Was Chris McCandless Crazy? Literally?

This story was published in the Anchorage Daily News recently and it was sent to me by Azzfan. The gist of the article is that the writer, Craig Medred, believes that Into The Wild, both the book and the movie, fail to tellChris McCandless’ true story because they ignore the fact that he may have been schizophrenic.

This is maybe an oversight on the part of author Jon Krakauer or it could have been undiagnosed, but the idea certainly raises some interesting questions.

Medred, the writer in the Anchorage Daily News,contends that we’ve been fed “a misrepresentation, a sham, a fraud” of a Chris McCandless’ story that makes him out to be a mythic figure who was setting out to find the “meaning of life.”

Someone who wanted to commune with nature, and lead a simpler existence, something we all yearn for at times. This endearing—some would say naive—a quality that makes the young man both appealing and confounding at the same time.

The writer of the article points out that McCandless took on a different persona in taking the name Alexander Supertramp and references notes that were left behind in McCandless’ journals as evidence that he had schizophrenia.

His Writings

In his writings in his journal entries, Christopher Johnson McCandless or simply known as Chris, refers to himself in the third person regularly, sometimes writes vague, yet idealistic, references about his intentions, while at the same time waxing philosophically about getting lost in the wild.

Medred contends that McCandless wasn’t searching for anything in particular at all. Instead, He was running from something—perhaps his own inner demons.

chris mccandless 2
Photo Credit: Chris McCandless

From these observations, Medred concludes that McCandless, a smart young man, had a mental illness that may have driven him into the wilderness.

Perhaps more controversially, the writer contends that Krakauer deliberately set out to create a folk hero, giving the subject of his book ethereal qualities that many people admire. The result is almost a cult-like following of McCandless that continues to exist even today.

Here is a brief background about Christopher McCandless’s story.

Christopher McCandless, in full, Christopher Johnson McCandless, was born in El Segundo, California. Chris, a beloved son to his parents, Billie and Walt McCandless,grew up in Virginia, studied, and excelled academically in history and anthropology at Emory University. 

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1990, the young adventure started his journey and traveled widely. He traveled the western United States, worked for his friend, Wayne Westerberg, then went South, where he paddled to Mexico. He spent much of Autumn 1991 working in McDonald’s restaurant, living in Salton City, California, and then reappeared in Carthage, where he planned out his Alaskan adventure.

McCandless hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, and met a local electrician named Jim Gallien when he hitchhiked again on his way out of Fairbanks. Gallien had serious doubts about “Alex’s” ability to survive the rough and unforgiving Alaskan bush.  

Chris, a young adventurer, possibly died from starvation and poisoning in an abandoned bus which he used as makeshift shelter, deep in the Alaskan wilderness near Alaska’s Denali National Park in April 1992.

His body was found by the moose hunters on September 6, 1992. The cause of death was officially reported as starvation. However, in his final days, McCandless recorded in his journal, the tragic moments of starvation after he was trapped by the Teklanika River and his own conviction, that the seeds of the wild potato, or Eskimo potato (Hedysarum alpinum seeds), had incapacitated him. Research has been undertaken years afterward at the direction of Jon Krakauer, assisted by Jonathan Southard, a biochemist at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the others identified the most probable agent of harm as L-canavanine, an amino acid that is found in wild potato seeds and functions as an antimetabolite. The specific danger had not been properly recognized during McCandless’s lifetime. However, the role that the seeds played in his death was debated.

(Source: britannica.com/biography/Christopher-McCandless)

That doesn’t make him mentally ill necessarily. There didn’t seem to be any indications that he had schizophrenia by other reports. Besides, wouldn’t it make for an even glossier story to have a “Crazy Man” wander off alone in the Alaskan wilderness?

into the wild cover

When reading what Medred wrote in the Anchorage Daily News, my first thought was that, of course, McCandless wasn’t necessarily searching for anything in particular. At least early on, he was running from something. He was running from his parents and the upbringing he had known.

He was running from the expectations they had been foisted upon him and the lifestyle he saw his family stuck in. He wanted no part of that way of life, and I thought that was adequately conveyed in both the book and the film.

As McCandless’ story went on, though, I would say Chris did begin to search for things rather than just running away.

McCandless wrote in his letter to Franz, a Vietnam veteran, and leatherworker who befriends him in Salton City said that“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” Upon reading that, I now understand why most of the readers of Jon Krakauer’s book, in turn, sought an adventure of their own.

He was searching for his own identity, away from his McCandless family and friends. He searched for some direction as to where he wanted to go with his life and what he wanted to do.

Was McCandless schizophrenic as this author claims? That’s hard to say, and I’m hardly qualified to make that diagnosis. Clearly he did some strange things throughout his journey that not all of us can relate to.

That doesn’t make him mentally ill necessarily. There didn’t seem to be any indications that he had schizophrenia by other reports. Besides, wouldn’t it make for an even glossier story to have a “Crazy Man” wander off alone in the Alaskan wilderness?

Anyone who has hiked for any distance on the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or any number of other long hiking routes knows this. I always viewed Chris’s adopted moniker in that same fashion, never thinking much about it beyond that point.

And as to the idea that McCandless was altering his identity by going by the name of Alexander Supertramp, I say hogwash. Trail names are incredibly common, and some people adopt them as a badge of honor.

From my perspective, we’re all just speculating at this point. Krakauer wrote Into The Wild to share the story with everyone based on McCandless journal entries .Some people have chosen to make McCandless a mythic folk hero who is a curious side product of that story.

I personally don’t think that that was what Krakauer had in mind when he wrote his now-classic book. Of course, we all see what we want to see at times. To some, he might have been a folk hero. To others, he really was just plain crazy. It’s all a matter of perspective, and in the end, we all have to make up our own minds.

Kraig Becker

106 thoughts on “Was Chris McCandless Crazy? Literally?”

  1. Truth is in the eye of the beholder, I think. Who cares if the Chris McCandless of the book and film isn’t *exactly* like the real Chris. The themes stay the same.

  2. Agreed! Of course we’ll never know exactly what was going on in his mind since he died out there in that bus. But his journals tell a lot, and aside from a flair for the dramatic, I didn’t get the sense that he was suffering from schizophrenia.

  3. Plus, I hate it when people make ‘crazy’ out to be a bad thing. Sure, schizophrenia is an illness, but it doesn’t mean they are lunatic. I’ve known a bunch of schizophrenics in my travels (many of them homeless vagabonds), but they were so sweet and were really just struggling with their minds more than most people do.

  4. I was left with the impression that he was lazy, couldn’t hunt and had odd behaviors. But sure maybe he needed some meds. Being sick isn’t awful but it should be squared away.

  5. I think it’s a huge leap to call McCandless a schizophrenic based on the few pieces of evidence that are offered in the story. It’s mostly just a theory that the author has, but I have to believe that someone would have seen the signs in him at some point if he truly did suffer from the mental illness.

