When A Teen Dove Into A Lake With His GoPro, What He Found Unraveled A 27-Year-Old Mystery

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At a remote lake in British Columbia, Canada, a boat glides through the murky waters. On board, 13-year-old Max Werenka is guiding the authorities to an ominous spot. But when the officials can’t see what lies beneath the surface that Werenka has led them to, the child bravely straps on his GoPro camera and dives in. The resulting footage later reveals something horrifying – and it helps to solve a decades-old cold case.

Image: Facebook/Griffin Lake Cabins – Revelstoke, BC

The story started in August 2019, when Werenka was staying at Griffin Lake – a popular holiday spot he had visited on numerous occasions. This time, though, things were a little different. While out exploring, you see, the teenager noticed something strange glistening underneath the water. And he thought it was an out-of-place object that had a distinctly man-made look.

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In fact, Werenka had stumbled across a mystery resting around 20 feet beneath the surface of the water. So how had this object ended up at the bottom of Griffin Lake? What story might its twisted remains have to tell? Well, with the teenager’s help, authorities later uncovered a gruesome secret. And in the process, they solved a case that had haunted one family for almost 30 years.

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Image: Facebook/Griffin Lake Cabins – Revelstoke, BC

So who is this adventurous child? Well, although just a teenager, Werenka has a long history with this picturesque corner of Canada. His family in fact owns Griffin Lake Cabins – a small resort consisting of three holiday homes located in the wilderness between the cities of Calgary and Vancouver. But while beautiful, the spot is remote; the nearest town, Revelstoke, is some 16 miles to the east.

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At Griffin Lake, though, tourists come to experience life away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. While there, for instance, visitors can spend their days fishing and swimming in the cool water or hiking through the surrounding countryside. And when the conditions are right, they can also enjoy snowmobiling and sledding in the nearby mountains.

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Image: Facebook/Griffin Lake Cabins – Revelstoke, BC

For Werenka, however, an entirely different adventure unfold almost every day. With his parents the custodians of their own slice of paradise, you see, the teenager has plenty of time to explore the surroundings of Griffin Lake. And perhaps unsurprisingly, he soon developed a love of nature. But like many children of the current generation, Werenka is not content to merely observe.

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Instead, Werenka began documenting his adventures around Griffin Lake. And in order to do so, he turned to his trusty GoPro – a hardy brand of video camera beloved by extreme sports fans around the world. But what this teenager captured in August 2019 was a world away from the typical YouTube fare.

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Image: Facebook/Griffin Lake Cabins – Revelstoke, BC

At that time, you see, Werenka was enjoying one of his many visits to the family’s cabins on Griffin Lake. And one sunny day, he found himself in conversation with a family who were also staying at the small resort. The visitors had, apparently, spotted something strange beneath the surface of the water, and they subsequently asked the teenager to take a closer look.

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Ever curious, Werenka climbed aboard his paddleboard and pushed out into the lake. And there, he spotted the object in question, some 20 feet below him. “You could see something almost like a shadow, like an imprint,” he revealed to The Washington Post in September 2019. “Then, you could see something shiny.”

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But what could it be? Fortunately, Werenka was soon able to identify the mystery object. Bizarrely, he realized, he was looking down on an exhaust pipe – watching the sun reflect off its metallic sides. And even though the possibility perhaps seemed unlikely to Werenka, it dawned on the teenager that he was actually looking at the submerged wreck of an upside-down car.

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Image: Facebook/Griffin Lake Cabins – Revelstoke, BC

Shocked at the discovery, Werenka and the other guests later looked online for an explanation. And before long, it seemed as if the mystery had been solved. Ten years previously, you see, a car had apparently been lost beneath the waters of Griffin Lake. An internet search further revealed that four people had also been rescued from the terrifying situation.

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So the residents of Griffin Lake Cabins were satisfied that they had identified the sunken vehicle. They therefore let the incident slip from their minds. “At that point in time, we just kind of assumed that this car had been remaining from that 2009 rescue,” the teen’s mother, Nancy Werenka, told The Washington Post. “We didn’t call it in… We didn’t really think much of it.”

