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Amnesiac Struggles To Remember His Identity

December 26, 1989

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) _ Timothy Curry took his first name from an old newspaper, his last from some writing he spotted on the wall of a soup kitchen.

Curry can’t recall his real name or where he came from. Indeed he can’t remember anything from before January 1988.

He said that’s when he woke up in a Boston bus station, his mind a total blank.

″I feel like a lunatic sometimes because I don’t know who I am. I have no identity. The only thing I know is how to live on the street,″ said Curry, who appears to be in his 20s.

Susan Grislis, director of the Rhode Island affiliate of Literacy Volunteers of America, tested Curry and concluded he has at least a high school education.

But Curry said he was unfamiliar with World War I and Watergate. He knows the Beatles were a rock group because he read about them in Boston, but doesn’t know their songs.

Curry lived on the streets of Boston, afraid to seek help because he thought they would ″lock me up in a mental hospital and I wouldn’t get out.″

He was befriended by a Bellingham, Mass., construction worker who spotted him near Fenway Park in August 1988. Ralph Guisti, 54, visited Curry weekly and sometimes gave him money for food.

″He didn’t look human,″ Guisti said of his friend with deep-green eyes and a scraggly brown beard. ″He was a person in need.″

After months of urging, Guisti persuaded Curry to go to the homeless shelter in Woonsocket, about five miles from Bellingham, and get help. Curry arrived Oct. 24 and can stay six months.

Shelter officials and Woonsocket police take Curry’s claim of amnesia seriously.

″I haven’t found anything to indicate that he might be feigning,″ said shelter director Paul Dempster. ″It’s genuine.″ He said Curry does not smoke, drink or use drugs.

Woonsocket police sent Curry’s fingerprints to the FBI, which determined he has no criminal or military record.

The police also distributed Curry’s description - 5 feet 7, 145 pounds - to police departments nationwide.

So far, the police have turned up nothing.

″If it turns out that this individual doesn’t have much in way of family, then we might run into a roadblock,″ said Detective Lt. Michael Richardson. ″If nobody’s filed a missing person report, there’s nothing we can do about it.″

Curry has undergone psychological counseling at the Northern Rhode Island Community Mental Health Center.

Richard Crino, a registered psychiatric nurse, said it is impossible to diagnose Curry’s problem until he takes some more medical tests. He said several illnesses, including a brain tumor, epilepsy and alcoholism, can produce memory loss.

To rule out an organic cause, officials at the health center ordered a brain scan, physical examination, blood tests and a test that checks the brain’s electrical potential. Curry has taken the first two, but refuses to take the others.

He said the brain scan made his eyes sensitive to light and irritated his sinuses.

Curry said he struggles to regain his memory.

″I’d look at people and try to picture what my relatives must look like,″ he said. ″But there’s nothing for me to remember.″

Dempster said he would like Curry to get a driver’s license and Social Security card in his adopted name soon, ″so he can start living a normal lifestyle.″

For his part, Curry said, ″The only thing I can think of is if the police find my identity, or my memory comes back. That’s the only hope I have.″

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