Missing North Carolina Man Loses Memory, Uses Clues to Find Home

PHOTO: Hugh Weidenhamer Armstrong, 72, of Clayton, N.C., shown with his wife Ellen, was vacationing in New Hampshire when he disappeared after going for a walk on July 25.

A 72-year-old North Carolina man who disappeared while vacationing with his family in New Hampshire has been reunited with his family, after what his loved ones call a miraculous journey home.

Hugh Armstrong says he lost his memory and traveled 1,000 miles to his home state, finding clues about his life along the way, including the initials inside his wedding band and overhearing the name of his granddaughter.

"I'll tell you something, it's very nice to know who you are," Armstrong told ABCNews.com today.

And no one knows this better than Armstrong.

Armstrong and his family were on vacation in Rumney, N.H., July 25 when the outdoorsman decided to take a walk around a nearby lake before breakfast.

"I left a note saying I would be back by 9 because we were going to have pancakes with the grandkids," Armstrong said, but he never returned.

He remembered a spot near two small waterfalls that he and his wife, Ellen, thought would be a good spot for a photo of the grandkids, but he struggles to remember what happened after that.

"I apparently slipped and fell and I do not remember that," he said. "The next thing I remember was waking up after dark, not sure what time it was. ...The only thing I could remember at that time was I didn't know who I was, but I had to go south and west, so that's where I started going."

From there, Armstrong set out on an extraordinary journey home with little clue, he said, of who he was or where he was from. He used a pseudonym along the way, but knew that his initials were in his wedding band.

He spent time in an abandoned barn, in cheap motels and hitchhiking with cars and trucks. He said a farmer in Pennsylvania or Virginia hired him for two or three days to help him hay. Armstrong said the farmer paid him, fed him and drove him to Roanoke, Va.

One of his first big breakthroughs came when he was getting a ride from a truck driver. Armstrong told the truck driver he thought he was from North Carolina.

"He started naming off different towns and when he said Asheville, I said, 'That's it,'" Armstrong recalled.

He picked up another clue at a McDonald's along the way.

"I heard a mother call her daughter Emma and that rang a bell," Armstrong said, tearing up. "I knew I had a granddaughter named Emma in Wilmington [N.C.], but I didn't have an address."

Armstrong couldn't remember Emma's address, but began writing her a letter. He wrote, "I don't know who I am, but hopefully you will."

He signed the letter with the initials and date inside his wedding band.

When he was watching TV that night, he said someone on TV mentioned a .410 shotgun and that number reminded him of the number of Emma's address.

"Hearing things that I recognized started bringing back information," he said. "I got the rest of the address by just looking at the phone book and all of the street names."

Armstrong said he went to parks and a shopping mall hoping that someone would recognize him, but no one did.

On Aug. 10, 16 days after Armstrong disappeared, a sheriff's deputy in McDowell, N.C., spotted Armstrong walking along a busy highway, carrying what appeared to be a pillowcase. McDowell is about 230 miles west of Armstrong's home in Clayton, N.C.

McDowell County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Crowder spotted Armstrong, who gave him a name with a caveat.

"He told us he wasn't sure that it is his name. He said, 'I'm not sure. I think I'm about 71,'" Crowder told ABC News' Asheville affiliate WLOS-TV. "He was very confused."

Crowder said Armstrong told him that no law enforcement officers had checked him in any of the states he passed through.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...