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All that would soon change, though. The following day, in fact, an officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – or RCMP – arrived at Griffin Lake. Having traveled from Revelstoke, he was no doubt looking forward to a relaxing day enjoying a picnic with his loved ones. But then the officer found himself immersed in a strange mystery.

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According to Nancy, the conversation began casually at first. “We just mentioned to that officer that there was a vehicle in the lake and we couldn’t believe that it wasn’t retrieved from the original rescue,” she commented. But the lawman was seemingly convinced that the car from the 2009 accident had already been removed from the water.

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“[The officer] said to us, ‘Well, no, actually, [I’m] pretty sure that vehicle was retrieved out of the lake, so we need to investigate this further,’” Nancy explained. And sure enough, on August 21, 2019, more officers arrived from the RCMP. When they did, Werenka was ready to be their guide on the lake he knew so well.

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“We took [the officers] out in our boat, showed them the area where it was,” Werenka told CTV News Vancouver in September 2019. The water conditions were, however, poor at the time. Which meant that officers struggled to make out the submerged vehicle from their position on the surface. And so the teenager resorted to drastic measures.

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Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Werenka decided to get the officers the information they needed. So, grabbing his trusty GoPro camera – which was equipped with waterproof protection – he dove down into the lake. And beneath the murky surface, Werenka was able to capture clear footage of the submerged car.

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“I recommended [to the RCMP] I had a GoPro, so we could use it to film underneath the water [and] get a better look at [the car],” Max said in a September 2019 interview with Global News. “So I went and swam around and dove down and took a video of everything to show them.”

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With Werenka’s footage in hand, then, officers were in no doubt that something strange lay at the bottom of Griffin Lake. In fact, the film – which has since been released online – clearly shows the underside of a vehicle. The teenager perfectly captured its four wheels turned towards the sky, too. But who had the car once belonged to? And how had it ended up here?

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From the video, it soon became clear that the vehicle had been at the bottom of the lake for a long time. It was encased in a thick coating of mud, after all, and vegetation and marine life had begun to thrive in the rusted wreck. It would, however, be another three days before investigators got to take a closer look.

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So on August 24 the RCMP made yet another trip to Griffin Lake. This time, though, they brought an experienced dive team along with them. And their official underwater investigation soon revealed its first clue: the car’s registration plate. The number then linked the submerged vehicle to the 27-year-old case of a missing woman.

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Apparently, the vehicle had belonged to Janet Farris, a 69-year-old woman who had gone missing back in the fall of 1992. And her case had never been solved. For nearly three decades, then, her family had been left to wonder what had happened to Farris. Would this discovery finally provide them with closure after all these years?

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As investigators later hauled the Honda Accord to the surface, Werenka looked on with interest. He soon clocked that something was amiss, though. Emerging from the water, the vehicle did not show any signs that the driver had attempted to escape. In fact, all of the doors and windows were closed.

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“It was very shocking,” Werenka told The Washington Post. “We weren’t expecting anything like this.” The story, however, was about to get even more gruesome. Because when investigators finally opened up the vehicle, they discovered a body trapped inside. The fate of the missing woman had finally been revealed.

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According to Farris’ family, the 69-year-old was not local to the area around Griffin Lake. In fact, she hailed from Vancouver Island, some 400 miles to the east. At the time she disappeared, however, Farris had been driving across the country to Alberta, where she planned to attend a wedding.

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But because Farris had been traveling alone, her relatives did not immediately realize that something had gone wrong. “Two weeks later, we received a phone call from that family in Alberta asking why she never came to the wedding,” Erin Farris-Hartley, the granddaughter of the missing woman, told Global News in September 2019.

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So Farris’ family eventually realized that she was missing and alerted the appropriate authorities. However, officials were unable to get to the bottom of her disappearance. And after a while, those left behind came up with their own theories to explain why a beloved mother and grandmother had never come home.