  6. It is to no surprise that this guy for ADN is making this claim. He is just trying to ride this train out as long as possible. I personally, from the information that we have been given, that Chris was far from having this disease. Chris’s behaviour is not odd per se. Everyone searches for life answers, searches for meanig and purpose and we all do it in different manners, different times of our lives and the outcomes, well, they are all different. Chris is not a hero by any length. What he did was have the balls, the drive to test himself in the world without questioning death. There are so many people who never truly live, take chances, and wory to much about making mistakes and trying to be so perfect. Chris was a kind and giving person from what I gather. I had a conversation the other day with my neighbor who is so much about looking and being pictured as perfect and well off. I had asked her just in conversation who she had impacted greatly and positively lately and she coudn’t answer. Chris impacted people that he came into contact with and now, he has with a lot of people he never met.

  7. I was thinking similar things about this writer possibly just trying to get some notoriety off the story. I’m not familiar with his work but I got that vibe a bit.

    You make some great points about Chris as well Lawrence. Great insights.

  8. I have yet to run into a person who isn’t crazy…. You’re all nuts!!! 🙂

    Seriously though, that seems like a tough disease to be able to diagnose when a doctor is able to really study a patient… much less to make that assumption based on second hand information. Who knows. I think Mark hit it when he said that the “themes” of the story are the important piece we can all take away.

  9. Medred, the article’s author, is known here for being a bit sensational to get a rise or for “shock value.” I expected him to come out with a story on McCandless. Medred (or “The Dread” as some call him) has very little to base his assumptions on, but it is just like him to take a few small facts and try to skew it into “proving” his point.

  10. LOL! Wade? You’re calling the rest of us crazy after your “Survivor Dude” weekend?? 😉

    But seriously, both yours and Beck’s comments put this story in perspective some. It’s interesting to hear that the writer has some local notoriety for some of his articles. That probably says a lot about this piece as well.

  11. As the parent of a son who’s been ill with schizophrenia since 1994, his junior year in college, I can say with substantial conviction that the behavior and writings of Chris McCandless align very well with those of people who have the disease. I feel certain that if the question were taken to families who’ve lived up close with this illness, they would recognize McCandless’ illness in a heartbeat.

  12. Thanks for your comments and insights. You obviously have a unique perspective on the subject that the rest of us do not.

    What elements of Chris’ story line up with the symptoms? I’m curious as to what you see in both his story and that of your own.

  13. I just saw this movie this past weekend, and that’s EXACTLY what I thought, 30 minutes in – this guy had schizophrenia, which was undiagnosed!! Lots and lots of homeless people, etc., are mentally ill.

    If that’s the case, it’s truly sad. If he wasn’t mentally ill, he was a total idiot, and at best, very irresponsible.

  14. and PS – I do understand and appreciate the people who empathize with the need to “test yourself” and survive in the woods, etc., but would suggest that our perception of such an act comes out of our 21st-century, largely suburban, white, middle class culture – that if we saw these behaviors separate from larger societal angst and a need to rebel, McCandless actions would seem more deviant.

  15. I definitely agree with the totally irresponsible part at the very least, and quite possibly a total idiot. He certainly did have an idealistic outlook on life that was hard to understand.

    I guess it’s quite possible he was an undiagnosed schizophrenic, but why those themes haven’t really been brought up until now is kind of strange. I’m not sure if Krakauer ignored the possibilities on purpose or if they just didn’t occur to him.

  16. schizophrenia? This is a term that is thrown around a lot to cover a number of different issues/illnesses. Whether one knows someone with it or not (I have one family member and a know of a close friend’s family member with schizophrenia), I think it’s difficult to diagnose McCandless from what we know of him via a book or film retelling, especially considering that “facts” in both are not 100%correct (i.e. McCandless did not destroy all of his ID’s, etc. – they were found with his things in Bus 142 upon his body being found, etc.)I also feel it’s somewhat insulting to his family, which has clearly been through A LOT already, to suggest that they did NOT see any warning signs that their son might be mentally ill/unstable. I think, if anything, Chris’s adventures out West (the CO. river for example) and his readings perhaps served to develop a sort of “God complex” which could explain his “irresponsibility” in his undertaking his “great Alaskan adventure”.

  17. Really great insights dadalus. Definitely some great points to think about. I also agree that it’s pretty much impossible to diagnose Chris from what we know, and I also agree that his family has been through plenty, although I do think they did miss some of the signs in his personality that lead him to go off on his adventures, that doesn’t mean he was a schizophrenic.

  18. people in america worship anything that is bigger than they are. this is coming from an american. i too ran away from home with little money and a back pack. only i ended up in san francisco and got on meds. i know exactly what this idiot did and it’s nothing glamorous and holds no real glory. anyone can go out and die in alaska. if fact if he never died no one would ever have known his name. maybe chris wasn’t a fraud but everything we have heard about him is.

  19. Good point. We are talking about a guy who is famour for dying. I’d contend that it wasn’t Chris that captured our imagination per se, but the spirit that drove him out into that Alaskan wild.

  20. I think most of you on here are assholes… Did you all miss the part that he was actually really intellegent, a steller student, and an athelete? Of course he was a bit crazy to do what he did, but for you all to judge him, without knowing him, while at the same time legitamizing your jail cell as more worthy than what he did, is completely pathetic. Get a life.

  21. As always, I appreciate all comments, and I definitely respect your opinion and you make a good point that none of us actually knew him, but to come in here and call people “assholes” is a bit much as well. We all have our opinions, and I’ve said on several occasions I don’t believe he was a schizophrenic.

    As for our “jail cells”, you’re barking up the wrong tree here as well. Many people who read and post here lead very full, active, and adventurous lives. Including climbers, mountaineers, long distance trekkers, and more. There are ways of leading that lifestyle without running off “into the wild”.

  22. I hope what anyone who is considering doing what Mccandless did (as I am), will write down EVERYTHING. Should you pass while in the bush, people will know why you were there, why you came to the wild places of America. Record everything, names of towns and plants and animals, the sights and sounds, your every thought and idea.

  23. Sounds like a great approach Greg and something I’d be interested in reading I’m sure.

  24. I feel that Chris is someone who just wanted to get away from society and when I’m done with college I’m going to do as he did. I’ve been wanting to live out in the wilderness of Alaska since I was in elementary school. I say more power to the believers of a more simple life, as far as, the rest of society. You all can just live your lives of worry and keep having money control your life. Money is a tick sucking the life from every human being it meets with.

  25. Absolutely. But bring a map, bring the proper clothing (cotton is a no no, etc), do the things that will give you the best odds of surviving. In no way is living in the wilderness a picnic or a walk in the park. Its a challenge, thats why most people go out to the wild.

  26. Very few people here will condemn Chris for living a more simpler life and heading out into the wilderness. The issue wasn’t that he chose to do that, but that he was so ill prepared to do so.

    If you’re going to do something similar, just make sure you have all the tools you need, both physical and mental, to survive in that environment.

  27. Just saw the movie last night and it struck a chord like no story has for me in a long time. Am very glad to see that a lot of people feel the same way. Am also glad that it seems to have stirred up a lot of controversy over very current topics that never seem to get discussed.I have been reading these blogs all day and am fascinated by all the things that this story has brought up. From the movie you would never consider the charachter schitzophrenic, maybe he was, maybe not. Maybe just an idiot. but at the very least a hero for creating a character(himself? literary?) and a story which bring the issue of who we are in this world and who do we want to be.

