As it turns out, the adventures of young Max have been greatly exaggerated. Here is what we know to be true:
- He was indeed sent to his room without dinner.
- The reason for his banishment had to do with his acting like a “wild thing” while dressed up in a wolf costume.
- His mother brought dinner up to his room shortly after banishing him.
Beyond those three facts, however, the rest of the well-known story appears to be nothing but lies and deceit.
Max’s bizarre tale of adventure and carousal first made headlines in 1963, when reports of his disappearance brought the nation – and indeed, the world – together in a bond of hope and fear for the young boy’s safety. Shortly after the event, “wild rumpus” parties began popping up in cities and towns across the country; perhaps the most famous of these was hosted by Truman Capote in Kansas during his research for In Cold Blood.
Since then, the story has been fictionalized and adapted for a wide variety of media, including a children’s book, an animated short film (with an extended cut released in the late 1980s), an opera, and even a live-action movie produced by John Malkovich biographer, Spike Jonze. While each of these adaptations offer their own versions and interpretations of events, they all remain consistent in telling a story about a young boy who travels through the forest and over the seas to a land filled with great, beastly “wild things.” While there, Max becomes their king and rules for an unspecified period of time, before returning home.
However, the illusion all came crashing down when Max, who is now in his 60s, revealed in a tweet that the entire journey had been nothing but an enraged fantasy he imagined while laying in his bed. The tweet, which has since been deleted, set off a firestorm of incensed criticism from one-time supporters across social and traditional media. Further investigation shows that the vast majority of his tale never actually happened.
Some of Max’s defenders say that the truth of his story does not matter because it has become a part of the mythic fabric of our society. One anchor of a popular Fox News talkshow went so far as to say, “Whether it happened or not is irrelevant. Max’s story is our story.”
Nonetheless, many of Max’s followers disagree. Given the response to his revelation, Max has all but retreated from the public sphere – perhaps on some new imaginary adventure. His only statement since the offending tweet was another tweet, which stated: “I have stared into the terrible yellow eyes of Twitter. I guess the wild things were here the whole time.”