5 Lonely Adventures from History’s Greatest Introverts

These people shut themselves away, without even the internet to keep them company
5 Lonely Adventures from History’s Greatest Introverts

In this corner of the internet, we’re all in a race, bragging about just how much of an introvert we each are. Simply by reading an article instead of partying on the roof, you’ve scored yourself several points. Aversions to doorbells and phone calls earn you even more introvert cred, and eventually, you start boasting to an insane degree, referring to yourself as a “sigma” personality. 

But no matter how much you assure us you don’t fit in with others, we’re positive you never cut yourself off from the world as hard as the following rebels. 

A Millionaire Decided to Never Leave Her Hotel Room

In 1857, a woman calling herself Ida Mayfield moved to New York and got to know Ben Wood, owner of the New York Daily News. They had an affair, and after Wood’s wife died, they married. After Wood himself died, she inherited his estate, though she’d already taken the precaution of transferring most of his wealth to her own name, to protect it from his gambling addiction. 

For a while, she was a famous socialite, meeting President Lincoln and the Prince of Wales. Then in 1907, she got sick of public life. She moved into a room at New York’s Herald Square Hotel with her sister and daughter. She did not leave that room for 24 years.

Ida Wood

MacMillan Company 

She didn’t miss much. Just World War I, the rise of cars and planes, the entire Roaring Twenties, etc.

Staff forgot who she was and were replaced with new staff. She never let them in and paid her bills in cash through the cracked-open door. She received all food through this door, which was always the same — evaporated milk, crackers, coffee, bacon and eggs. Not the dish bacon and eggs, but raw bacon and raw eggs, which the women cooked on a makeshift stove in the bathroom. They also would order raw fish, which they did not cook at all. 

She at last walked out to the hallway in 1931, to call for help when her sister died. She was 93 now, and outsiders finally entered the room and discovered $250,000 in a shoebox. That’s 1931 money, equivalent to $5 million today. Authorities put the word out, and relatives swept in and declared Mayfield mentally incompetent. This gave a nurse a chance to look up Mayfield’s dress and find a further $500,000 hidden there (that’s $10 million in today’s money). Her new conservators took control of her. Under their care, she had to spend the remaining year of her life confined to a single room. She must have hated that. 

The Wolf Man of Spain

The phrase “raised by wolves” goes back many centuries, probably as far back as the myth of Romulus and Remus. And for centuries, the idea of a feral child raised by animals was just a myth. Then we stumbled on a handful of cases of children who really did live exclusively among animals during their formative years, including a few who, yes, lived among wolves.

Marcos Pantoja lived a normal enough life in a Spanish village for the first seven years of his life. Then his father sold him to a goatherder. This goatherder abandoned him or got lost and died, leaving the kid to wander the Sierra Morena Mountains. He did indeed run into wolves, who did not attack him as he ate the meat they’d hunted. He also lived with foxes and totally failed to coexist with boars. He already knew a bit about trapping animals and cooking meat thanks to the goatherder, and foraging for berries and skinning deer were skills he just kind of figured out. 

In 1965, when he had spent 12 years among animals, a ranger spotted him, and authorities pulled him into town. He told his story, to a general public who thought he was full of shit and to anthropologists who found him credible (though, when he says animals befriended him, that just shows his perspective rather than accurately describing the relationship). He had trouble speaking at first, but he adapted in time and got jobs in construction. While he never liked living with people as much as he did with wolves, he saw some benefits to civilization. Like TV, which he enjoyed. And also porn

The Island Man and His Chicken

Fernão Lopes didn’t start out hating the world. He was a Portuguese soldier stationed in Goa, India, in the 15th century. When his superior sailed away, Lopes figured the Goans seemed a lot more fun to hang out with than his old friends, so he defected to their side. Then his superior came back, discovered Lopes’ betrayal and tortured him publicly, slicing off his nose and ear and also amputating one arm.

A few years later, he sailed back toward Portugal, but it doesn’t appear he was too keen on going there. The route home sent his ship past Saint Helena, the 50-square-mile island that’s today most famous as where Napoleon was exiled and died. Back then, it was totally uninhabited. Lopes got down and decided to stay on the island, alone. 

Location of Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean

via Wiki Commons

Ships had to take some roundabout routes in those days.

A couple years later, another ship stopped at the island and saw him, and as they took off, leaving him some food but respecting his wish to stay put, a rooster on the ship fell overboard. Lopes rescued it from the water. They spent the next 10 years together, just him and his cock. 

Ships did occasionally drop by the island to say hi, and finally, people convinced him to come back to Europe. He met the Pope, who forgave him for the sin of converting to Islam and offered to grant him a favor. Lopes asked to return home. Not to Portugal, or Goa, but back to Saint Helena. So, that’s where he headed, and that’s where he spent the final 20 years of his life. 

The Nameless Ishi

In the last decades of the 19th century, someone referred to as “the last wild Indian” lived in California. He’d been part of the Yahi people, but settlers went and genocided just about all the Yahi, and the few remaining ones died in isolation, leaving this guy the only remaining Yahi. 

When anthropologists met him, they called him Ishi. That wasn’t his name, though, just a word that means “man.” The way Yahi culture worked, he wasn’t supposed to introduce himself to strangers — instead, some other Yahi was supposed to introduce him. That second option was now impossible because there were no other Yahi. 

Ishi, August 29, 1911

via Wiki Commons

So, we called him Ishi, the Yana word for “dude.” 

He emerged from the wilderness at the age of 50 in 1911 and came to the town of Oroville for a simple reason: He was hungry. The sheriff immediately put him in handcuffs, and Berkeley professors later took control of him, employing him as a janitor. 

For a while, the public enjoyed getting a look at him, seeing what skills he had and observing his reaction to modern technology. But having spent most of his life away from all other people, his body wasn’t equipped to fend off diseases, and he spent most of his time sick. In just a few more years, he was dead from tuberculosis. Sometimes, solitude is better. 

The Ghost Town Nonagenarian

In 1985, a dam broke on a salt lake outside the town of Villa Epecuén in Argentina. The town gradually flooded, giving the 1,500 residents a couple weeks to get the hell out of there. Over the course of the next couple decades, the waters receded, and the salt they left behind preserved a lot of the ruined buildings. Still, no one bothered coming in to rebuild, and no one who’d left returned. 

Villa Epecué

Santiago Matamoro

Something about “salted earth” doesn’t sound so welcoming. 

No one, except for Pablo Novak, who moved back in 2009 when he was 78. For food, he brought his cow, and a grandchild would come by now and then with further supplies. For company, he had his two dogs, who’d run beside him as he explored the rubble by bicycle. He’d hunt for treasures. One time, he found a 20-year-old bottle of whiskey and drank it all by himself

People didn’t expect Novak to last very long all alone in a ghost town. But as of last October, he’s still there and doing fine, now 92 years old. Sometimes, travelers come by to view the ruins, and Novak welcomes them, then he goes back to life alone in a salted cottage. It’s not a bad way to live out your retirement. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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