  28. Yakelsnork: If you enjoyed the movie so much, you should definitely pick up the book. It is excellent as well.

  29. I did not feel John Krakauer or the movie glamorized Chris I walked away with the impression he was probably bi-polar, it is a very sad story. I was the same age as Chris, at that age we all think we are invincible and do stupid things whether it’s drugs, drinking, driving to fast, having unprotected sex etc…but those of us who got lucky and lived through our misadventures should not be to harsh on those not so lucky.
    Chris did and saw a lot of things the rest of us will never. He would have had a heck of a story to tell if he had survived.

  30. The magic in the way this story is told is that it doesn’t ever attempt to explain Chris McCandless’s thinking from an analytic perspective. Instead it just shares some heady, profound observations from Chris McCandless’s, or Krakauer’s, or Penn’s, or various other sources’ minds. The reader / viewer is allowed to fill in the blanks in following the insanity of his path.

    No question Chris fit some parameters that would define him as somewhere between off-beat and crazy; but when the story resonates with someone it’s because they identify with his reasoning well enough that they know they’ve felt and thought along the same lines. Not to the extreme McCandless did, but the way so many people are affected by the story says something about the human condition.

    In a way McCandless is a martyr to a cause or causes we all hold dearly but seldom articulate.

    Our label of mental illness is after all are just an invention of society (ask any mental health professional). Whether or not he was crazy we all can identify with him, and gain strength from knowing we’re not alone in feeling that.

  31. Who’s schizo!?!? 2.1 billion people believe in Christianity, 1.5billion Islam, 900 million Hindus, 23 million Sikhism, 14 million Judaism, 15 million Spiritism, 600 thousand Rastafariaism, 500 thousand Scientologists, and there’s more! Plus a president invades a country because he says gawd told him to! And we’re picking on one guy here! Woe! We’re ruled by crazies! No wonder we’re all in this situation! Oh yeah I’m crazy too for being logical and for posting this comment!

  32. I think the friends he made on his travels would have spent significant time with him to notice the type of behaviour displayed with a sufferer of schizophrenia. He was fiercely idealistic, possibly to the point of self-delusion. A delusion that took the form of the Alexander Supertramp facet of his personality that he took on. Supertramp was not another person existing within himself, merely an ideal image of who he wanted to be. Unfortunately it seems Supertramp was fearless and invincible. Mccandless, unfortunately was not.

  33. No, he wasn’t nuts, just trying to escape the life that his family set up for him. I don’t believe that his name change had anything to do with a mental illness, but instead had to do with shedding the life he didn’t want to be part of. If you don’t feel like you belong to a group of people, why would you want to keep the name given to you? His name change was part of his new life and I don’t believe anything else. I felt very much like him and it was such an amazing movie. I only hope that folks grow from watching it and realize that community is important and that we are too wrapped up with ourselves and what people think we should be. Etc.

  34. “Supertramp was not another person existing within himself, merely an ideal image of who he wanted to be. Unfortunately it seems Supertramp was fearless and invincible. Mccandless, unfortunately was not.” – Goldfishwars

    Thats a remarkable insight. It’s not too often that I’m hit so powerfully by what other people say. It’s especially chilling, too, as I now wonder if thats the case with myself.
    I will one day be traveling through America, living out of a pack, hitching or walking, and generally living in the wilderness for weeks or months at a time (hunting and fishing for food as well as having supplies). Thats Phase I. Phase II is the building of a cabin when I find a suitable location and living in it for, well, maybe the rest of my life. Of course, I will go into towns and travel and interact; I dont desire to be a full on hermit.

    But when I embark on my American adventure, will I be the person I imagine I am can or will be, or will I fail short and ultimately die? I think I will live, because I will prepare myself much MUCH MUCH better than Mccandles. Im already at home in the woods when I hike and camp, and by doing a 3 month outward-bound type class, multiple week and month long training trips, and just learning as much as I can about the wild, I will survive and even thrive in it.

    I thank you for giving me the opportunity to think about this, Goldfishwars. And if I do survive, it will be in part, albeit maybe only a tine one, of this insight youve given me.

  35. I agree that that is remarkable insight and very well said. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with that statement Goldfishwars.

    I guess this post and the article that spawned it have struck a nerve with a lot of people as it continues to be read regularly with comments posted all the time as well.

  36. I have just seen the movie “Into The Wild”, I had never heard of this man before now.I am a Canadian, and have travelled all over North America as a long haul trucker, including the sub-arctic to the diamond mines of the Northwest Territories, on the ice roads. I have read a lot of the comments on this blog, and it is troubling to see that the term schizophrenia is being thrown around so loosley.
    I have had the same ideals as Chris for many, many, years.I DO suffer from mental illness, and take medication,however it is not schizophrenia…I am Bi-Polar II with mixed states..but more importantly in this case I have cluster B traits which included(Borderline,Narcissistic,Anti-social) These are behavioural traits that can easily describe Chris’ actions, as portrayed in the movie.
    Until watching this film, I honestly believed I was the only human on this planet, that felt the way I do, about society, life,and other human beings in general. All one has to do is read the postings on this blog to understand what Chris’ was running away from…some of them are hurtfull and nasty…and the internet wasn’t even really around back then.Chris is a hero in my eyes….Live and let Live…Freedom is an illusion, created by the very society which enslaves us all. The moment when one realizes he/she is a slave to society, is the moment when one truly becomes free.

  37. Chris with the behavior trates he exhibited in the movie does not fit the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Nor does he show enough traits of borderline personality disorder, or narccistic personality traits. I honestly believe that he was so disgusted with his family and the lies that he surmized from his trip to California that he just wanted away from his family. I think he may have been a little depressed through school and he had just enough to want to escape from all of it. I had a very similar child hood and ended up changing my name, not because of mental health issues, but to shed the life that I once knew. If you are going to create a new life for yourself, why not go all the way? I believe Chris went to Alaska to prove something to himself as he grew up in a upper middle income family and saw just how much his parents worked and fought. I think he was just trying to escape all of this. When you attempt to diagnose someone from fragments of what you see, you will not get an accurate diagnosis.

  38. I am a psychotherapist and agree that it would be difficulty if not impossible to diagnose Chris from the movie, especially with a serious mental illness, like Schizophrenia. However, generally, individuals with Schizophrenia typically begin experiencing symptoms around the age Chris would have been when he began his jouney. Still anyone attempting to make a diagnosis based on the movie and circumstantial information would be making a huge leap. Schizophrenia additionally has a genetic component–so a good family history would have to be taken. Additionally, there are numerous other mental illness that he could have been experiencing, i.e., Bipolar, Depression, Schizoaffective, just to name a few–or perhaps he was just an idealist who wanted to try to live outside of the restraints that society places on all of us. I think that the reason this story has had such a following is because on some level we all have had a longing to escape those demands at some point in our lives–does that make us all crazy?

