Monday Mystery: Lyle Stevik

On September 14, 2001, a young man checked into a nondescript motel in Amanda Park, Washington. He signed the register as Lyle Stevik. He had no credit card, but the clerk decided he looked harmless enough, and allowed him to rent the room without one. The desk heard from him only once more, when he asked to change rooms to escape the noise from a nearby trailer park. On the 15th, he was seen pacing up and down the nearby highway, perhaps agitated. On the 16th, the hotel maid offered to clean his room; he declined, although he did ask for more towels.

On the 17th, the maid knocked and received no response. She entered the room and found him, hanged from the closet rod with his own belt. On the nightstand, he left $160 with a note that said "for the room". In the wastebasket was a copy of the Sunday paper, and another note that simply said "SUICIDE". The investigators described it as looking somehow experimental, as if he were trying to remember how to spell it.

He hanged himself on a closet rod that was far too short, and was found nearly on his knees in the closet. Towels padded the walls; he might have been afraid he'd flail and alert the neighbors.

There is no record of a Lyle Stevik anywhere. The prevailing theory is that he took the name after a character in a Joyce Carol Oates novel, Lyle Stevick, but no one knows why, and given the handwriting in the register, some aren't sure that "Stevik" was actually what he wrote. The address he gave at check-in is that of another motel in Idaho, where nobody remembers him. He turned up at the Amanda Park motel around the time the regular bus from the nearest big city arrives, but no one recalls seeing him on the bus. No matching fingerprint records could be found by state or federal law enforcement, the military, or any other organization. He had no ID, no luggage, and only a small handful of items (toothpaste, loose change, etc) were found in the room.

A few of the autopsy findings are interesting, if not very dramatic. The ME noted "scrapes" on the knuckles and that the clothing he was wearing was far too big for him -- the belt, in particular, had wear marks that indicated it had been worn by someone of a significantly higher weight in the past. The reddit crew who have taken up the case think he might have been bulimic. (I realize that "reddit investigates!" makes people wince these days, but this group appears pretty sane. They have ongoing contact with the lead investigator and so far no one seems to have doxxed anybody, intentionally or otherwise.) "Lyle" was on the tall side, 6'2", and although his ethnicity is listed as "white", it's not out of the question that he might have been Hispanic/Latino or Native American.

The possibility has also been floated that the reason no one has reported a missing person who matches his description is that either his family died in the Twin Towers on 9/11, or they were led to believe he did. The latter is less likely, unless his family had whoppingly wrong information; the redditors paid for radioisotope testing (yes, really) which showed he wasn't anywhere near New York in the months leading up to is death.

Websleuths, which is an even more terrifying pile of desperate, shouting, wiggling "helpfulness" than reddit, drew a tentative connection between "Lyle" and someone calling themselves "Steven" who wrote a reference on hanging oneself on I don't think I'll link to it here, but it's easy enough to find. I don't see it, except insofar as "Lyle" managed to hang himself, but it apparently debuted right before "Lyle" was found, and Websleuths is like a giant case of mass pareidolia as explained by Labrador retriever puppies, so they think it's relevant.



  1. I just have to say, you have a magnificent talent for the sassy turns of phrase. The Labrador retriever puppies line made me crack up. :)


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