US motel coma man was Swedish ‘knight’: society

US motel coma man was Swedish 'knight': society
Medieval week/Michael 'Strongbow' in 1985. Photo: Petter Karlsson/Olle Sahlin
A man found unconscious in a California motel room who left US authorities baffled when he woke up only speaking Swedish, has been identified by a member of a Swedish medieval society as one of their kin.

“I first met him when we were both members of a Middle Ages association called the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) in the 1980s. He went by the name of Strongbow,” Johan Cassel of the SCA told The Local on Monday.

Cassel explained that the man identified in US and Swedish media reports as Michael Boatwright spent several periods living in Sweden before they lost contact in the late 1990s, adding that Boatwright learnt to speak Swedish fairly well.

“He could speak pretty good Swedish, although you could hear that he came from an English-speaking country. He had an accent,” Cassel said.

The SCA is an international association that brings together people with an interest in the Middle Ages and members typically engage in range of activities, such as jousting. According to fellow member Olle Sahlin, Boatwright was active in the SCA’s European chapter and was an early member of the Swedish Jousting Team.

“He organized a jousting exhibition for Saab and Scania’s anniversary in 1985. I was one of the extras clad in a costume from the Middle Ages,” Sahlin told The Local.

Sahlin explained that the SCA, which dates from the 1960s, incorporated Sweden in the early 1980s, joining up with the Europe-wide arm of the movement that was dominated by servicemen and women of the US armed forces based in Europe.

“The SCA is divided up in districts, principalities and kingdoms. We are in the principality of Nordmark, in the Kingdom of Drachenwald,” Sahlin told The Local.

Johan Cassel also recalled having met Boatwright while competing in jousting events and reports that the American, who originates from Florida, was a pretty accomplished performer.

“He was pretty good at jousting. One of the better performers,” he said.

The 61-year-old is currently stuck without insurance, no income and with only $180 in his pocket. His memory loss is is proving a headache for hospital staff in Palm Springs where he awoke on July 6th.

Boatwright awoke only able to converse in his adopted tongue and insisting that his name was Johan Ek, according to report in The Desert Sun newspaper. While this is a fairly common Swedish name, Johan Cassel could only speculate if it had some connection to his role-playing days.

“I don’t know where he has got that name from, but I do recall that one of his closest friends at the time was a person by the name of Ragnvald Göransson Ek, so it is possible that he got it from there.”

Boatwright is currently recovering from his ordeal in the Palm Springs hospital and doctors have diagnosed him with transient global amnesia – a condition related to memory loss that is usually triggered by emotional or physical trauma.

Olle Sahlin told The Local that the “reenactment and live role-playing movement” is alive and well in Sweden and some 3,000-4,000 devotees descend on Visby, Gotland for the annual Medieval Week.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

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