  39. I watched this movie yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, and then watched it again about 5 hours later. It has been a very long time since a movie has really touched me deeply in so many ways and stayed with me so much so that I cannot get it out of my mind this morning. Hence, I am here on the internet looking up more info on Chris. All of our realities are different. I could look at something and say that it is the color blue, while you might see it as a shade of purple. I do not think that by watching this movie or reading the book that one could ever diagnose Chris as having any kind of mental illness. And I also think that when people head out to do something different from the “norm” that they are often labled as being “crazy” or having some kind of mental illness. That is by no means true. In some cases, yes maybe so, but not in all cases. I think it is really unfair and cruel to label Chris, or anyone else, this way. What I took from the movie is this: That Chris suffered from a very painful childhood, growing up around angry outbursts and witnessing violence between his parents. When a child grows up in this environment, their very core of family, safety and relations between people is destroyed. It takes much work and often many years to work through this pain through therapy if one decides to go that route. Then when Chris took his trek out to California after his last year in High School and met up with old family friends, who told him the truths about his Mother and Father, Chris felt that all of his childhood was a lie. I can relate to this entirely and know exactly what that feels like. It can have an extremely devastating effect on one’s soul. Chris was also very idealistic (which is a difficult way to be and live in this world – I know because I am that way too) and to make life more difficult, he had impossible high expectations for not only himself, but for everyone else in this world. I have struggled with these 2 ways of being/thinking/feeling my whole life and understand completely how that makes a person feel. It is a very difficult life to live, I can tell you that. But for me personally, I cannot change it, it is just the way I am and always have been. Had I known Chris I would have befriended him and gone with him. One part of the movie that struck me was when Chris ended up in Los Angeles at the homeless shelter and later, after walking the streets and looking at the people and the buildings, he quickly left to trek back out into nowhere. When I returned back into society from my Outward Bound trip, I had a difficult time understanding what everyone else was doing. I went back to work and just sat there wondering “Why?”…”Why are you all doing this? Why am I doing this? What sense does this all make?” I would watch the commuters in the morning traffic with their road rage and talking on their cell phones and just wonder why… I enjoyed those days of hiking and carrying a 170lb pack on my back with blistered heels and looking for water and making my next meal and writing in my journal. The simpleness of it all, was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. We had no phones, no computers, and just the beauty that surrounded us and the challenge of just surviving. That was really living. By taking on his new name, Alexander Supertramp, I feel that Chris was doing two things: 1) He was probably smart enough to know that their could be a possibility that people were searching for him and he did not want to be found. And 2) He did it to shed his past and begin his new life. I too, changed my name several years ago because I do not want or have anything to do with one side of my family. And that was the side of my family that hurt me with the lies I later discovered, thus feeling the same way Chris did, that my childhood was one big lie. I did it to make a healing break from that part of my life and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. A name is a very personal thing and very powerful. It seemed to me that Chris did not want to get too close to anyone, because he did not want to get hurt again. So a life of traveling and meeting people, but then quickly leaving before a strong bond can be developed, was the only way he knew how to survive the relationship factor we all experience with others. And of course, living alone, in the wilderness, was the ultimate choice to not encounter the pain and fear that that brought him.

    The one thing that haunts me is at the very end, when he is near death and takes his pen to write in the book “Happiness only real if shared” and he begins to cry. I cannot help but wonder if at this time, when he knows that death is upon him, he suddenly realizes that what he’s been looking for, i.e.; happiness, is only real if you share it with others, and that his solo existence in the wild did not bring upon him what he thought it would, but now it was too late. Now it was too late for him to reach out to others, to develop and have relationships with others and experience and feel the happiness that can come from that, when you find safe people to experience that with, who will do you no harm or cause you any pain. Chris did not get this as a child, and he missed out on being taught this by his parents, who were instead displaying acts of violence in front of him. But deep in his core of being, he did want to be close to someone, because we all do. We all ache for someone to really understand us and accept us for who we really are, to not pass judgement on us and to love us as is.

    Chris was an old soul, a kind soul, a caring soul, a hurt soul who was courageous enough to take a different path than most while trying to deal with his difficult past and who wanted to find joy and adventure in the life he was given. He wanted to test himself by trying to survive with the most minimal of belongings. It was his choice to not know what day it was, what time it was, where he was. My god how many days in my life where I have wanted to live that way. Too many to count. I commend Chris for really living his life, even if it was in the short time that he had. He lived.

    I would have been your friend and I would have never hurt you. I understand completely.


  40. Thanks to everyone who is continuing to leave really great comments on this topic. These have been very thoughtful and interesting to read to be sure.

    I think the author of the original article, to which I linked all those weeks ago, was really just trying to be controversial and get attention to his article. There is no way he could have diagnosed Chris from the book or movie even if he was a doctor.

    Chris was an easy guy to like though, and his spirit for adventure is still easy to admire even all of these years later.

  41. Like many of you, I watched the film by Sean Penn and was struck by the tragic and powerful story of Christopher McCandless. The compelling story, and its sad conclusion drove me to the Internet in search of more information about the inspirational spirit of this young man. In my travels across the web I stumbled across this blog, and the (sometimes) insightful and thought provoking comments posted here by so many of you. Thank you very much for your contributions.

    I would urge some of you to do the same, and reach out for more information to aid in the development of your ideas on the subject of Chris McCandless. I think it would be unfair to the memory of Chris, if we based our opinions and our perceptions of him on the Hollywood representation of his Truth. From the time Chris climbed out of that old Ford pickup and waved good bye to James Gallien, to the time of his death, we have nothing more to go on than the writings and photos found at the bus and the physical evidence in the surrounding area. It is from these sources that I wish to learn more about Chris’ story.

    Given the opportunity, I would urge the McCandless family to release the entirety of Chris’ writings to a publisher. What little writing I have found is powerful, and strikes at something deep inside the primal part of my being. My personal favorite is included below, and it implies to me that the collected works of Chris McCandless might just be one of the great works of our time. Sadly, I can do nothing more than speculate, as I have read only a tiny portion of the written record.

    Speculate is a key word there, and therein lies the reason for my comment here tonight. Remember, as you read whats posted here, that we have all been stirred by a story: told by a skilled story teller and a gifted artist. I say that if we are to be truly inspired, then let it be by the truth and not by an artist’s representation.

    “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greather joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” — Christopher McCandless 1968-1992

  42. For what it’s worth, I knew nothing of Christopher McCandless before having seen the movie. I assumed from the title it was a rip-roaring adventure type film, in the vain of “The Journey of Natty Gan” or “8 Below”. Needless to say, the actual story was very different than I had expected.

    I point this out, merely to illustrate that I had no preconceived notions about Chris or his story, save the vague impressions I had from the work’s title. And watching his story unfold, I was found it very disturbing. Inspiring in certain ways, absolutely, but at the end of the day, tragic.

    Having only seen the movie, and knowing nothing else save my own limited experiences with people who suffer from schizophrenia, I assumed Chris was schizophrenic. As romantic and aspiring as his ideals were, his actions simply were not that of a sane man. In particular his failure to make any contact with his sister after his dissappearance. I understand the urge to sever ties with one’s parents, but the way had abandoned his sister just seemed cruel to me. And of course going into the wilds of Alaska without so much as compass or a map. The fact that less than a quarter of a mile away from his camp, there was a tram that could have brought him across the river. Plus many other actions that don’t correspond with the actions of someone who wanted to live.

    Of course this is speculation, as none of us ever knew Chris. But I think his story can still be very profound and moving, even if he did suffer from some sort of mental illness. Some, if not most of you, probably have a friend or a cousin who is schizophrenic, you realize that they can be for the most part fairly normal people, who lead fairly lives. But often their judgement and decision making is unsound, often to their detriment, and occasionally ending in death, suicide, or hospitalization. If Christopher did have a mental illness, he is still an amazing character, and his story still has merit, but as I see it, it is above all, extremely tragic.

