Thursday, 19 March 2015

David Lang - the farmer

David Lang was said to be a farmer who lived near Gallatin, Tennessee. On September 23, 1880 he supposedly vanished into thin air while walking through a field near his home. His wife, children, and two men who were passing by in a buggy all witnessed his disappearance. By nightfall, all the neighbors were involved in the search and, by lantern, they checked every foot of the field, stamping their feet to try to detect any holes that Mr. Lang might have fallen into. Nothing was found. 

Months after the occurrence in 1881, Lang's children noticed that the grass at the site of their father's disappearance had grown strange and yellow, and formed a circle with a fifteen-foot diameter. Sarah called to her father and seemingly as a result, both the children heard him faintly calling for help, over and over, until his voice faded away.

It is more likely that the tale of David Lang was invented by the mystery-novel writer Stuart Palmer. In July 1953 Palmer published the earliest known account of the Lang story in FATE Magazine. Palmer's article was almost certainly the source that both Wilkins and Edwards later relied upon.

Palmer claimed that the tale had been told to him by Sarah Lang, the daughter of David Lang. But in reality, Palmer probably lifted the idea for the tale from a short story by Ambrose Bierce, "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field," which Bierce included in his story collection Can Such Things Be? (1893). Bierce's story describes a plantation owner who vanishes into thin air. In his 1953 article, Palmer claimed that Bierce's story was inspired by the Lang incident. However, the opposite is most likely true -- the Lang tale written by Palmer is almost certainly a reworking of Bierce's story.

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