Mysterious, and Musical, Patient Whets Curiosity
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
He was for months a mystery man, a 20-something-year-old man found soaking wet in a suit and tie on a beach on the British Isle of Sheppey. He would not speak and had no identification. Workers at the hospital where he was taken said he lost his visible anxieties when he played the piano. Well, now the so-called Piano Man has spoken. A British tabloid had the story this morning. According to the paper, the man revealed to hospital staff on Friday that he is German, that he'd lost his job in Paris and took the train to Britain and that he was trying to commit suicide when he was picked up by police in April. His name has still not been made public. So now the story shifts to Germany. Allan Hall is a free-lance journalist covering the story in Berlin.
Mr. ALLAN HALL (Free-lance Journalist): Since the story broke in the tabloid Daily Mirror in London this morning, the German Embassy have confirmed that last Friday he did, in fact, speak for the first time, the so-called Piano Man, and indicated he was German. He spoke in English, but said he was German; that he was the son of a farmer; that he has two sisters in Bavaria and that he was depressed.
BLOCK: And as far as you know, the Piano Man, as he became known, where is he now?
Mr. HALL: Mr. X then on Saturday morning was taken to the German Embassy in London and provided with emergency travel papers because he had no identifying papers, passport, anything like that. Now this morning the embassy confirmed that they have spoken to him at his parents' home to make sure that he's OK.
BLOCK: So he's in Bavaria.
Mr. HALL: He's back in Bavaria, but Bavaria ...(unintelligible) say, is a big state and mountainous, and there could be many remote villages. What's interesting is that earlier in the year, German media played this story quite big, but didn't--no one turned him up. No one rang in to say, `Well, I recognize him.'
BLOCK: There are any number of mysteries that remain, I suppose. According to the hospital staff, originally he was quite a piano player. They're now--some reports--The Daily Mirror's reporting that the hospital staff has, in fact, now said he was only able to play one note repeatedly, that he really wasn't a piano player at all.
Mr. HALL: Yes, I don't--because I wasn't in England at the time I don't know where that particular report came from. But he has gone from being Rachmaninoff at the keyboard to perhaps the man who could only play "Chopsticks."
BLOCK: Of course we don't know whether that account is, in fact, the case.
Mr. HALL: No, we don't know. It is true. I mean, he did draw a rather large grand piano; that was one of his drawings. But there's so many unanswered questions that he must have been a character of some complexity to have carried this on for so long.
BLOCK: You know, I spoke with a man who was his social worker at one of the hospitals back in May. And the social worker described his whole demeanor changing when this man sat down at a piano; that he would be extremely anxious, but when he got behind a keyboard, he was transformed. He actually became a real person again.
Mr. HALL: Yes, was this play-acting or was this genuine? Was the piano pulling him out of some sort of depression and giving him momentary happiness, or was it all part of some extended scam? There is a bit of a feeling in England at the moment of being cheated, really. I think he was sort of taken to the hearts of English people, this poor foreigner adrift in a strange land. And now I think people feel rather conned by him.
BLOCK: Allan Hall, thanks very much for talking with us.
Mr. HALL: OK. Thank you.
BLOCK: Allan Hall is a free-lance journalist in Berlin. Tomorrow he'll join the media throng headed to Bavaria to try to find the Piano Man at home.
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