‘Wilderness man’ fooled many

Norwegian news media, a major local book publisher and even the BBC were among those fooled by a 34-year-old man who claimed he lived strictly off the land for an entire year. Now he’s admitted it just wasn’t true.

Kristoffer Clausen's book was a big seller in Norway last year. Now its publisher is among those fooled by Clausen. PHOTO: Cappelen Damm

Kristoffer Clausen had claimed that from August 1 2009 and for the next year after that he lived outdoors in the Norwegian wilderness. He supposedly ate only what he could hunt, fish or harvest and would only have a roof over his head if he built shelter himself using only materials found in the woods. He quickly became a bit of a celebrity in Norway, attracting newspaper, magazine and television coverage and even getting a book published called En Vill Mann (roughly translated, “A man in the wild”). The book sold more than 10,000 copies.

In fact it was all a wild story indeed. Clausen admitted to newspaper Dagbladet this week that instead of living outdoors for 365 days, he enjoyed the occasional comfort of hotels, spent a month in a cabin and even made shopping trips over the border in Sweden.

He claimed that a close relative got sick just a few weeks before his year in the wilderness was supposed to begin and he therefore felt it was wrong to retreat for 12 months. He didn’t stay particularly close to the sick relative, though, admitting to Dagbladet that he traveled from Torsby in Sweden, southwest to Halden and over the border to Sweden again at Nordby, where he went shopping. That was in April 2010, about the time he was writing in a blog that he had little food and was forced to eat kelp.

Magazine D2 was among local media apologizing to its readers on Thursday through its sister newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), for being duped by Clausen’s story that he survived a full year alone in the mountains round Lærdal (Lærdalsfjellene). D2 was far from alone, however. Officials at TV2, which bought the rights to a TV show made by Clausen’s production company about his alleged year outdoors. and publishing company Cappelen Damm, which put out his book, said they were surprised and disappointed as well.

“We haven’t exactly been able to run around in the woods to be sure where Clausen was,” Alex Iversen of TV2 told Dagbladet, which also had to concede that it, too, had written about Clausen, believing what he’d said to be true.

“We don’t conduct probes into our authors,” said Sverre Aurstad of Cappelen Damm. “We have to rely on them, that what they come with is true.” The publisher planned a meeting with Clausen next week.

Clausen refused an interviewed request from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) but sent a text message saying he “fully understood” if people were disappointed in him or felt cheated. One editor called the entire situation “very sad,” but saddest for Clausen himself.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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