The incredible story of the Florida man who awoke in a hospital with amnesia and speaking only Swedish made headlines around the world this week. But as more details about the life of Michael Boatman—who believes his name is Johan Ek—emerge, some have been left wondering whether it's all a great hoax. The Desert Sun has been piecing his history together, and paints a picture of a man leading an unhappy, directionless life. In 2012, Boatman was teaching English in China and was outwardly happy. But after receiving a call for help, friends found him living in a "hovel" and lying unconscious next to animal tranquilizers and a glass of vodka.
For reasons that are unclear, he suddenly stopped working at the English school in January. "I think he got very depressed," says a friend. "He lost himself. He didn’t know about his future. He had no job. No family, he said. He had no money. He had nothing. And he didn’t know what to do." Friends discovered his visa was about to expire, so they bought him a ticket to Palm Springs, hoping he would find work there as a tennis coach. He went to a hotel asking for work, saying it was his last chance and that he had only $400 to his name. Days later, he woke up with amnesia. Some now believe Boatman is faking his memory loss to escape his old life. "I just think here is a guy that has no place to go, is desperate and is broke," says a friend. "If he does this, at least he has a bed and three meals a day."