  43. I believe the hand-operated cable car you’re talking about was six miles from the bus, not 1/4. But still, you’re right, six miles is two or three hours on foot, and he coulda been across. He made a lot of mistakes and its a wonder he made it as far as he did.

  44. I think part of what makes this story so tragic is that Chris was so unprepared to go out there. A lot of us can relate to his desire to get away from society and escape “into the wild”, but his naiveté was also part of his undoing.

    By all accounts, Chris was a very smart and charismatic guy, but that wasn’t enough to keep him alive, which is evident in both the book and the movie.

  45. The fact that he only brings a 10 pound bag of rice
    with him,then kills a 1000 pound moose only to go
    to waste says alot about his state of mind.
    Respect the wilderness or it will kill you!
    I do love a good Adventure

  46. My son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six months ago. I did extensive research on mental illness before (trying to get answers) and after his diagnosis (trying to get more answers). I was sure after watching the film, and more certain after reading the book that Chris McCandless was mentally ill…probably schizophrenic or had bipolar disorder. Please note that many people who develop these illnesses are ABOVE average intelligence and are often have charming, magnetic personalities as well as amazing minds. Apart from all of the above, this is a touching and chilling account of a young man’s life that made an strong impact on me.

  47. I think it’s silly for anyone to suggest schizophrenia, or illness. A doctor couldn’t diagnose the disease in so little time. Anyway.. it’s funny how we need label people into neat packages, simply because we doesn’t understand, and it unsettles us, or the person in question is perhaps unsettled. Everyone has their journey. Mccandless appeared to be a visionary, and a compassionate soul. His travels were inspiring, and I think there’s no greater way to enter spiritual adulthood than to explore the soul outside the box in that way, and in a way that’s unfortunately foreign to contemporary us.

  48. Craig Medred….is a writer and evidently has a lack of common sense. McCandless demonstrated no signs of a mental disease and for a half witted no talent writer to make statements as he did shows a total lack of un-professionalism as well as low moral character, albeit a mommas boy who tailed through life on mommy’s skirt.

  49. Don’t mince words Ray! Tell us what you really think! LOL! But yeah, I’ve heard others express similar sentiments about the guy.

  50. I think it’s pretty clear to determine from his actions that McCandless was descending into madness. He was extremely self destructive and cut off all ties to his past and his family so that he would not meet with any resistence. The sad part is no one could help him or do anything about it. The story could be called “Into Madness.”

  51. Well if distancing ones self from others leads to the eventual goal, then I don’t see it as being crazy, only efficient. Mccandless has a goal in mind, and he did it. He died doing it, but he died his way.

  52. My wife and I watched the movie last night. We kind of think he was too smart for his own good. He saw his ideal life and ignored everything that was right there for him. Everyone he met seemed to instantly love him, may have just been Penn’s take on it. I think crazy and schizophrenic aren’t necessary. He had an apaprently ‘rough’ childhood. Parents fought alot and they didn’t really seem to be really affectionate. I think he attributed this to them having money so therefore he hated the idea of it.

  53. The book also makes references to how charismatic Chris was and that the people that he encountered on his travels tended to gravitate towards him. I think his personality was one that made it difficult to not like him.

    And I agree, I think a lot of his efforts were in order to get away from the life that he was raised in, and weren’t necessarily due to him possibly dealing with schizophrenia.

  54. I had both of my teenage boys watch the movie, but first I told them that I had absolutely no admiration for the guy. He was arrogant and selfish. He used people,then discarded them along the way. The scenery was great and the movie was interesting. But this guy was a jerk; I don’t care how ‘bad’ his childhood was. What was the excuse for cutting off communication with his sister?

  55. I personally blame the author for making this guy into some spiritual hero. This guy was lame at best. There are lots of other real heros that deserve more attention. This author clouded and omitted the facts behind the case to make the story make sense in his own mind. He might be more crazy than Chris could ever have been.

    This author seems to like to glorify these weird stories of wasted life. If this story inspired me, it was maybe to not be so stupid.

    If you read symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses, you will find one that fits. Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies have made it this way by over simplifying diagnoses, so that everyone can be crazy. Therefore, everyone may buy expensive prescription drugs.

    “Do you go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning?”, then you may have a mental illness.

    BTW, He had a map, $300, and all his identification. But simple common sense could have told him to leave before his rice bag was empty, and to simply walk downstream until he reached civilization several miles away. But he didn’t appear to have common sense.

  56. I think he was selfish, vengeful, self involved, arrogant, without compassion, and yes crazy. What disturbs me about this story is not the dysfunctional family, but his reaction to it. I have and many others went through worse childhood trauma then that, but we didnt go on a self-fufilling suciide mission to punsih people who we feel have done wrong by us. He even punsihed the sister who loved and accepted him. No Chris was no hero, there have been many in my lifetime, and CM was born the same year as myself. He couldnt handle life. He couldnt stop blamming people for his obvious issues. He was no hero, he had an over inflated vision of himself and his ability to survive in a place like Alaska which he obviously learned that he did not have any idea what he was doing, not a myth, just another sad story

  57. I think he was simply a runaway. People runaway everyday, I guess this guy just had more outragous ideas for himself than perhaps others who leave where they live would. Maybe the only difference between Chris and those that have disapeared, never to be seen again is that they survived, thats why we never hear from them. I admire his bravery, i admire his views on life, but i do not admire the way he could make his family suffer like that. I think about doing the same thing as him often, yet i have my wits about me to know its probably not possible, plus i wouldnt do that to people who are obviously going to worry about me. Shouldnt that make me a hero? someone make a movie about me 😀

  58. enjoyed reading al the comments so i’ll add mine. from what I gather chris had no mental illness but he sure had a lot of pent up anger and by the time he decided to walkout of the wild he had come to terms with it. those two years on the road brought him to a place in his mind where i believe he could have returned and contributed a great deal to society.

  59. I agree with Veddar, this is one of those stories that you either “get” or you don’t. There’s no sense explaining it, you’re either on the bus or off

  60. no. he really wasn’t crazy. he was normal is what i believe. i personally think this world and society has turned crazy. it’s not natural for human beings to live like this fucked up world is today. it’s a shit of a society and everyone is trapped because of pressure to stay in it.

  61. Saw the movie; read the book. The man appeared to be wounded – shot right through the heart-by his upbringing.We’re all built differently and this guy decided to Take A Walk. That was his response, as unique as his DNA.
    On page 2 in the book, before even one word of text, is the map of the U.S., Canada and Alaska along with a mileage key, showing how many thousands of miles this man drove,hiked,hitched and canoed before arriving at his destination. Pretty impressive, even if he underestimated the unique power of Alaskan extremes.
    I’ve heard that there are 3 kinds of people in this world: People who make things happen, people who watch things happen and people who say “What happened?” He sure wasn’t sitting home on his computer reading and judging someone else.

  62. I think it is ridiculous to proclaim that he had schizophrenia. As many posters have asserted, it is both difficult to assess, given what scanty evidence he left behind AND is utterly insensitive to his family. He was naive, to say the least, but much of this can be attributed to the fact that he had grown up, and subsequently traveled, in warm climates. (As a resident of the Adirondack Mountains, I am referring to the scarcity of game and inclement elements in cold climates).

