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Famous Recluses

A List of Famous People Who Lived as Recluses


Updated June 09, 2014

A recluse is someone who lives away from society. People become recluses for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs, survivalist goals, mental illness, and a desire for privacy. There are as many types of recluses as there are reasons for people to retire from society. Celebrities sometimes also become reclusive, either from the public eye, or from society in general. Below is a list of famous celebrity recluses.

1. Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson is known for his comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" that he created until 1995. The strip, about a 6-year-old boy and a stuffed tiger, was beloved by fans and won Watterson the Reuben Award (the National Cartoonist Society's highest honor) three times. Watterson retired out of frustration with daily deadlines and has since escaped the public eye. He is known for refusing interviews and turning down requests for autographs. He also never wanted to merchandise his characters as he felt it would detract from their value.

2. Dave Chappelle

Photo: Scott Gries / Getty Images
Photo: Scott Gries / Getty Images

Dave Chappelle left his successful television show with Comedy Central in 2005 in the middle of the third season after signing a multimillion dollar deal only a year earlier. Chappelle flew to visit a friend in South Africa for several weeks amid rumors of drug problems and mental instability. He currently lives with his family on a 65-acre estate in Ohio. Although he never brought back the Dave Chappelle Show, he occasionally does stand-up comedy. It is believed that creative differences with the network and a distaste for celebrity life led him to leave the spotlight.

3. Emily Bronte

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Emily Bronte is the author of the literary classic "Wuthering Heights." A private and shy woman, she lived in a fantasy world and had little contact with the outside world, other than to listen in on the gossip of others. Her mother and two eldest sisters passed away when she was a child, but she grew up with two other sisters and a brother. Bronte died on December 19, 1948.

4. Emily Dickinson

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Emily Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems, but fewer than a dozen were published while she was alive. She spent the last two decades of her life never leaving the family property, and was known for refusing visitors and shouting to people out of windows. It is speculated that she may have suffered from social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia. Although she lived a solitary life, she corresponded with numerous literary figures, and was believed to have had an affair (by correspondence only) with Judge Otis P. Lord of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Dickinson died May 15, 1886, at the age of 55 of Bright's disease.

5. Glenn Gould

Photo: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images
Photo: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images

Glenn Gould was a noted Canadian pianist who began composing music at the young age of five. Although described by some as a hermit and recluse, others argued that Gould lived a solitary existence but shared himself with others through his compositions. Friends described him as warm and charming. Gould died of a stroke in Toronto, Canada on October 4, 1982.

6. Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo was a Swedish actress who made 28 films during her acting career. She retired to New York City in 1941 where she lived a solitary existence the rest of her life. Garbo was known for refusing interviews, not attending awards shows, and generally not giving time to the paparazzi. She died of natural causes at age 84 on April 15, 1990.

7. Harper Lee

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Harper Lee is known for her successful 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." More private person than true recluse or hermit, Lee simply had no interest in fame, shunning requests for interviews on television and in magazines and newspapers.

8. Howard Hughes

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Howard Hughes was a film producer and director, aviator, and at one point one of the richest men in the world. Hughes became reclusive later in life and spent much of his time living in penthouses in his own hotels in Las Vegas and other cities. It is believed that he may have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hughes died on April 5, 1976.

9. J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger is best known for his 1951 novel "The Catcher in the Rye." Born in New York City, Salinger lived out his life in the small town of Cornish, New Hampshire, where the local townsfolk respected his privacy and refused to disclose his home address to reporters. Salinger was considered reclusive from the public eye, never speaking to reporters and keeping his life private. Salinger died on January 27, 2010, at the age of 91.

10. John Hughes

John Hughes was a director, producer, and screenwriter known for popular 80s and 90s movies such as "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink" and "Home Alone" and its sequels. Hughes is said to have moved his family away from Hollywood and Los Angeles because of his distaste for the lifestyle and desire to have his children grow up elsewhere. Hughes died of a heart attack on August 6, 2009.

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