From Les Jones’s email in Bruce Schneier’s “Crypto-Gram” (15 August 2005):
Avoiding rescuers is a common reaction in people who have been lost in the woods. See Dwight McCarter’s book, “Lost,” an account of search and rescue operations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In one chapter McCarter tells the story of two backpackers in the park who got separated while traveling off-trail in the vicinity of Thunderhead. The less-experienced hiker quickly got lost.
After a day or two wandering around he was going through his pack and found a backpacking how-to book that explained what to do in case you got lost in the woods. Following the advice, he went to a clearing and built a signal fire. A rescue helicopter saw the smoke and hovered overhead above the tree tops as he waved his arms to attract their attention. The helicopter dropped a sleeping bag and food, with a note saying they couldn’t land in the clearing, but that they would send in a rescue party on foot.
The lost hiker sat down, tended his fire, and waited for rescue. When the rescuers appeared at the edge of the clearing, he panicked, jumped up, and ran in the other direction. They had to chase him down to rescue him. This despite the fact that he wanted to be rescued, had taken active steps to attract rescuers, and knew that rescuers were coming to him. Odd but true.