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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 22, 1960

April 22, 2010 |  2:14 pm

April 22, 1960, Mirror

New Information on Griffith Park Hermit


Paul Coates

    Call this an update on Dennis Farrell.

    It's not good news.  But it's not bad news, either.

    Dennis -- In case his name has slipped your memory -- is the 33-year-old ex-GI who wandered into town out of the Griffith Park hills 10 months ago.

    For six years, he had lived alone in the 4,200-acre park, hiding in the thick undergrowth by day and stealing into the picnic areas at night to scavenge garbage cans for enough food to stay alive.

    His sudden appearance one June night  last year -- bearded and barefoot and bound in rags -- answered a couple of questions, but raised a lot more.

    It answered for his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chris Farrell of North Platte, Neb., the mystery of what had happened to their son after he had casually walked out of the house one evening in May, 1952.  

April 22, 1960, Barbara Burns

"Sometimes I just get on a bus and ride and ride because I have no place to go," Barbara Burns says.

    It answered the fears of some local people, too, who, over the years, had reported that a strange, shadowy figure lurked in the Griffith Park brush, watching them with animal eyes.

    Among the questions it raised were:  Why did Farrell reject civilization to become a hermit?  Why did he hide so long?  And why did he suddenly decide to return?

    At the time of his descent from the hills, his parents rushed here hoping, among other things, to learn the answers from him. 

    Dennis was too confused, too sick, even to welcome them, but from Milton Fabre, who came forward to report that he'd been an old Army friend of their son, they learned a little bit.

    They learned that Dennis had been quite a hero on Okinawa, having killed -- with the help of one other soldier -- 40 Japanese to save his platoon.  This was something Farrell had never even mentioned to his parents or brothers and sisters.

    At the time of his visit West for the father-son reunion which never quite materialized, Farrell told me:  "After Dennis was discharged, whenever the subject of war or shooting came up, he'd always leave the room.  That was one thing he'd never talk about."

    But the Farrells learned little more than the fact that their son was a modest, possibly remorseful hero.

    So, once they were sure that he was going to be given the best medical care available at the Veterans Administration hospital here, they reluctantly headed home.

    Since then, nobody's written anything about what happened to Dennis.  But he hasn't been forgotten, either.

    Not by his parents.  They've kept in constant touch with the psychiatrists, hoping for the go-ahead from them to come out and "meet" their boy again.

Dennis Wasn't Ready

    A couple of months ago, when their hopes began outweighing their patience, they made one trip here on their own.  But Dennis wasn't ready.  He refused to see them.

    His progress, I'm told, was fast at first.  After being quartered alone for a while, he accepted the transfer into a small ward, where he bunked with four or five other patients. 

    But since then, progress has been slow. 

    The only "outsider" he'll accept is Milton Fabre, his old Army buddy.

    I talked to Fabre about it the other day.

    "We get along fine," he told me.  "Now and then, Dennis starts talking about things he'd like to do when he gets out, plans for the future -- things like opening a restaurant back in Nebraska.

    "I'll suggest that he take a weekend leave and visit my wife and I, just to break the routine.  He'll say sure, it sounds like a good idea.  Sometime."

    Fabre explained to me, "The VA has given approval,  but whenever I tell him that, and try to pin him down to a specific weekend, he starts getting vague again.

    "He's still not a well guy," Fabre added, a little sadly.  "It's going to take time."