of a rare but recognized form of amnesia usually triggered by stress or psychological trauma. This week the Desert Sun adds an interview with his sister in Louisiana, who had not heard from Boatwright in several years, and a former girlfriend in Sweden, where Boatwright had lived for awhile. He arrived in Palm Springs in February on a flight from Hong Kong, carrying four forms of apparently proper ID. When he awoke he called himself Johan Ek.
"He’s always been just a wanderer. Then he’d come back when he needed some money or something from somebody. Then he’d take off again,” [his sister] told The Desert Sun....
A social worker has struggled to piece together what happened to Boatwright before he was found unconscious in a room at Motel 6 on Feb. 28, as first reported by The Desert Sun. He carried four tennis rackets, two cell phones and a set of photographs.
The story cracked open Monday after media across the world — from the Swedish paper Aftonbladet to the Daily Mail in the U.K. to the Huffington Post — picked up his story. It captured the imagination of amateur sleuths across the country who have sent The Desert Sun photos of people who look like Boatwright, while Internet users in Sweden said they recognized him as an American who moved to Sweden in the 1980s.
“I'm in shock ... having just rediscovered a childhood sweetheart who has lost his memory in the United States,” Ewa Espling wrote on her Facebook wall.
Boatwright learned to speak “decent” Swedish and played on a jousting team with a Medieval association, according to Aftonbladet....
Espling said she met Boatwright on his first visit, when he was wandering the street and looking lost. She thought he had “the most kind eyes [she] had ever seen” and invited him to coffee.
He left Sweden for good round 2003 and has lived on a boat in Rhode Island. Online profile suggest he taught English in Japan for 10 years and China for four years, the Desert Sun says.