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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
    North Carolina

    NC - Robert Harrill, 79, Fort Fisher, 3 June 1972

    A Tourist Attraction:
    Robert E. Harrill, who is better known as the Fort Fisher Hermit, lived in an abandoned WWII bunker in a marshy area in Fort Fisher, North Carolina. He dropped out of society in 1955 after his wife asked for a divorce, and he hitchhiked 260 miles from Morgantown, North Carolina to Fort Fisher, where he resided in the WWII bunker until his death in 1972. He was considered the 2nd biggest tourist attraction in North Carolina, acquiring daily visitors from all over for 17 years.

    Details about his death:
    He was found dead by some local teens on June 3, 1972, and the New Hanover County Coroner ruled his death as natural causes, a heart attack; however, no autopsy was performed. Harrill's body had multiple wounds and was bloodied, he was missing a shoe, and he also had sand on his body. I've seen a picture of how his body was found and it looks as if he was thrown in his bunker. His official cause of death still is listed as a heart attack, and his death wasn't considered to have been foul play until his son pushed the theory in the 80's/90's. Investigators now believe his heart attack was caused by an ambush from some local men. He occasionally was a victim of harassment, assault, and theft, so the theory is that some locals went out that night to mess with him. Being from the area I heard that they wrapped him in a bed sheet/sleeping bag and drug him around the beach, then realized later that he was dead and threw him back in his bunker and ran. There is a witness who saw a car speed off without headlights that night.

    According to the coroner's report, Harill died June 3, 1972 from a heart attack, but there are some who believe the heart attack was caused by a violent ambush by three men.

    Fred Pickler with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office says the three men assaulted Harrill while he was about ten feet away from his bunker. He says Harrill had a massive heart attack as a result of the violent struggle.

    According to Pickler, the men threw Harrill inside the bunker and put the door back over it, before speeding away. Pickler said a fisherman contacted with information when he saw a vehicle leave at a high rate of speed with no lights on. The person remained anonymous, but had details about what he believes happened that night.


    Here's a news article I found from 2001, that accounts what I have heard about him being dragged by local teens:

    One question I have for the medical examiner is if he had a heart attack while out and crawled back to his bunker, how did he get two picks of plywood over the door?

    The article also has a witness who overheard a conversation from the perpetrators themselves about what happened that night. It also claimed to know who the men are, but they feel no need to punish them, why not? Even if the murder wasn't intentional, it is still Involuntary manslaughter (an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence).

    Being from the area, this case has haunted me since I was a child, and has always infuriated me that these men's identities ARE known, but they were never brought to justice. The thought that I may even know the families of the perpetrators is an uncomfortable one. The most frustrating cases are the ones where the killer is known and don't get justice, and are left to live their lives as a freeman/woman.

    Questions I have regarding this case:

    Was the local teens who found his body the same that unintentionally killed him?
    And why not charge the perpetrators if they ARE known?
    Have they been interviewed?
    How was the coroner not at all suspicious?

    Since the murder happened in 1972, and assuming the perpetrators were at least 16 and over, they would be in their 60's by now.

    Here is a film on the Fort Fisher Hermit:

    Other Links:
    Last edited by aThousandYearsWide; 09-04-2016 at 10:48 PM.

  2. #2
    Thanks for puttin up this thread. My grandma was from that area and had been out to see him before. She said he might have been a hermit but he was not a recluse. He loved to entertain company.
    Its a shame more people don't read and comment on this mans life. Maybe they will yet.
    Thanks for keepin his story alive.

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