Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Kyra cook

Kyra Cook

Real Name: Kyra Cook
Case: Amnesia
Location: Longview, Washington
Date: September 8, 1986


Details: Eighteen-year-old Kyra Cook of Longview, Washington, is suffering from amnesia. She hopes to recover her memories and discover the cause of her amnesia. On the afternoon of September 8, 1986, she woke up lying in the grass in R.A. Long Park in Longview. She remembers being in "unbelievable" pain. The only noise she could hear was a pounding in her ear. She felt so sick that she could not stay in one place. She says something was telling her to get up and go. She then started thinking that she did not know who she was or where she was.
On that day, Kyra wandered alone, confused and vulnerable, without any idea of her name, age, the date, or even what city she was in. An accident or an attack – the authorities are not sure which – left her with total and complete amnesia. It is an extremely rare disorder that cripples only 1 in 5 million people. It is a frightening experience in which no face is familiar and even your own identity is a mystery.
Kyra recalls that after she got up and started to walk through the park, her head hurt so much that she could not comprehend what was going on. The first person she saw was an older man who was leaning against a car and reading a newspaper. She says it seemed like it took forever for her to get to him. She asked him where she was and then asked for help. He volunteered to take her to the nearest police station, the Cowlitz County Hall of Justice. During the car ride, he never identified himself. He dropped her off a half block from the station and, instead of helping her inside, immediately drove off.
At 3:15pm, Deputy Joe Reiss of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Department was leaving the station when he encountered Kyra, who looked disoriented and scared. She asked him for help and told him she could not remember anything. He told her that he was going to take her to the hospital. She told him she did not know what a hospital was.
Deputy Reiss took Kyra to St. John's Hospital. According to Dr. Blaine Tolby, Kyra had a small lump on the lower back part of her head that was consistent with either being struck with an object or falling down. She developed acute episodic amnesia as a result of the single blow. She could not remember her family or her age. She did not know if she had completed high school. She did not even know where she had attended high school.
Because there were few clues to Kyra's identity, Deputy Reiss felt their only hope was to place her picture in the Longview Daily News to see if anyone would recognize her. That afternoon, Kyra's mother, Gloria Cook, saw her picture and recognized her. Gloria, her husband, Terry, and their son, Kyle, rushed to the hospital. Twenty-four hours had passed since Kyra woke up in the park.
A nurse brought Kyra down the hallway to Gloria and Terry. At first, Gloria thought she had made a mistake. Kyra looked different and carried herself differently. But when she got up to them, Gloria knew she was Kyra. Kyra looked at them, then turned to the nurse and said, "Are these supposed to be my parents?"
When Kyra met her parents, she felt like they were strangers. She felt bad because she did not have any feelings for them. She says she dragged herself down, trying to make up feelings for them. Gloria also felt like Kyra was a stranger to them.
After five days in the hospital, Kyra was allowed to go home. But what should have been familiar surroundings triggered no memories for her. To her, it was just like visiting a strange new house. In fact, Gloria had to show her where the bathroom and her bedroom were. Certain household objects, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and the refrigerator, were confusing to her.
When Kyra first went into her bedroom, she felt guilty. She felt like she was in someone else's room. She did not recognize any of her belongings. She did not want to look through or touch anything. It took her a couple of months just to go through drawers. When she first read her diary, she felt like she was invading someone's privacy. It took her a while to read through it because she had trouble accepting that she was its author.
Kyra now dresses, walks, and even speaks differently. Before the incident, friends described her as a bit on the "wild" side. Now, she is much calmer and more thoughtful. Her manners are more formal, and she has a shorter temper. She no longer reads books for pleasure or bites her nails, and she no longer refuses to ride buses. She uses the phone less often. She seems less interested in her image and wears plainer clothes. She is more interested in studying and getting good grades. She spends most of her free time at home. She is less independent and more willing to take suggestions.
Kyra has lost her sense of taste and smell. She has had trouble remembering things that have happened since the incident. According to Gloria, Kyra has problems thinking ahead. She often writes herself reminder notes but then forgets them. Gloria says Kyra has had trouble rebuilding her "memory structure".
Kyra has no memory at all of once-familiar people and places. She had to be reintroduced to her friends and start new relationships with them. She knows the meanings of the words "grandmother" and "cookies", but she cannot remember her own grandmother baking cookies for her. Despite her memory loss, her amnesia is not total. She has retained her talent for art, can remember algebra and most of her vocabulary, and can still speak German. When she got in the car to leave the hospital, she put on her seatbelt without prompting.
