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GUY RAZ, host:

Imagine having a whole life of experiences and then waking up one morning with almost no memory of it. It happened to a man named Benjaman. And his story begins near Savannah, Georgia.

Mr. BENJAMAN KYLE: I don't remember it. It was August 31...

Unidentified Man #1: August 31, 2004, Benjaman was found behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia, near a dumpster.

Unidentified Woman #1: Between six and 7 a.m.

Unidentified Woman #2: Beaten and unconscious and thought dead.

Unidentified Man #2: Numerous red ant bites on his body.

Unidentified Man #3: Completely naked.

Unidentified Woman #3: No clothes or identification.

Unidentified Man #4: And he was in a place that was very far off the road.

Mr. KYLE: I don't actually remember too much about that morning. I don't know how I got there. In fact, I don't remember any of it.

RAZ: Benjaman was taken to a nearby hospital. He had blinding cataracts in both eyes, possibly from sun damage. He was still unconscious.

Mr. KYLE: They couldn't call me John Doe because they already had a John Doe. And then they said they were going to call me Burger King Doe because I was found behind a Burger King.

RAZ: So he was BK Doe for a while. But eventually, Benjaman woke up.

Mr. KYLE: The ward clerks were literally screaming at me, telling me they had to have a last name to put down on their paperwork, that I had to give them a last name. So I just picked the only thing I could think of that began with a K, was Kyle. So I just picked that for a last name.

RAZ: It wasn't just that Benjaman didn't remember how he wound up behind the Burger King that morning; he didn't know how he wound up in Georgia or where he came from before that or much of anything about who he was.

He was bounced around between hospitals and eventually got a job at a homeless shelter where he'd stayed. A nurse there, Katherine Slater, was curious about him.

Ms. KATHERINE SLATER: And the stories went around, you know, the gossip that this man has amnesia. And I was curious, I guess, because, I mean, how many people do you know that have amnesia? It was so unique.

RAZ: After they became friends, Katherine found out that while Benjaman couldn't remember his past, he hadn't made much of an effort to find it. He couldn't remember his Social Security number. He couldn't get a job or a photo ID or even a library card.

Mr. KYLE: I guess I just accepted the fact that that's the way it was going to be, and that's the way it was. So I just got on with it.

RAZ: But Katherine soon learned there were certain specific things that Benjaman did remember.

Ms. SLATER: Like when you have him look at the aerial photos of Denver, he knows about being in the library at the University of Colorado at Boulder, knew that they had certain trade magazines called Restaurant and Institutions. He knew - and his eyes light up, and he'll say, oh, that collection goes back to the '30s.

Mr. KYLE: I remember I was born in August 29, 1948. And the reason I can remember that is because I was born 10 years before Michael Jackson on the same day. Michael Jackson was born August 29th. I mean, that's why I think that's right is because I just remember it that way.

RAZ: He remembers other things, like watching a movie in Denver.

Mr. KYLE: "Car Wash," really stupid movie, but it was also very popular.

RAZ: He remembers going to Catholic schools in Indianapolis.

Mr. KYLE: This is weird. Well, the whole thing is weird. But...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KYLE: I believe I was born in Indianapolis. I have a lot of memories of Indianapolis, but the memories I have of Indianapolis are nowhere near as vivid as what the memories are of Colorado.

Now, I've talked to psychiatrists and they say it could very well just be a function of age, that when I lived in Indiana, I was a lot younger.

RAZ: Most of his memories check out in one way or another - they're real places that can be dated and traced. But most of Benjaman's memory cuts out in the mid-1980s.

So back in 2007, with Katherine's help, the FBI got involved.

Mr. BILL KIRKCONNELL (Federal Bureau of Investigation): My name is Bill KirkConnell. I'm a special agent with the FBI, stationed here in Savannah, Georgia.

RAZ: And they ran Benjaman's fingerprints.

Mr. KIRKCONNELL: There's more than 60 million criminal fingerprints on file and more than 200 million civil prints on file. I thought there was an excellent chance that, you know, maybe Benjaman had been a criminal history. But even if he did not, given his age, he might have served in the military or worked for the federal government. Unfortunately, those results came back negative.

RAZ: Benjaman tried hypnosis, DNA tests. He's been covered by newspapers and television stations in most of the places he remembers, and even internationally. He's tried facial recognition software, missing person's networks: Nothing.

Mr. KYLE: After six years, all the obvious research or investigative things that can be done have been done. I don't think they're going to find it out that way. I think the only way they're going to discover is if my memories come back myself.

RAZ: If you have a family out there, because you might, how do you imagine them?

Mr. KYLE: I don't. I don't think about it. I don't I think eventually, the memories will come back. At that point, I'm going to have to deal with it. I have kind of wondered how I'm going to integrate the memories that I've got now because, of course, for the last five, six years, I've created sort of a life that's bound to be totally different from what my memories will say it was when they come back. So...

RAZ: What can't you do that you wish you could, besides obviously, you know, getting a Social Security number?

Mr. KYLE: Oh, well, I would love to get a driver's license. I've driven Katherine's truck around on private property, and I had no problems driving, which brings up something interesting too.

I keep wanting to dim the headlights by stomping on the floorboard. I guess they moved those switches off the floorboards quite a while ago, but it's on the stalk, on the steering column now.

At least ways, I'd love to be able to get a driver's license, just, you know, a driver's license.

RAZ: Benjaman makes about 50 to $100 a month doing lawn and yardwork, but otherwise, Katherine Slater supports him. He says he knows some people think his story is a hoax, and even he admits it's hard to believe.

Mr. KYLE: I never tell people when I first meet them. In fact, I never bring the subject up because you bring it up to someone who you've never met before, they get this weird look on their face, and they kind of back away, like what is this nutcase type thing. But after I meet people and talk to them, interacted with them for a while, it works out.

RAZ: That's Benjaman Kyle. He spoke to us from his home outside Savannah, Georgia. You can see a picture of him at our website, npr.org.

Benjaman, thank you so much.

Mr. KYLE: Oh, thank you.

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