ANCHORAGE - Whether it's just a pile of junk left in the wilderness or a pilgrim's shrine, one thing's for sure: The abandoned bus where Christopher McCandless starved to death in 1992 is now an eBay commodity.
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This week, a Fairbanks man sold a bus instrument panel he said he plucked from the ground, near the bus, on eBay for $177.50.
Kasey Cory, 25, said Wednesday he put the item on eBay, timed to the opening of a Hollywood movie about McCandless' Alaska sojourn, to "stir the pot" and stimulate more debate about the tragedy.
Cory, who lived in nearby Healy for a year, has traipsed to the remote spot along the Stampede Road adjoining Denali National Park numerous times, he said.
What Cory did possibly could be considered theft under state law, a state land manager said.
The issue of what to do with the bus hasn't been resolved and some are worried that if it remains there, it will bring more opportunists, inexperienced trekkers and tragedy.
McCandless lived in the bus after deciding to abandon civilization. His death made national headlines, inspired a book and, this fall, a movie based on the book, "Into the Wild."
Some Healy residents said recently they hope to remove the bus from its resting spot on state land.
"Everybody is concerned that people are going to get lost or hurt out there," said Chris Milles, a state land manager for the Department of Natural Resources in Fairbanks.
"No one has permission to high-grade the bus," Milles said.
"Technically, it's probably considered theft of state property because (the bus is) abandoned on state land," Milles said. He said the DNR could end up discussing the issue with state troopers, depending on the severity of the looting.
The state hasn't claimed the bus as state property yet and probably will not remove it without a specific request to do so, Milles said.
At least one other complaint of looting at the bus has surfaced in recent weeks.
Sean Penn, the director of the "Into the Wild" movie, said in an interview that he recently camped at the bus and noticed that somebody had plucked McCandless' boots, replacing them with his or her own.
"I can't help but think it was related to some of the imminent discussion abut the movie coming, and somebody hungering to have an eBay item," Penn said in the Associated Press article.
Cory said he has received some criticism for his eBay sale, which he offered up in late September. In the eBay ad, he mentioned he had other items from the bus site, but he hasn't offered them for sale -- at least not yet.
On Wednesday afternoon, Outside magazine criticized him on its Web site for selling the instrument panel, calling him an "unscrupulous profiteer."
"To a lot of people, I come across as a really bad person. But I probably have a better opinion of (McCandless) than most people in (this) state," Cory said.
Cory has hiked the Stampede Road many times - plus other remote places in Alaska - and he identifies with McCandless' urge to spend time in the wilderness by himself, he said
He plucked the panel in March, and he also shot several videos of the bus, putting them up on YouTube, he said.
"I did the whole thing just to get people talking about it. ... It didn't really have anything to do with money," Cory said, noting that many people have left memorials to McCandless inside and around the bus. He said he feels those items should remain undisturbed.
"I didn't break anything or take anything apart. It was stuff that was headed for the dump," Cory said.
One Healy business leader said the eBay flap is just one more reason to get the bus out of there.
"From a Chamber of Commerce standpoint, we want people to come up here because it's beautiful," said Neal Laugman, president of the Greater Healy/Denali Chamber of Commerce.
Instead, young people are showing up for a McCandless-type experience, trekking out to the bus - a trip that involves a potentially-dangerous river crossing - unprepared for the wilderness, Laugman said.
One person is apparently camping out on the road, lugging a bag of rice and refusing assistance, just like McCandless did, he said.
"For heaven's sake, you are putting yourself in harm's way," Laugman said.
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