It’s 2016, and Sylvia Wilson’s eldest son, Edgar, has been missing for a staggering 30 years. Back in 1986 the 20-year-old vanished without a trace from the Canadian city of Kitchener, leaving his heartbroken mother to fear the worst about his presumably tragic fate. But now a man 80 miles away has slowly begun to recall snippets of a previous life – and the decades-old mystery may finally start to unravel.
Born in April 1965, Edgar – who adopted the surname Latulip – was troubled from a young age. In fact, the boy was just at kindergarten when his mother, Wilson, first began to spot warning signs. Sadly, though, Latulip’s wild conduct would turn out to be the least of his mom’s worries.
As Latulip grew older, then, his behavioral problems became too much for Wilson to bear, and so he was placed in a children’s medical institution in the Canadian city of Montreal. In addition, the boy was given a prescription for anti-psychotic drugs. But this would prove to be just the start of the mother and son’s tumultuous journey together.
Over the years, you see, Latulip was admitted into a number of different hospitals, although he also continued to struggle with his mental health. And according to Wilson, his condition often put a strain on their relationship. “I’ve been through all hell with this guy,” she told The Record in 2016.
“When you have a child like this, you don’t discuss it with everybody,” Wilson continued. “It’s not everybody’s business. People just do not understand, and you’re gossiped about. People think you’re not a good mother.” However, Wilson insists that she has nevertheless always had her son’s best interests at heart.
Wilson believes, in fact, that she did everything she could to accommodate Latulip and his complex needs. “I was once told by a social worker, ‘If other people had a kid like Edgar, they’d get out the green bag and just throw him away,’” she confessed. “Like he was human garbage.”
Throughout Latulip’s teenage years, he had also moved between a number of different medical facilities and group homes – residential institutions that house individuals with complicated care needs. Even after Latulip reached adulthood, however, his plight did not improve. And his mother believes that he “slipped through the cracks” of the social system.
In fact, it’s believed that as a grown man, Latulip’s mental capacity was equivalent to that of a child. Even so, he was at least able to maintain a degree of independence from his mother with the help of disability benefits. And in September 1986 the 21-year-old was renting his own room at a group home not far from Kitchener – a city in the southwestern region of Ontario.
Latulip’s mental health continued to pose problems, however, leading him to attempt to take his own life on one occasion. Wilson apparently visited her son in hospital not long after the incident and was shocked to discover that his weight had dramatically dropped. Even worse, the young man experienced severe medical traumas; he suffered from collapsed lungs on two separate occasions, for instance.
But despite Latulip’s substantial struggles in life thus far, nothing could have prepared Wilson for what would happen next. On September 2, 1986, the young man left his home in Kitchener never to return again. And knowing that Latulip had not been carrying his medicine when he had departed, his mother grew increasingly concerned about his well-being.
Apparently, Wilson even began to suspect that Latulip’s condition had left him vulnerable to abuse. Had her son found himself in a compromising situation that had inadvertently led to his death? And was his body now lying hidden somewhere, left to rot and decay? And despite the lack of evidence to support the mother’s beliefs, she nevertheless came to fear the worst.
Meanwhile, the Canadian authorities developed their own theory as to what might have happened to Latulip. Given the young man’s previous suicidal behavior, police began to suspect that he had taken his own life. They even suggested the possibility that he had traveled to Niagara Falls – just 95 miles from his Kitchener home – in order to do so.
You see, a staggering 40 individuals die every year at Niagara after succumbing to the almost 170-foot plunge. And according to experts, the majority of these falls are intentional. This appeared, then, a likely explanation for Latulip’s strange disappearance. But even though the authorities were confident that Latulip had simply become another statistic, there was yet again no concrete evidence to confirm this theory.
And as the years passed, Latulip’s bizarre vanishing remained a mystery. In 1993, however, there was suddenly a small glimmer of hope. Apparently, police received a tip that the young man had been spotted in Hamilton – a city just 40 miles from Kitchener and on Ontario’s east coast. But in the end, this seemingly promising lead yielded nothing of real substance.