Dr. Tolby notes that amnesia is still a mystery in the world of science and medicine. He never believed that Kyra was faking it. He says she was constantly thinking clearly and rationally about how she might understand her identity. Several hospital tests, including a CAT scan, showed no sign of permanent physical damage. A neurologist told her and her family that her form of amnesia was so rare that he did not know how to treat her. Doctors have stated that there is no way of knowing if her memories will ever return.
Gloria says it is difficult enough for a parent to have a child die. But when they have a child lose their entire life and not even know them, it is difficult in a different way. Every day she wakes up and hopes, "Today, maybe [Kyra] will remember." And at the end of each day, she cries because Kyra did not. She says the situation is harder for her and the rest of Kyra's loved ones than for Kyra herself because Kyra does not know what she is missing. Kyra says she does not like it when people talk about her past since she does not remember any of it.
The tragic incident that changed Kyra's life happened in a brief, one-hour period. On that day, she left home to have lunch with a friend at the Triangle Shopping Center. She then went to the Longview post office to mail a package to her German pen pal. The authorities believe that she left the post office at about 2:15pm. But no one knows what happened between then and 3pm, when she woke up in the park dazed, confused, and without any memory of what had happened.
Deputy Reiss theorizes that Kyra was either dodging a car or was struck by a car and then fell and hit her head. He notes that there is a lot of traffic in the area around the park. The speed limit is twenty-five miles per hour, but people tend to drive a little faster than that. When Kyra was checked at the hospital, no injuries were found other than the bump on the back of her head.
Kyra's parents have a different theory of what happened in the park that afternoon. Gloria believes Kyra took a shortcut from the post office through the park. She thinks someone grabbed Kyra from behind by the throat and tried to mug her. She believes the person did not realize how strong Kyra was and that Kyra tried to fight them off. She thinks the person took their fist and hit Kyra at the base of her skull.
Kyra was carrying a brown paper sack containing her makeup and spending money for the day. When she woke up in the park, the sack was gone. Gloria later searched the park but was unable to find the sack.
There is a third theory: allegedly, a local girl who looked very much like Kyra had been assaulted by a strange man on three different occasions. Perhaps Kyra was attacked in the park, but it was a case of mistaken identity.
Perhaps the key to this mystery is the unknown man who drove Kyra to the police station. She can understandably remember few details about him or his car. Repeated appeals in the local newspapers and by the police department for him to come forward have met with no success. Gloria says that the man could even just call anonymously and let them know if Kyra said anything or if he saw anything. She notes that he was the closest person to her at the time of the incident.
It has been months since the old Kyra ceased to exist. No one – her parents, her doctors, even Kyra herself – can take her back and fill in the eighteen years that are missing from her memory. For Kyra to regain her past, authorities feel that something or someone must trigger her memory. They would like to speak with the man who drove Kyra to the police station or anyone who was in the park that afternoon and may have seen something.
A few weeks after the incident, Kyra began attending Lower Columbia College to study algebra, design, and art history. She says that when people talk about the past between themselves, she envies them for having a past. As the months go on following the incident, she has continued to build up her past. She is looking forward to the day when she can look back on twenty years and think of all the things that she has experienced.
Suspects: The police suspect that Kyra may have been accidentally struck by a car or was hurt when she tried to dodge a car. They noted that there was a large amount of traffic in the area surrounding the park.
Kyra's parents believe that she took a shortcut home from the post office and was attacked in the park. They believe that when Kyra tried to fight back, her attacker struck her in the back of the head, causing the injury. Interestingly, a paper bag with Kyra's money and makeup was not found in the park.
A local girl who looked like Kyra allegedly had been assaulted by a strange man on three different occasions. It has been theorized that the man attacked Kyra in a case of mistaken identity.
The police and Kyra's family would like to locate the unidentified man who drove Kyra to the police station on the day of the incident.
Extra Notes:

  • This case originally aired on the May 25, 1987 Special #2 episode of Unsolved Mysteries with Karl Malden as host.
  • It was later re-profiled in the Dennis Farina hosted series on the April 12, 2010 episode.
  • It was excluded from the FilmRise release of Robert Stack episodes.

Results: Unresolved - According to one source, Kyra regained most of her memories a few years after the incident and was able to recognize her family and friends. She later married, had four children, and became a teacher. However, she still does not remember the incident itself.