A mysterious woman who has been walking continuously for two months, dressed solely in black robes, has finally stopped.
She caused an Internet sensation as she travelled nearly 800 kilometers by foot, has apparently reached what she calls “home” local police say.
Elizabeth Poles is an Army Veteran who travelled for two months on foot. She was seen from Georgia to West Virginia walking American back roads in her wanderings. Those who tried to give her food and water or otherwise help her were often rebuffed.
Police took her into “protective custody” earlier this week; they reported that she said, “I wish people would mind their own business.”
Ms. Poles’ journey started earlier this summer in Alabama, where she was receiving Veterans Administration treatment. She lost her husband in 2008 and her father in 2009.
The “woman in black” drew growing attention as sightings were reported on Twitter, under #womaninblack, as well as on a Facebook page with 60,000 likes dedicated to “reminding people to open their hearts and become a little less judgmental and more willing to lend a hand to those in need.”
“I am in awe of the #womaninblack,” one Twitter user noted. “Her journey reminds me that even when you've lost everything, the walk continues.”
America has long had a fascination with wanderers, drifters, and vagabonds. Other famous wanderers include T Bone Slim, a Finnish-born hobo writer; Alexander Supertramp, and Christopher McCandless, the Emory University graduate whose strange and tragic personal journey became the book and movie Into The Wild.
In 1999, The Straight Story documented an elderly man who hopped on a riding mower for a journey to make amends with his brother.
Long-distance wanderers are continuously traversing American back roads. Like Ms. Poles, many are veterans. This spring, former Marine Matt Littrell of Colorado, who spent two deployments in Iraq, rode his horse 3200 kilometers across the country to raise money and awareness for other veterans.
This phenomenon, and America’s fascination with it, was given humorous treatment in the movie “Forrest Gump.” Tom Hanks, as Gump, coincidentally also a veteran by this point in the movie, attracts a huge following while running across the country, and is asked by reporters if he is running for women’s rights, or world peace. “I just felt like running,” he replies.
Raymond Poles, her brother, told Reuters that since shaving her head, donning black robes and refusing to go to church, she has disappeared for months at a time. Mr. Poles told the wire service that his sister is a loving and kind-hearted person who was travelling to Virginia, where she was born and raised. She has told police that she is on a religious quest.