Yesterday’s Times City section story about Hannah Upp, the young teacher who went missing for three weeks back in the fall, muses on the mysteries of the bizarre tale. Upp, according to the paper, suffered from a bout of “dissociative fugue” when she began suddenly living off the grid, without a wallet, I.D., phone, or explanation. (The most famous sufferer of the condition is Jason Bourne, the fictional character in the movie series starring Matt Damon.) Victims commonly keep the ability to perform regular tasks, but lose all memories tied to their identity. “The explanation for what had happened raised even more questions than Ms. Upp’s disappearance had,” marveled the Times. “For her more than for anybody.” You know what raised even more questions for us? The Times coverage itself.
The story is riveting, and we’ve been following it since we first posted her missing-person ad as a favor to her frantic family. Part of what makes it so engaging is that we don’t know whether to believe Hannah Upp and this theory of “dissociative fugue.” It’s not that we think she’s lying — but we are also not completely confident she’s telling the truth. And we think anyone with an ounce of skepticism would feel the same way. The story is simply too fantastic to take at face value. But the Times does exactly that. In fact, they didn’t even quote a doctor or medical expert in the story, or quote any of the witnesses who saw or interacted with her on the adventure. Nor did they talk to Upp’s parents, or co-workers. At no point did they raise the question of the reliability of their (sole, for the most part) narrator.
Near the end of the story, Upp discussed the possibility of leaving the city as she tries to put her life back together. She decided against it. “I didn’t want my life to change in such a way that the things I enjoy I couldn’t enjoy anymore,” she told the paper. “It was just, I can’t let New York win.”
It just seems like if somebody said that sentence to us, we’d raise an eyebrow. Or at least a couple more questions.