Surprise: 'Forest Boy' is a Hoax

This article is from the archive of our partner .

If the tale of a mystery boy who'd wandered into Berlin out of the German woods last September after supposedly living in caves for five years seemed incredible to you, you've got good judgment. It turns out the strange, English-speaking fellow (who claimed to be a teenager) who said he'd buried his father in the woods after the two of them had lived there following his mother's death in a car accident, was taking German police for a ride.

As incredible as the story the young man spun is the fact it took nine months and Interpol circulating his photo for police to finally identify him as a 20-year-old Dutchman who'd disappeared about five days before he showed up in Berlin. Identified only as Ray, the 20-year-old kept up his story for cops and the public until his Dutch stepmother identified him. Ray acknowledged he was actually Robin van Helsum, and that his story had been a lie, CNN and German news site The Local reported.

But in the interim, the German public became fascinated by the blond kid who said he was 17 and had returned to society after losing both his parents. He had said that his mother had died in a car crash, and that he and his father had taken to the woods where they lived in caves and a tent, hiking around guided by maps and a compass. When his father died, he said he buried the man and wandered north for five days and made it to Berlin, The Local reported. In fact, his father was alive when he disappeared from his Dutch home, but died in early 2012, while his son was missing. "He had personal problems and this was his way of starting a new life," Van Helsum's friends told reporters.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.