    I whole-heartedly agree with his idealism and prescience, and (on principle, anyway) support his quest to free himself from what he saw as the close-minded materialism of society, as exemplified by his parents.

    From my own personal experience with the condition, I believe that McCandless resembled a man with Asperger’s Syndrome more closely than Schizophrenia. This explains his single-minded obsessions, his inability to accept social norms, reclusiveness and quite a few of his personal idiosyncrasies. Also, AS is sometimes misdiagnosed as schizophrenia by psychs that are unfamiliar with AS. This is, by no means, my personal diagnosis. Rather, it is a (speculative) defense of McCandless against some outlandish accusations.

    In closing, it would be interesting to hypothesize as to how McCandless would have reacted to his status as a modern-day folk hero and the amount of money that has been made off of his story.

  63. Kraukaur does entertain the aspect that he may be crazy. It’s true that he wasn’t fully mature yet, and was just leaving the heavily impressionable college years. He likely would’ve settled down after a few more years and maybe have gone into the peace corps, or something similar. Being college educated and having good sense he likely would have come to a road of wisdom, and became more grounded.

  64. Im from australia and in our english class we have just finished a 8 week long study on into the wild and Chris McClandless. Personally, i think that Chris was a brave man for doing what he wanted to do. Sure, he trampled all over his families love for him (even though it may not have always been evident to Chris), and went off into a highly dangerous situation with next to no provisions, but that does not make him mentally ill. He may have been schizo, he may not have been. Who really can guess what was going through Chris’s head. It was his head and if he wanted to take himself and his head off to alaska that was his choice. Nobody elses. If it was what he truely wanted to do, i comend him. After living a life of living up to expectations i think he just wanted to be by himself and live out his own life, discovering, developing and exerting his own personality in a way that was most fufilling for him. even if he was mentally ill, just a bit, it does not change the fact that he had the balls to walk in a different direction to the majority of society.

    It just happened that he walked north to alsaka.

  65. I agree with a lot of you stating that “crazy” isnt such a bad thing. Everybody in the world has a little crazy in them truth be told. I am very moved by Chris’s story and deeply touched at what he did. I do not however view him as some super-being or a god of some sort. He didnt live in a bubble he experienced life but sadly didnt make it in the end. Rest in peace bud CJM.

  66. I think there are two definitions of the word “crazy” floating around here…

    1. Was he mentally ill? I.e., suffering from a medical condition like schizophrenia. Lots of psychiatrists and psychologists have attested to certain aspects of his behavior that are consistent with schizophrenia, but it’s impossible to diagnose him just from Krakauer’s book, etc. It is a shame that he never did visit a doctor if it is the case – if a mental illness was what was preventing him from getting help, that makes me feel very sad.

    2. Was he “crazy” in terms of, was his behavior very far outside the norm of US society? (crazy there would be meant pejoratively). This is a judgment call, but if this is the case, it was his choice to live/die this way (if he was not mentally ill but in full mental faculties). But was it irresponsible and hurtful? Yes.

  67. Schizophrenic? Who knows and who cares? This is another case of fame by death. And a stupid death, at that.

    Whatever else Chris McCabdles was, he was certainly a complete and total fool.

    He’s made a mythic, heroic figure only by those who have no clue, who dream the same kind of idiotic dreams, but who never actually go experience the reality.

    Even if the idiot had managed to walk out of Alaska alive, which any twelve year old should have been able to do, swollen river or not, he would have proven nothing except that he didn’t have a clue.

    Chris was as idiotic as they come, and being a good student and athlete doesn’t change this. What he did was something only a fool, or someone with serious mental problems, would have tried.

    It had noting to do with dreams, or with adventure. Schizophrenic?
    Who knows. But absolutely an egomaniac, a monomaniac, and what we see in his story is nothing more and nothing less than Darwanism in action.

  68. I am fascinated by the perspective that romanticizes McCandless's adventures and yearns to excape the perils of society as he did, and yet fails to appreciate the loneliness he suffered articulated by his quote, "happiness [is] only real when shared".

    After having just watched the movie without having read the book (…walked into the room and got hooked by the great cinematography), I was struck mostly with a sense of tragedy through-out the film, and not just at the end. His wanderings among vagabonds, his sister's vebalized rationalizations of his abandoning her, his inability to connect with anyone in more than a temporal way… it was just sad. Yes, inspiration can be taken from his story, but ONLY IF you learn from his mistakes.

  69. Chris had spent four years in high school and then four years in college fulfilling his parents wishes and it was time to fulfill his. I can understand why he didn't bring any ma, any money. He had to get away totally. Bringing money would have brought society with him. The only reason everyone thinks he is crazy is because he didn't bring those things, he wasn't "prepared." The truth is, he was prepared to get away from everyone that pushed things on him, from all of the parents, hypocrites, politicians. He needed to go and learn where he was from, find his roots, learn how to survive without all of these things. He wasn't crazy, he was learning to be primitive again.

  70. It makes me sad when people say chris was mentally ill or crazy or schizophrenic. I think, his mind just went in other ways than "normal" minds. Most people do not have normal minds (maybe there are no normal minds), i think, but waste time with pretending to have a normal mind. THAT is crazy.
    I saw the film more than three weeks ago and i read the book, too. I can so much understand how people feel when they watch the irrestistable "simple beauty of nature", when they hear the silence and all the harmonic stuff. nature inspires people, and feel inspiration is such a good, deeply energetic feeling. I think Chris was just too young for letting peace and inspiration of pure nature behind, too young in mind for going to civilization and trying to make relationships. nature was too good for him.
    you know, when i am surrounded by lots of people i feel most lonley. When i am alone outside and there is no one around me, i just feel connected with everything. there are no frontiers to things i am surrounded with. i feel part of everything. do you think i am crazy?

  71. honestly… i do not think that many people are trying to look at what he has to say! to many people care about what he was trying to prove, but if you listen to the words that he has to say you will understand that as simple as it is he just wanted to understand life.. on a level deeper than the materialistic things that surrounds him, and just find some eternal peace within himself.

  72. Watching the movie on Showtime. I guess in all of Chris' literary adventures, he never read London's To Build A Fire, a cautionary tale about man's hubris with an eerie similarity to Chris' story. Intellectual capacity does not itself eliminate the possibility of mental illness but rather quite the opposite. Chris' story seems a tragic depiction of a person struggling for meaning in a complex and often compromised world for which we are all pretty ill prepared. It is interesting that we are "bipolar" in our approach to him, hero or fool…couldn't he have been both? I wish mental health was more understood…the chemistry of our brains has requirements to be balanced and can be impacted by many factors, for better or worse. We need friendship. Significance. Healthy relationships to nature AND people. A way to process and release trauma. Positive neuro-associations. Hope. And, sometimes, medicine. Someday people will get really brave and venture out into the real wild- our minds and imaginations and start mapping or do something to help those who get lost there to find their way.