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“We kind of assumed that maybe [Farris] had gone off the road or fallen asleep or tried to avoid an accident or animal on the road,” George Farris, the missing woman’s son, told CBC News in September 2019. And although time passed, the grandmother’s loved ones still wondered about her final moments. They naturally therefore struggled to put the past behind them.

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“It seemed like there was never an appropriate way to grieve because [my grandmother] was missing,” Erin, who had only been 12 years old when Farris disappeared, told Global News. Yet despite that, she cherished memories of the 69-year-old – a woman who enjoyed gardening and making people laugh. “I miss her,” Erin said. “She’s a huge part of my life, even though most of my life is spent without her.”

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George told CTV News Vancouver that “good memories” helped him through the long years of not knowing what had happened to this mother as well. “After the first year, you just carry on,” he explained. “You come to live with it.” However, the family is grateful for Werenka’s discovery – and the opportunity to finally lay Farris to rest.

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“We are so grateful that this boy went with his GoPro and found [her],” Erin told Global News. “This is a happy story in the end, knowing her final resting place and that it was an accident.” Werenka himself has become quite the celebrity, in fact, winning acclaim for his role in solving the cold case.

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The teenager even earned the respect of the authorities – along with an apparent job offer for the future. “The RCMP will probably be looking at this guy down the road for potential employment,” Corporal Thomas Blakney said in a September 2019 interview with CTV News Vancouver. “[That was] good detective work on his part.”

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Investigators have, meanwhile, concluded that Farris most likely encountered difficulties while driving along Griffin Lake. And that for some reason – perhaps while swerving to avoid an animal – she lost control of the Honda Accord, eventually ending up in the water. There had been no damage to the front of the car, suggesting that she did not crash.

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The family now intends to have Farris’ remains interred alongside those of her husband, who had passed away before she’d disappeared. But while they have found closure at last, Werenka is still processing the full impact of his discovery. “I couldn’t imagine for that many years, not understanding what happened to a loved one,” he told CTV News Vancouver.

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Bizarrely, though, it’s believed that the previous owners of the cabins spent 17 years exploring the waters of the Griffin Lake without stumbling upon the sunken car – despite its proximity to the shore. “This was a whole string of coincidental events,” Nancy told Global News. Yet it isn’t the only time that underwater footage has helped shed light on an old mystery.

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In fact, in the same month that Werenka made his discovery, another story was unfolding thousands of miles away, in Tennessee’s Foster Falls State Park. Two years previously, you see, 22-year-old Richard Ragland had drowned while swimming in a waterfall there with friends. And his parents had always wondered how the tragedy had taken place.

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But then in August 2019 underwater explorer Rich Abernathy – better known as Rich Aloha on YouTube – discovered Ragland’s GoPro camera submerged at the bottom of the falls. He was, rather amazingly, also able to recover the footage and return it to the young man’s grieving parents. And even though it didn’t explain exactly how Ragland died, it brought the parents closer to their departed son.

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Back in April 2014, too, GoPro teamed up with a group of researchers for a very special project. It involved hunting for missing World War II planes in the Pacific Ocean. Using the popular cameras, then, volunteers from the BentProp Project scanned the sea floor around the Republic of Palau in search of submerged craft.

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With GoPro cameras mounted on underwater vehicles, scientists were also in on the search. As a result, people were able to successfully locate two missing planes. And now it’s hoped that this development will bring closure to any families involved – much in the same way that Werenka’s discovery has helped Farris’ loved ones to move on.

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“Given a sad situation, it’s the best of all outcomes,” Farris’ son told CB News. But will Werenka continue to explore the waters of Griffin Lake? Well, considering that he was lauded as a hero by the international press, he might just be tempted to take the RCMP up on their offer. But a future in law enforcement is still long way off for the teenager.

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And when a mystery gets solved three decades down the line, you know it’s going to make for a fascinating story. In 2016, for instance, Sylvia Wilson’s eldest son, Edgar, had been missing for a staggering 30 years. Back in 1986, you see, 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 then a man 80 miles away slowly began to recall snippets of a previous life – and the decades-old mystery finally started to unravel.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“[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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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“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.

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