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Fronczak Mystery/ Stranger in the Woods

Date Sunday - April 30, 2017
Host George Knapp
Guests Paul Joseph FronczakMichael Finkel

In the first segment, George Knapp interviewed Paul Fronczak, who discovered via a DNA test that he is not who he thought he was. The story begins in Chicago in 1964, when Dora Fronczak gave birth to a son. The next day, a woman disguised as a nurse kidnapped the baby, resulting in a massive hunt for the missing infant, which made national and international headlines. Over a year later, Fronzcak was found abandoned near a shopping center in Newark, New Jersey. Based on a resemblance to the kidnapped baby in a photograph from the hospital, the FBI and the Fronczak family were convinced he was the missing child. The Fronczaks ultimately adopted Paul and raised him as their son, believing that he'd miraculously been returned to them, although Fronczak said that most of his life, he has had "a really good feeling that I was not Paul."

In the last few years, he has made discoveries that have unearthed his family’s deepest secrets. Using DNA testing, he found that his real story was much worse than he ever expected. Fronczak’s biological family was "really dark" and his newfound relatives told him that he was "lucky to make it out alive." He discovered that his real name was "Jack" and that he had a twin sister named "Jill." Eyewitness accounts of his early life paint a grim picture of abuse and neglect. Although he has found his other biological siblings (who refuse to talk to him) his twin sister disappeared around the same time that he was found. He is still trying to follow up leads in an attempt to find out what happened to her as well as the real Paul Fronczak, and will "take any tip or possible information" that can be provided.

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In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being for the next twenty-seven years. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel discussed his secluded life and how he managed to survive. Finkel said that he heard of the story in 2013 when about 500 journalists descended a small town in Maine where Knight was being held after his arrest. Knight would speak to none of them. On a hunch, Finkel hand wrote a short note and mailed it. He received a reply 10 days later, saying that Knight replied because he appreciated that Finkel "took a chance" on him and this simple, old-fashioned form of communication.

Finkel said that Knight grew up in a family that was both intellectual (they read to each other every evening from classics of literature) and self-sufficient. They grew their own food in a greenhouse they built and fixed cars and other machines themselves. At the age of 20, Knight, who said that he "never felt comfortable around other people" felt the need to escape. Finkel said this need was described as "almost a gravitational tug" to get away from others. Knight left his new car in the woods of central Maine and went off into wilderness, vowing to live the rest of his life there. Related images. He never lit a fire and survived winters by pacing around his camp during the coldest part of the night to keep warm. Food was stolen from summer cabins and camps in the area. Knight was finally caught due to the dogged efforts of a game warden in the area, who said he couldn’t be mad at Knight because he admired his wilderness skills. Finkel says that Knight "expressed more happiness in life" (at least in his solitary existence) than just about anyone he has ever met.

Related Articles

Knapp's News 4/30/17

George Knapp shares a number of news items that have recently caught his attention including articles on a famous astronaut who was a treasure hunter and what we might do in case of open contact with aliens:

What would actually happen if aliens made contact with Earth?
The movie date that made JRR Tolkien hate Walt Disney
Astronaut saw treasure from space in 1963 and kept it secret
Why idle moments are crucial for the creative mind
Looking at Plato's account of Atlantis: Legend or truth?

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