Have you ever wondered about the famous recluses throughout history? As much as some of us might not want to admit it, being famous is a full-time job, something nobody knows better than celebrities. Whether running from paparazzi, being extra cautious not to say or do something wrong, or just having to accept that you can never have a nice outing with friends without being hammered for an autograph, being a public figure can be an annoying and exhausting ordeal. It’s hard to blame them when they finally decide enough is enough and go underground to avoid the constant attention.
Of course, fame isn’t the only thing that can lead to somebody to a completely private lifestyle; mental illness, poor health, or even just plain anti-social tendencies can all drive people to throwing in the towel and going off the grid. Unfortunately, absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, and a life of obscurity is often only an invitation for even more intrigue and investigation from devoted fans and nosy journalists. Here are 25 famous recluses from throughout history whose interesting lives of isolation have brought them more attention than they’d ever bargained for.
Jeff Magnum is an American singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist best known for his time with the indie-rock band “Neutral Milk Hotel.” He received several accolades for his time with the band, but following an international tour in 1997, he went almost completely off the grid. He wasn’t heard from after that for a number of years, save for a single in 2002, and it wasn’t until recently that he started to once again reemerge from his hiatus.
After spending all of her life under the control of her domineering father, Eliza Emily Donnithorne thought she would finally be free when she agreed to marry a young man. However, things would not go as she planned when, on the day of her wedding, she was left waiting for a groom who would never arrive. As the story goes, it was enough to to make young Eliza snap, and she spent the rest of her life alone in her family estate, refusing to speak to anyone save for two maids. Her tragic story traveled quickly, and it’s thought that Eliza would later serve as the inspiration for the character of Miss Haversham in the book “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
Most well known for his painting “The Scream,” Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter practicing the stylized technique of “soul painting,” which is a way of portraying feelings and emotions through art. He struggled with alcoholism and mental illness throughout his life, and after suffering a mental breakdown in 1908, he decided he couldn’t deal with the publicity any more and spent his remaining years barely leaving his estate. There, he spent his time focusing on the one thing that always brought him peace—his art.
Despite being born into a poor immigrant family, Ida Wood would eventually become the third wife of the American politician and newspaper editor Benjamin Wood, as well as forge friendships with such notable figures as the Prince of Wales and even the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. She managed much of her husband’s business ventures as well as his money, as he was a notorious gambler and would often throw around his wealth foolishly. At one point, he almost lost his company he wagered in a bet.
Unfortunately, Ida’s mental health declined after the death of her husband and, in 1907, she withdrew all of her savings and moved into a hotel suite with her sister and daughter, where the three lived together for nearly three decades.
Guns N’ Roses guitarist and co-founder Izzy Stradlin separated from the rest of the band in 1991 as tensions among the members grew along with the band’s fame. He spent the few years following the departure as the front of his own rock group, Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, before dropping off the media radar for a number of years, only popping up every once in a while to promote his solo projects before disappearing again.
Although he has resurfaced somewhat in recent years, with his social media presence consisting only of a seldom-used twitter account, Izzy continues to be very media shy and mysterious, keeping many details regarding his personal life, such as his home and marital status, a secret.