Into the Wild Story Driven by Domestic Abuse: Sisters

Chris McCandless fled abusive father, sisters say
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2014 1:50 PM CST
Into the Wild Story Driven by Domestic Abuse: Sisters
This undated photo provided by the Villard-McCandless family shows Chris McCandless, 24, posing for a self-portrait with a porcupine.   (AP Photo/Villard-McCandless family)

Chris McCandless' journey into the Alaskan wild wasn't only about his love for nature, his sisters say. It was also inspired by his desire to escape a brutal home life in which his father lashed out verbally and physically, they tell ABC News. Chris' sister Carine says she only wants people to better understand her brother's fatal two-year trek, which was chronicled in the book and film Into the Wild and became a touchstone for hikers around the world. "I don't blame [my parents] for his death," says Carine, who has written about her family in a new book called The Wild Truth. "But I do hold them accountable for his disappearance." Chris' half-sisters Shawna and Shelly concur with her description of a family on edge over their dad's hair-trigger temper. Not only was their father Walt McCandless violent, they say, for a while he had two families and divided his time between them.

His current wife Billie is Chris' and Carine's mom, but he was still married to another woman (Shawna's and Shelly's mom) when Chris and Carine were born, and didn't divorce her until Chris was 4. "Both women were pregnant at the same time," says Shawna, adding that their father would spend a few days with them, then leave for a while, then return. He allegedly hit and choked Billie often, and one day punched a high-school-aged Chris on the spine, Carine says: "Chris just turned and looked to him and [had a] puff of disgust across his lips." In fact, both Walt and Billie were "prone to alcohol-fueled rages," according to a review of Carine's book in the Columbus Dispatch, and the book also accuses Walt of hitting Chris and Carine with a belt. (Both parents have released a statement calling the book "fictionalized writing.") Carine releases letters from Chris in her new book, including one in which he revealed his plan to "divorce" his parents: "I'll be through with them once and for all forever." (Last year, Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer said he finally solved the mystery of what killed McCandless.)

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