Into thin air – Do humans just disappear?

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I remember reading as a kid about Benjamin Bathurst, David Lang and Oliver Larch. All three have strange stories of inexplicable disappearance. There are no accounts of UFO’s carrying them off, no portals to other dimensions, and no murderous intrigues. They simply were there one moment, and gone another. I recently revisited these stories with a skeptical eye to see what I could come up with.

It was the night of November 25, 1809. The world was at war with Napoleon Bonaparte and uncertain frantic alliances were being formed across Europe to counter him. Vienna had fallen, and Britain’s diplomat in the area, Benjamin Bathurst, was on his way north to Hamburg to return to Britain.

Not far from Berlin in the town of Perleberg, Bathurst stopped in the evening under an assumed name with an assistant to take on fresh horses and to have dinner. It was nearly 9 pm when the horses were prepared. Bathurst, wanting to get to Berlin as soon as possible, left his assistant and went outside to wait in the carriage. That would be the last time anyone would ever see Benjamin Bathurst.

Moments later his assistant left the Inn only to find the carriage empty. No sign of Bathurst was to be found, and one of the strangest stories in history of a disappearance was born.

Word reached England some weeks later when the assistant arrived in London. Bathurst’s wife herself went to Germany and coordinated with the police investigation into the matter. The river Stepnitz was scoured to no avail. The village was searched exhaustively several times with only a coat reported to belong to Bathurst found in an outhouse, and a pair of pantaloons thought to belong to him found some distance away in the woods. Even after an exhaustive search with dogs of the entire area, no other trace was found.

Thinking French agents were involved, Mrs Bathurst took her search to Napoleon himself. She somehow gained access to the Emperor, and asked him what happened to her husband. Surprised, Napoleon said he had no idea, and offered his help to the search. Bathurst’s remains, never the less, were never conclusively found. While there is no proof, its highly probably that Bathurst was simply murdered, no dimensional shifts or aliens needed because no suggestion of them was ever involved in the story.

Another famous tale is that of David Lang of Tennesse, a farmer who in full view of his family vanished in thin air. One second he was visible, the next he was not as he walked across a field. We need not recount this very famous story in detail here, but it remains one of the greatest examples of inexplicable human disappearance in the annals of the paranormal. Problem is, it appears to be entirely concocted, first appearing in an article in Fate magazine . No evidence of Lang or his family ever having existed has been presented, and the records of the time say nothing. Further, a similar story of one
Oliver Larch is likely a rehash of the David Lang legend.

So lies the problem with disappearances into thin air, more is often made of them than is really there and more mundane explanations are often ignored. The more notorious cases seem to have never happened, and the historical ones seem to have rational explanations. This is not to say that people do not disappear without a trace, but that those cases put forth as flagship examples seem shoddy on second glance. It would appear that people do not disappear into thin air. There is always a reason. When one gets into those reasons, that is where valid paranormal questions arise.

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  • Cyndy L.

    I was immediately drawn to this article because of an experience I had in the early 1980′s in Seattle Washington. Specifically, right here: GOOGLE STREET VIEW MAP: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=3401+NE+55th+Street,+Seattle,+WA&sll=47.668523,-122.290556&sspn=0.01117,0.019312&g=3467+NE+55th+Street,+Seattle,+WA&ie=UTF8&ll=47.668523,-122.291372&spn=0.01117,0.019312&t=h&z=16&iwloc=addr&layer=c&cbll=47.668541,-122.291385&panoid=2cJJAf2cX5ltDV-meUBB5g&cbp=12,161.7057689921144,,0,6.2

    I have always found it interesting that there is a cemetery on the other side of that chain link fence, and please note that in the early 80′s, there were NO TREES around the fence.

    I was driving east, the lane that travels next to the chain link fence. There was a tall man long straggly hair, dressed in jeans and a knee-length style dark overcoat. He flat disappeared before my eyes. Poof! I was looking at him. He was there, then he was not there. I pulled over the car as this was quite shocking. I looked, but when someone disappears into thin air and you see it happen, you feel kinda stupid looking all over the cemetery. My car was no more than 20 feet from him, if he had looked at me I would have seen the whites of his eyes.

    I don’t expect anyone to believe me and frankly I don’t care, but this is the first time I have ever put this in text—although I have mentioned it to several people over the years.

    So, it does happen, I know for a fact because it happened to ME.

    • Vexed

      I just recently had a similar experience. An old lady just vanished in a blink of an eye. I was about 20 feet away as well… Its been bugging the hell out of me for the past couple days and im wondering if it was just a delusion.

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  • Jason Patterson

    Although I don’t have any links handy, I read at least three different articles delcaring the David Lang disapearance a hoax all the way around, including the fact there was no Lang family to begin with, not listed in the town records, nor any historians able to produce evidence.

  • Amy Gonzalez

    When I first heard this story it seemed to me more like the good old fashioned “ghost hitch hiker girl”. The Lang case seems to pop up in many different states (always a different name, of course), which in itself offers skepticism to any authenticity.

  • Bob

    cool site need information about a night shift that just up and vanished. I heard it had something to do with the Phillie experimentany thing on it

  • Rontyler11

    There ARE portals where people can vanish into…study metaphysics…there are advanced beings that can take people with no trouble at all…it could also be Angels took those that were suffering and had no hope left. Those ‘taken’ had a purpose or talent needed elsewhere, some had chems in them needed in a bio job…earth is an infant, we are bugs in a petri dish, breeded for a experiment.