9 Hermits Who Left Society Behind To Live In Solitude, From The Caves Of Australia To The Wilds Of Alaska

Published September 6, 2023
Updated September 10, 2023

Chris McCandless, The Man At The Heart Of ‘Into The Wild’

Chris McCandless

X (Twitter)Chris McCandless was the subject of the book Into the Wild and its later film adaptation.

In 1996, author Jon Krakauer released his book Into the Wild, which chronicled the shocking and strange life journey of Chris McCandless, a man who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992 — and never returned.

His body was discovered by a pair of moose hunters on Sept. 6, 1992, inside an old, rusted bus just outside of Denali National Park, a notable landmark frequented by countless travelers, trappers, and hunters. But something stood out to the hunters: a note written on a page that had been torn from a novel was taped to the bus’s door handle.

The note was dated “August ?” and signed by Chris McCandless. When the hunters investigated further, they found McCandless’ emaciated body inside the bus, which sparked a years-long investigation into the circumstances that led to his death.

Chris McCandless Bus

X (Twitter)Chris McCandless in front of the old bus that he turned into his temporary home.

What the investigation revealed was that McCandless had hitchhiked from Carthage, South Dakota, to Fairbanks, Alaska, under the false name “Alex,” telling a local electrician named Jim Gallien that he planned to “live off the land for a few months,” per Krakauer’s book.

Although Gallien expressed concern about McCandless’ ability to survive in the cruel Alaskan wilderness, the young man stubbornly insisted that the electrician drop him off at Denali National Park. Gallien even offered to drive McCandless to Anchorage to pick up more supplies, as he was severely under-equipped for his endeavor — but McCandless refused.

When he was last seen alive on April 28, 1992, McCandless was carrying nothing more than a light backpack that held some personal items, a 10-pound bag of rice, a Remington semi-automatic rifle, and a pair of rubber boots.

McCandless’ plan was to go on an extended hike westward to the Bering Sea, but less than 30 miles into his journey, he stopped at the rusted bus where his body would ultimately be found.

For 16 weeks, McCandless used the bus as his camp and kept a detailed diary of his time in the woods. At first, he seemed to find some success hunting and living off the land, but his last month of entries revealed a desire to return to civilization.

Unfortunately, an overflowing river caused by the melting snow made his path back impassable, and he started expending more calories than he could take in each day. He grew weaker, and his diary entries became simple marks to show the passage of the days.

Then, 132 days after McCandless was last seen, the two hunters stumbled upon his body. He is believed to have died from starvation two weeks before he was found.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.