Into the Wild: 'The main energy behind this was probably a broken heart'

Into the Wild: 'The main energy behind this was probably a broken heart' »Play Video

BURNS, Ore. — Two men who have never met each other get in to similar fights with their girlfriends, watch the same movie, come to rural Oregon and experience similar fates.
Is it just a coincidence, or is there more linking them together?

Last Spring, sheriff’s deputies and search crews used ATVs and helicopters to search for Dustin Self on one of eastern Oregon’s most prominent features, Steens Mountain. The mountain is the edge of a large fault the stretches nearly 50 miles from North to South and dominates the skyline west of Oregon’s Alvord desert.

“There are areas of our county that you may not see a human being for years, three or four years. It's that primitive,” said Harney County Sheriff David Glerup. “Over 10,000 square miles, and I haven't been on most of it, and I've been sheriff for many years now."

Last April, after a fight with his girlfriend, Self drove from Oklahoma City to Steens Mountain and disappeared.

“He had watched the movie 'Into The Wild' and was going to come over here and get off the grid for a period of time," Glerup said.

The movie Into "The Wild" is the story of man who left his unsatisfying, conventional urban life to try to make it out in the wilderness. The only problem: at the end of the movie, the main character dies after running out of supplies and eating mildly poisonous native plants in Alaska. The movie is based on the book by author Jon Krakauer, an expanded version of a true story he researched and wrote for Outside magazine.

Friends described Self as obsessed with the movie. Last April, he decided he wanted to live it for himself.

"He was just being Dustin doing this. Just thinking he's a big man," said Miranda Hansen, Self’s friend back in Oklahoma City.

Self’s disappearance would be an isolated incident until August, when Arizona teen John Croom would get in a similar fight with his girlfriend and then disappear in Douglas County.

His father came to Oregon looking for his son, and what he told Newssource 16 sounded familiar.

“He would watch the movie all the time and ask people their opinions about it," David Croom said.

While looking for his son, it was revealed that John Croom went through the exact same circumstances as Self and disappeared "Into The Wild."

But with one man dead and another still missing, how powerful can one movie really be?

Robert Noble, LMFT, with Eugene Therapy has been specializing in the behavior or young men for 10 years. He says the movie did not directly inspire the men to disappear.

“I think the main energy behind this was probably a broken heart," Noble said.

Noble said the two likely watched the movie while trying to process their emotions after the fights with their girlfriends. The movie likely made a bad situation worse.

"Between 18 and 25, we're still developing the frontal lobes of our brain, which is really the source of logic and formed thinking,” he said. “So these young men don't have that ability, and I think that everybody also thinks, 'That's not going to happen to me.'"

Noble said the lesson to be learned is that young men need more guidance on life issues than what they see on television. In this case, the two men were able to associate more with the movie’s main character than someone who had previously experienced heartbreak and could guide them through their emotions.

"They’re dealing with betrayal or loss. They're dealing with anger. They're dealing with confusion, and they don't really know how to process all of that at one time,” he said. “So they are looking for examples out in culture of how men handle real and difficult times."

Back in Harney County, the search for Self continues.

“His father calls here periodically just to see if we've heard anything," Sheriff Glerup said, "and we have not."

Self has been spotted around Medford and Eugene, but Glerup said nothing has been confirmed. The sheriff believes Self is still on the mountain.

The Harney County Sheriff’s Office continues to run Self’s Social Security number to see if he has applied for jobs, credit cards or a place to live.

So far, the number remains inactive. Glerup believes that is a sign that if Self is still alive, he is likely still on Steens Mountain.

Authorities hope Self will come down from the mountain if he is still up there before the mountain goes back to the wintry conditions Self drove into back in April.

Glerup told NewsSource 16 that even if Self is dead, he will not confirm it without finding a body first. That is out of respect for Dustin’s family, which continues to keep in contact with the sheriff’s office hoping for any new updates.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Dustin Self, you are asked to contact the Harney County Sheriff’s Office.