For 30 years, then, Wilson lived through the unthinkable. The mother had no way of knowing the whereabouts of her missing son or whether or not he was even still alive. When the telephone rang on February 5, 2016, though, a call came that would change everything; on the other end of the line was a police detective who had an incredible story to tell. Yes, remarkably, Latulip had finally been located around 80 miles away – and alive and well to boot.
But where had Latulip spent the last three decades, and why had he not contacted his mother? Well, according to investigators, the young man really had boarded a bus to Niagara all those years ago. And while the intentions behind his departure remain unknown, it appears that he then chose to travel onwards to St. Catharines – a major city that’s located a short drive northwest of Niagara Falls.
Not long after Latulip arrived in St. Catharines, though, authorities believe that he somehow sustained an injury to his head – perhaps as a result of a fall. And in the aftermath of this trauma, the young man seemingly lost all recollection of his old life. With no clue as to his previous identity, then, Latulip was forced to start anew.
Apparently, Latulip remained in the Niagara area for the next 30 years. And while he reportedly had to resort to a life on the streets at times, it’s thought that he survived thanks to the assistance of social services. Exact details about Latulip’s existence after his disappearance remain sketchy, however, and it’s not known whether he ever held down employment or established a family of his own.
But in January 2016, something remarkable happened. According to reports, snippets of Latulip’s previous life began rushing back to him. And during a discussion with a social worker, he suddenly blurted out what he suspected to be his real name. “Pieces of his memory started coming back,” the Niagara Regional Police Department’s Philip Gavin told The Record.
So, after learning Latulip’s real name, the social worker turned to the internet to do some digging. And she made an astonishing discovery: this now 50-year-old man was a missing person, and his whereabouts had been totally unknown for the past 30 years. Amazed, the woman subsequently contacted the police, who promptly arranged an interview with the mystery man.
Down at the police station in St. Catharines, Latulip then took a DNA test in the hopes of confirming his identity. And, amazingly, the authorities were able to match his genetic information to Wilson’s by using a sample that she had coincidentally submitted only a few months previously. Now, it was time for the mother to finally learn the remarkable truth about her missing son.
“[Wilson] was happy, excited, overjoyed,” Niagara Regional Police Department’s Gavin told The Washington Post. “After 30 years of not knowing where her son is, knowing that he’s alive, she’s pretty excited about that.” But despite the enormous relief that Latulip was not dead, the authorities were left baffled by the strangeness of his case.
“I’ve been a police officer for 18 years, and this is something I’ve seen on TV but never been a part of,” Gavin said in a 2016 interview with Canadian newspaper The Star. “Absolutely, this is quite a rare one.” And yet nevertheless, he and his colleagues were delighted that the decades-old mystery had finally been solved.
What’s more, it seems that Latulip’s mother and the police weren’t the only people to be affected by the man’s reappearance. Not long after Latulip’s true identity had been revealed, you see, authorities contacted a woman named Lusia Dion. Why? Because she runs a Facebook page that publicizes cases of missing individuals in Ontario. And when she heard that the Kitchener man’s details could finally be removed from the site, she could scarcely believe the news.
“It was not a case that I expected [to] ever receive an answer about,” Dion told CBC News in 2016. “I know of some other cases where a long-term disappearance has been resolved, and the person has been located [and is] safe. I can’t think of a case where the person has solved their own disappearance – or where there has been significant memory loss for three decades.”
Indeed, Latulip’s reemergence has certainly given a happy ending to this story – especially as many other missing people and their families have not been so lucky. Meanwhile, one of the officers who initially investigated the case, Detective Constable Duane Gingerich, has expressed his joy at finally finding closure after all of these years.
“I had hopes that [Latulip] was out there somewhere,” Gingerich told The Record. “For us as investigators, this is great; this is awesome. It’s satisfying because most of these cases don’t turn out this way. You expect the worst when a person is missing for that period of time.”
