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Lost and Found: Amnesia Victim Regains Memory (1946)

(This story was originally written and recorded for Retrocast 26, released on May 15, 2024.)

Imagine this: a guy walks into Boston’s Back Bay police station in the dead of night, claiming he couldn’t remember who he was. Sounds like something out of a movie, right? Well, that’s exactly what happened when a shabbily dressed man showed up there shortly after midnight on November 19, 1946.

He said that the last thing he remembered was being in a veteran’s hospital five years earlier and had no memory of anything that has happened since. He was shocked to learn that it was 1946 and that President Roosevelt had died.

When questioned by the police, the unidentified man said that he had been picked up by someone on the street. “Whoever picked me up told me that I had been hit by a car. He told me to go in and report the accident to the police.”

1929 Governors Academy photograph of Philip Baldwin Skerrye.
1929 Governors Academy photograph of Philip Baldwin Skerrye.

He was sent to a local hospital for examination, and by reading through papers found in his pockets, police identified him as 48-year-old Philip Baldwin Skerrye. It was determined that amnesia had taken all of his earlier memories, and it was that sudden jolt from being hit by that car that restored them. But the tradeoff for gaining back those old experiences was that he had now lost his memory of what he had been doing over the past five years.

It was learned that Philip was a World I veteran, had both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Harvard, and had taught in several prestigious college preparatory schools.

When contacted, his brother, Wilbert Bancroft Skerrye, said that the War Department had informed him several years prior that Philip had been discharged from the Army during World War II, but he hadn’t had any contact with his brother since 1940.

So just where had Philip been over the past five years?  He couldn’t say, but police determined he had not been teaching.  Instead, he had been working as a janitor in Boston under his given name. Interestingly, his 1942 World War II draft card indicates that he was working for the Town Taxi Co. in Boston at that time.  I was also able to piece together that after regaining his memory, he enrolled in the Philadelphia College of the Bible, where he would meet his third wife, Rae Josephine Shaver.  The two would marry on December 26, 1958. Reverend Philip Skerrye was 77 years old when he passed away on April 10, 1976.

Philip Baldwin Skerrye's 1942 World War II draft card.
Philip Baldwin Skerrye’s 1942 World War II draft card.
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