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Identity of Mystery 'Piano Man' Sought in England


In southeastern England, there's a mystery involving an unidentified man and a piano. Six weeks ago, the man was found on a beach of the Isle of Sheppey in Kent County. He was soaking wet, wearing a black suit and tie. He had no identification on him, and he was clearly in some distress, though he couldn't or wouldn't speak. The man is apparently in his early 20s, he's now at a hospital in Kent County, and Michael Camp his social worker.

Mr. MICHAEL CAMP (Medway Maritime Hospital): He's undoubtedly traumatized by something or he has quite a distant personality that is unabling him to actually speak to us.

BLOCK: Well, I guess the one clue you do have is that he has apparently remarkable musical ability. And this is where the piano comes in. Tell us about that.

Mr. CAMP: That's right. Yeah. I mean, we first discovered that--well, we gave him paper and pens, and he hasn't written anything, but he's actually drawn pianos.

BLOCK: He drew pictures of pianos, then?

Mr. CAMP: Yeah, he did. Grand pianos in extremely good detail. He's also written music as well. So he's obviously got quite a talent for the arts.

BLOCK: He's written out musical notation, then?

Mr. CAMP: He has, yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately, I'm not, you know, a classical person myself, and I'm certainly not a musician. So I've been unable to kind of--at this stage, we haven't been able to establish what kind of music it was. But, you know, he certainly has played from memory and from music sheets that has been given to him.

BLOCK: Well, what happens when he sits down at the piano?

Mr. CAMP: Well, his whole demeanor changes. I mean, when he's--normally, he's a extremely anxious man. Full eye contact--he'll follow you around the room with his eyes. You can't get within two yards or so of him without him, you know, cowering in the corner. But when he's on the piano, his whole demeanor changes. He becomes very relaxed, he becomes completely engrossed in the piano, and is in his own world really.

BLOCK: Is there a piano, then, at the hospital where...

Mr. CAMP: Well, there isn't at the one he's currently at, but there was at the one he was--there is at Medway Maritime, which is what he played, which is how we discovered it. But unfortunately, he needs to be moved for various reasons so that currently he hasn't got a piano at his disposal.

BLOCK: Are you trying to get him one?

Mr. CAMP: Yeah, we are. Yeah.

BLOCK: Any progress on that?

Mr. CAMP: Not that I'm aware today. Certainly yesterday we were working on that, and one of the local newspapers has put in the keyboard. But I'm not necessarily sure he'll play that because we have tried a keyboard before. Obviously, getting an actual piano is slightly more work. So that might take a little bit more time. But obviously it's quite important.

BLOCK: I wonder, as his social worker, when you're dealing with a man who's obviously in a very fragile state and you're trying to figure out some way to communicate with him, figure out who he is, what do you do?

Mr. CAMP: It's going to be far beyond the kind of skills that I have, ultimately. I mean, obviously, we need to get in as many experts now as we can just to try and continue to work with this man on a day-to-day basis. And I think firstly it's important to reduce his anxiety level in any way we can and hope that in being in a stable position, he's able to begin to communicate in some form, even if that's not verbally.

BLOCK: Have you tried anybody who might know sign language or might speak different languages?

Mr. CAMP: We have done both of those. You know, we've tried a lot of Eastern European languages because we felt he may have come from one of the former Soviet states, but we haven't had any success at all.

BLOCK: Since you don't know anything about him, what do you call your patient?

Mr. CAMP: He's been dubbed the Piano Man, which I think is a bit unfortunate. But obviously, you know, a kind of media kind of needs to have something to call him. You know, in his file, he's called Mr. X, which is, you know, again, an unfortunate kind of pseudonym. But, you know, in the absence of anything else, then that's what we tend to use over here.

BLOCK: Mr. Camp, thanks for talking with us, and best of luck with your patient.

Mr. CAMP: OK. Thank you.

BLOCK: Michael Camp is a social worker at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham in southeastern England. There's a photo of the still unidentified man at our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of piano music)

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.