  73. Having read the book and seen the movie, I didn't get the sense that Chris McCandless was schizophrenic, but then, I'm not a psychiatrist. We can only speculate anyway. But McCandless did strike me as being extremely impulsive. He seemed to be the type of guy who didn't think things through; he just went ahead and did what he wanted to do. I suppose that he wanted to break away from a life where he felt boxed-in, where he felt that his parents had, in a sense, planned out his life (they expected him to go to law school). This aspect of his personality struck a chord with a friend of mine, who comes from a strict, traditional Asian immigrant family. His parents wanted him to go to college, become a professional, and be "respectable." He gave in to familial pressure and did what his parents wanted. I don't think he would do what Chris McCandless did, but he wishes that he had had the guts to do what he wanted instead of merely knuckling under to his parents. I sense that my friend is not truly happy with his life, and I also think that McCandless' headstrong sense of adventure, however misguided, struck a chord with so many people out there who perhaps feel the way my friend does.

  74. hey there,

    I have an oral exam tomorrow about why people despise Chris Mc Candless for dying in Alaska.

    I would really appreciate any comments or ideas on the topic.

  75. Reading the comments on this thread will probably give you an idea of why people feel the way they do. A lot of people resent the fact that he died needlessly. He went into the backcountry unprepared and with a bit of naiveté and that wild eyed enthusiasm ended up costing him his life.

    A number of people are also put off by his approach to life in general and his philosophy of how he lived it.

  76. Also, read the Alaskan press on it – if you Google that or look in Lexis-Nexis you can find the Alaskan perspective: they resent outsiders who don't know the territory, aren't well trained, don't take the weather seriously, don't have basic outdoors training. Lots of Alaskan tax dollars every year go to rescuing folk who have done stupid things. Anyone could get themselves into trouble, but some people ask for it by just acting totally irresponsibly.

  77. Well, I'm from Texas, and I read this book in the mid 90's… And it was completely obvious that McCandless was suffering from a mental disease..

    I have no issue with people identifying with this guy, that's your right, but anyone who read the book and didn't come away with the notion that McCandless was off, has missed the point entirely (which apparently is not too difficult, considering the author, himself, states that he didn't believe McCandless was mentally ill… LOL, but anyone who actually knew the guy thought he was)..

    It's really a shame, cause even though I liked the movie, it coulda been a landmark film in raising the awareness of mental illness in this country… Shame..

  78. It is unlikely that McCandless had schizophrenia though he may have had an affective disorder that contributed to his impulsivity. Were he schizophrenic, it would have bee impossible for him to have had the goals and focus that he chronicled, nor could he have held the jobs he had or developed the relationships though transitory that he did. McCandless never would have wanted the attention that the book and movie brought to his life, he simply wanted to find his place in a world other and better than the one he felt was chosen for him.

  79. Maybe, just maybe, Chris McCandless had a different idea of what "happiness" is. Personally, I look forward to when that school bell rings and my friends and I head out for lunch.But Chris may or may not have looked forward to just waking up to nature every morning. If Chris was doing what he loved, and was happy, then who's to say otherwise? Does that honestly make him crazy? I don't think so. A little enthusiastic and fearless, yes, but definitely not crazy. It even follows a strange logic. "If it's what you love, then do it." It makes sense to me.

  80. Schizophrenic or not, this story struck a cord in me like none other. For me it was life-changing and made me question my own belief's and way of living. It's not so much about Chris Mccandless being mentally unstable or being ill prepared..but more about his spirit and love of life. Everyone is here for a reason and it was his destiny to do what he did. During his adventure, he grew enormously while learning from other's, just as other's learned from him. This was his life's mission. We are only here for a very short time, so it's better to live a short life filled with meaning than a long life filled with emptiness.

  81. To push boundaries a little, to do things that are not the norm, to ask a question and to follow an intuition are things which main stream society find difficult to grasp… Every one will say I push boundries, I ask questions etc but in reality every one of us are conditioned by the habitat and surroundings we live in. To presume that Chris may have suffered from an illness is the only possible way that some people who are so conditioned by their surroundings can make sense of some thing that may have been a little different – and in this case Chris taking to the road as supertramp. Whether Chris was ill prepared for his expedition or not has little to do with the true meaning behind this whole saga…. he was questioning life, society and the conditioned world we live, he was asking "Do we really need to do things this way?". I believe Chris deserves a lot of admiration for asking questions and not settling for the life that is given to the vast majority of us but for pushing boundaries and creating his world… May all beings be happy! 🙂

  82. We will never know what was going on in that boys head, but he definately wasn't a lunatic nor crazy. He simply wanted to escape the boundaries and constraints of Western society – the fakeness, the idea of work being your life, and above all the betrayal he felt from his parents. Who doesn't feel like this at times – he just did something about it.


  83. While I'm not completely sure one way or the other whether or not he was mentally ill, I do see things in his story that make me wonder. Like, he was there for 4 months and hadn't walked the river once? If he had wouldn't he have found the hand-operated tram less then half a mile from where he crossed? I feel like Medred made some good points and from what I know about schizophrenia and what I've learned about this story it sounds like mental illness is a good possibility. But really, he's dead so we'll never know for sure.
    On another note, regardless of his intentions, I definitely don't see him as a hero. A spiritual guru, maybe, but no hero. Whether he intended to die or not, he trekked into the wilderness with no plan and very little supplies. The thing that bugs me most is that I've read comments saying "He's an inspiration, I want to live like he did" and I'm thinking 'uhhh.. he didn't live. He died. A slow and probably painful death.' Assuming the intentions portayed in the book and movie were actaully his own and he there weren't schizophrenic motives behind his ordeal, then I agree with his thoughts and feelings, but I for sure think that he went about that last adventure in the wrong way.

  84. This is just my opinion, but while I was reading the book, I noticed the way it was presented that Jon wanted the readers to side with Chris. Yet, he went into the wild with bare minimum and wanted to emulate Thoreau, and expected to survive. For one thing, Thoreau only lived a few miles from civilization. Second, Thoreau lived in a cabin with warmth and he bought food from said civilization at stores. While I understand that McCandless was going further in his pursuit of solitude, He was wrong for saying that he was motivated by Thoreau. Thoreau did not try to starve himself to death. Also, when he spoke of solitude, he also wrote about friendship and how he came back from solitude for he had more lives to live. It was wrong for McCandless to simply ignore the rest of the book of Thoreau and only take the meaning of what he wanted to take out of it. One thing that I absolutely hated, was when this one woman Franz on page 60 prayed to God to save Chris, but upon finding out he died, recanted her christianity saying that she didn't want to follow a god who could allow that to happen. Here's my analogy, its like jumping off a plane without a parachute and praying to God to save you. Also, its like praying to God to save someone running around with a huge metal pole on a flat surface during a lightning storm. God didn't kill Chris, Chris killed himself by not being prepared. Jon Krakauer portrays Chris as an intelligent man, yet something was wrong for such a smart guy to expect to survive the cold winter in Alaska without proper clothing and the optimistic thought of surviving off of berries and animals through winter.

