Opal Whiteley
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Until 1948, when she resurfaced in London, starving and surrounded by books in a crumbling tenement. She was declared a ward of the state and committed to Napsbury Hospital at St. Albans. She wrote letters claiming that she was trapped, a prisoner there -- although her doctor said she was free to go whenever she liked, recalls Carlisle Moore, professor emeritus of English at the University of Oregon. "But it was obvious that she couldn't take care of herself."

Moore visited Opal a dozen times during a sabbatical in the late 1960s in London. Opal had a room at Napsbury, he says, and was quite calm. They'd go out to the garden, where Moore sometimes took pictures while they talked. "She was highly intelligent," he says. "So clear in her recollections of Eugene and the university, and of all the things that she had done, that she was sort of 'mad north-northwest.' She was very clear about things that were good and that were verifiable, and really -- almost insane."

He pauses a moment. "I hesitate to use that word, but I'm certain she was not in possession of the real facts of her life." Instead, he says, she went on and on about being born in Italy, growing up in France. "She knew she was not believed, and yet she insisted on it."

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