Clearly, then, Latulip’s story is nothing short of miraculous in the eyes of everyone involved. And it’s little wonder that cases like his, which involve the concept of total amnesia, have inspired several movies and television shows. It’s important to remember, however, that in reality, it’s very uncommon for sufferers to completely forget who they are.
In fact, according to experts, amnesia comes in a number of different forms. While some individuals may lose the ability to form new memories, for instance, others may struggle to recall certain periods of their pasts. Meanwhile, the type of disorder that causes an individual to lose their entire identity – as Latulip did – is typically known as global amnesia or a fugue state.
And, interestingly, there isn’t just one cause of amnesia; the condition can in fact be triggered by a number of different things. Memory loss can derive from a blow or injury to the head, for instance, but it can also come about as the result of neurological trauma – such as an infection or stroke.
However, some experts believe that various psychological factors can also trigger amnesiac experiences. For example, individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may lose portions of their memories. And according to neuropsychologist Jason Brandt, who spoke to CBS News about Latulip’s case in 2016, psychological trauma may indeed have been the root of the Canadian man’s amnesia.
“These cases of people disappearing for 30 years and then waking up and coming to – these are very rare,” Brandt explained. “They’re usually people without brain dysfunction, but they’re running away from something that is too painful to experience.” So, could Latulip’s difficult life have led him to subconsciously abandon it and become someone entirely new?
Well, Brandt certainly believes that this may have been the case for Latulip. “This is a guy who had a vulnerable brain,” he continued. “He doesn’t have the coping resources that you or I do. When things get rough, the only thing he knows to do is run away and forget.” Intriguingly, some experts also believe that suicidal behavior and global amnesia are linked – although the exact nature of the connection remains unknown.
But even though Latulip’s memory loss was extreme, it is not completely without precedent. In fact, one of the earliest known cases of global amnesia dates back to the 1800s. The sufferer was American preacher Ansel Bourne. And in January 1887 Bourne left his Rhode Island home to visit his sister in a nearby town – only to find himself traveling onwards to Pennsylvania.
While in Norristown, Pennsylvania, however, Bourne apparently forgot all about his previous life – much like Latulip did. And so he began calling himself Albert Brown, with the man even setting up a stationery shop under his new identity. Two months later, however, Bourne suddenly reverted back to his old persona. And, bizarrely, he had no recollection of what he had been up to since leaving his home many weeks previously.
But while Bourne was only Brown for two months, there have been cases of global amnesia that have lasted far longer. Back in 2004, for example, a man who had suffered several head injuries was discovered in the Georgia city of Richmond Hill. And when he was questioned, he couldn’t recall simple details such as his surname or his hometown.
In fact, all that the man could provide was his first name: Benjaman. And despite mass coverage in the national media, nobody came forward to shed any light on the mystery. Amazingly, in fact, it was 11 years before his identity was eventually discovered – thanks to DNA research that connected him to a family member.
However, Benjaman’s experience seems to pale in comparison to Latulip’s, who is believed to have lost his memory for three decades. And unsurprisingly, the once-missing man has struggled to come to terms with his true identity after having lost it for so long. “[Latulip is] trying to grasp that after 30 years you realize you’re somebody else,” Gavin explained. So, what exactly has happened to Latulip since his remarkable reappearance?
Well, Latulip and Wilson were reportedly planning to reunite back in 2016. But if the mother and son did indeed get together, it’s an event that hasn’t been covered by the media – and that should perhaps come as no surprise. Apparently, you see, the mom expressed a desire that her son be kept out of the spotlight after his reemergence.
“It’s [Latulip’s] story,” Wilson told The Record. “It’s great he has been found. But it should be his choice if he speaks to people about what he’s been through. He doesn’t need a lot of media attention.” For now, then, Latulip’s family is presumably just glad that he has returned. And unless they or Latulip speak out, the full truth about the man’s strange vanishing – and the years that he seemingly lost – may never come to light.