  85. It all comes down to whether you like Chris. As others have commented here, no ones knows what he felt and, more importantly, why he felt what he felt. I am reminded of Alyce LaViolette and her testimony in the Jodi Arias trial. She couldn't see her prejudices coloring her testimony. And one thing, hurt Jodi's case is the one thing she did. Chris was looking for his road to happiness. It wasn't easy for him, other people's answers weren't going to work for him. I respect him for that. And isn't that what Henry Thoreau did. To hear his sanity questioned, shows the machinations of the people offering their opinions and little or nothing about Chris. I had some unresolved issues from his childhood which prevented him from relaxing and taking as it came. I think that the man who posted those eloquent words "I have had a happy life and Thank the Lord. Goodbye and May God Bless You All" was at peace with himself, with the world and his past. I think Chris was probably the sanest man I know or know of. I can't necessarily say the same about his critics, who have their own agenda. I think that is why Russell Fritz, Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer came to love and respect him. I feel the same way.

  86. I most definitely think he had some kind of mental illness. We've started reading this book in class and I'm convinced. I understand that Chris wanted to go out and make a new life for himself, find out his true identity, etc. but he just seemed out of it. One of the people who offered him a ride whom he became close to, warned him about the dangers of going out into the wild. Chris didn't care and claimed he knew what he was doing. The people he worked with at McDondald's said that he was slow and couldn't understand things, like why he needed to speed up his work. He had this weird thing about socks, how he didn't wear socks with shoes but working there he had to. Right when his shift ended, he'd take them off. A lot of them thought he was a nut case. I do too. He just wasn't realistic about things. Why did he think he could survive in Alaska? Why did he just shrug off the advice his friends gave him and seem to know everything? Why not care that something bad might happen out in the wild? He lived in his own little world and didn't even acknowledge reality.

  87. Schizophrenic individuals don't usually finish college, much less name brand ones like Emory. Bipolar types might but the degree of austerity and solitary behavior is not consistent. Adult child of an alcoholic is the most obvious consistent psychological condition. Personally I would consider high functioning autism but not necessarily. I led the same life in the same area even…but was paid for it and now find I have the same condition and much of the same history. I even thought we might be related. My best clue is in his biological father's behavior. His father was a Electrical Engineering Antenna Savant who self-medicated. Comments that Chris "marches to a different drummer" and family photos showing a 1000 mile stare are consistent with that observation. The lack of long term relationships is consistent with aspects of autism but there are no signs of his being a Savant, quite the opposite. He spent a lot of time in nature but didn't have many survival skills. He didn't seem to fish any…hmm. Why didn't he just walk .6 miles downstream from the Stampede Trail crossing? I would have bivouac'd and searched the area or at least started a big fire to attract attention. I did when our Helicopter crashed once leaving us stranded a bit on a remote island in SE alaska. His famous bus was about 8 miles along the Stampede Trail from the Talanika River which blocked his path and another 8 miles to Healy. There were undoubtably float planes in the area…they are common even when I was last there in the '70's. If he had just started a big fire at the crossing or at the bus and kept it going someone would have noticed it. Pilots are on the lookout for emergency crashes all the time. I prospected the general Healy, alaska area where he was back in 1970's by helicopter. It was standard practice to light three fires. I grew up in alaska and worked the bush there as a helicopter prospector for several summers…that is…till the two bush plane/helo crashes I was associated with worried me. No wonder Alaska natives are not very sympathetic.

  88. he needed therapy and alot of it he made no attempt to socialise befriend anyone after reaching alaska he was not prepared for even a weekend camping trip he was educated but found it useful to read up on the berries after eating them in all of his solitary selfies he had the same manic smile as if he knew something that no one else did but the truth is he was completly reckless and out of his mind the end

  89. he obviously had some sort of mental illness that had to occure partly throughout his life, his parents seem like pretty normal people exept for the fact his dad cheatedm, which occures time to time in families. But why would someone take that to such offence and go out of thier way to really hurt thier parents and "devorce" them. Seems quite odd to me

  90. Am one of the happiest Father on earth,My son onces suffered from the problem Schizophrenia which made him not to go to school,and that was killing his educational carrier.he can not control his emotions,always having nosies on his head affect how he thinks, feels and acts,he has taken different medication,but no cure,then i got the contact of a doctor who helped my son. he gave me the medication which my son used, he took the medication for two weeks,and that was the end of the problem.he can now control his emotions,no more severely distorted self-image and feeling worthless acts, his thinking is normal and no more voices on his head any more.any one that need his medication should contact the Doctor on benardleo13@gmail.com

  91. Would it surprise you my son is been cured of SCHIZOPRENIA?
    I am excited to share this testimony as i have been sad and confused for the past 18 years of my son been a victim of SCHIZOPHRENIA.
    People which their relative or children are suffering from this will understand what it takes to be with them. After i have spent a lot on drugs such like
    Lurasidone (Latuda), Seroquel oral, Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Paliperidone(Invega), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Ziprasidone (Geodon). Just a few to mention without any testimony. So i went ahead to search the internent on how to cure SCHIZOPHRENIA, which i found a Dr. who advised me to get his product i was scared but my wife kept saying we should give a try.
    My son is completely cured, stop spending on drugs as most of them comes with side effect.
    I assure you will have testimony after getting his medication. Here is Dr. Nelson's email address. drnelson581@gmail.com

  92. I decided to share this to help someone out there who is still held with schizophrenia.
    My son suffered from chronic schizophrenia for 18 years and we traveled round the world from one hospital to another neurologist and spent thousands of dollars and even got scammed in this process of seeking a cure and the problem still persisted. He acted weird and aggressive and this was so scary. All thanks to Dr Joseph who was able to use his medicine to cure him permanently. He is one of the Honest men out there. If you want to contact him on how to get his medicine or for info just reach him directly on josephalberteo@gmail.com Thanks admin.

  93. Whether you're a mother, father, sibling or friend with schizophrenia, or someone suffering from the disorder yourself, my daughter's story should inspire others for future. My daughter spent most of her teenager and twenties struggling with mental health (schizophrenia). She faced discrimination because of her illness too. But it’s a myth that people who have schizophrenia have no chance of permanent survival, hence, they can’t do great things and achieve their dreams/goal. Especially, with family love and support of others. I am personally sharing this for the sake of patients who are passing through pains and frustrations. Our breakthrough, achievement and success is credited to an herbal medicine called CONSUMMO, because there has been in the past too much pessimism and bad news about the illness, that it is incurable. Have a look here: http://curetoschizophrenia.blogspot.com . My daughter is back and permanently heal without any schizophrenia symptoms. Mental illnesses are a curse upon human kind, only those with mental disorders truly understand.

  94. Can you fellas help me out? I need specific information proving that Chris McCandless had mental disabilities. This is for an essay in English class. Can you lads please get back to me soon. Thanks 🙂

  95. As someone who works in mental health and who has several
    Close friends and family members who have schizophrenia or who have experienced psychosis I watched this movie and speculated if perhaps Chris had schizophrenia. I had never heard of the movie or Chris or hears other people's theories when I watched it. Yes he successfully completed college. However that is not to say that he may not have been experiencing signs of onset during this time. Many people who experience psychosis seem to like a minimalist life I have seen this in loved ones. Friends who prefer to sleep on a floor rather than own a bed… Friends who want very few material possessions. And by far I have seen many people with psychosis with a deep desire go get up and go (some of whom were considered missing for years before they sought treatment and returned home). Many who have a close relationship with someone who has experienced psychosis would see parallels. None the less like many people who have schizophrenia that I know, Chris seems to have had a wisdom and kindness that surpasses the average person. his story is heartbreaking. And truly inspirational.

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