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The Disappearance of David Lang

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Altered Dimensions

David LangThere are some who believe that there may be additional ‘dimensions’ not accounted for in our commonly accepted system of three dimensions (four dimensions if you count ‘time’). If there are indeed dimensions we have yet to discover or understand, is it possible to slip from one of these dimensions to another? If a person did pass through to this unknown dimension, what would become of their body, their mind, and their spirit?

Here is the story of David Lang, a man who may have slipped into another dimension.  Some believe this story to be a hoax or legend, probably due to the many variations that exist of the tale.  But here it is, in its entirety, so you can decide for yourself…

David Lang Disappearance

On September 23, 1880, David Lang was crossing a field near his home in Sumner County, Tennessee. His wife and two children were watching their father walk across the field. David’s brother-in-law, a local attorney, and Judge August Peck were approaching the home in a horse-drawn buggy. Suddenly, Mrs. Lang sprang from her seat screaming in terror and the two approaching visitors gasped in disbelief. David Lang had just vanished before their eyes.

The disappearance of David Lang caused quite a stir in the local community.  At the spot where David disappeared there remained a 15 foot circle.  The circle continued to mark the spot where the vanishing took place for years afterwards. Nothing would grow there and animals and insects avoided it.  Once, the children ventured into the center of the circle and claimed to hear their father’s voice echoing from another dimension.

Tall Tale Theories

Several theories abound as to what really happened to David Lang.  Most interesting are theories that the whole incident is a fable, passed down from generation to generation, until it grew into the tale we know today.  Most of the fable theories are probably based upon earlier articles in FATE and Fortean Times magazines.

Some believe that a similar incident occurred in July 1854 at a plantation near Selma, Alabama.  A man named Orion Williamson disappeared in a manner similar to David Lang (dead grass circles, voices from nowhere, etc.). American writer Ambrose Bierce investigated the Williamson incident and penned a story titled ‘The Difficulty of Crossing a Field’ describing the incident in great detail (the story was printed in Bierce’s book – Can Such Things Be in 1909?).

Writer Ambrose BierceThe Difficulty of Crossing a Field (1909) – One morning in July, 1854, a planter named Williamson, living six miles from Selma, Alabama, was sitting with his wife and a child on the veranda of his dwelling. Immediately in front of the house was a lawn, perhaps fifty yards in extent between the house and public road, or, as it was called, the ‘pike.’ Beyond this road lay a close-cropped pasture of some ten acres, level and without a tree, rock, or any natural or artificial object on its surface. At the time there was not even a domestic animal in the field. In another field, beyond the pasture, a dozen slaves were at work under an overseer.

Throwing away the stump of a cigar, the planter rose, saying: ‘I forgot to tell Andrew about those horses.’ Andrew was the overseer.  Williamson strolled leisurely down the gravel walk, plucking a flower as he went, passed across the road and into the pasture, pausing a moment as he closed the gate leading into it, to greet a passing neighbor, Armour Wren, who lived on an adjoining plantation…

Mr. Wren had sold to Mr. Williamson some horses, which were to have been sent for that day, but for some reason not now remembered, it would be inconvenient to deliver them until the morrow. The coachman was directed to drive back, and as the vehicle turned Williamson was seen by all three, walking leisurely across the pasture. At that moment one of the coach horses stumbled and came near falling. It had no more than fairly recovered itself when James Wren cried: ‘Why, father, what has become of Mr. Williamson?’

Mr. Wren’s strange account of the matter, given under oath in the course of legal proceedings relating to the Williamson estate, here follows:

‘My son’s exclamation caused me to look toward the spot where I had seen the deceased [sic] an instant before, but he was not there, nor was he anywhere visible. I cannot say that at the moment I was greatly startled, or realized the gravity of the occurrence, though I thought it singular. My son, however, was greatly astonished and kept repeating his question in different forms until we arrived at the gate. My black boy Sam was similarly affected, even in a greater degree, but I reckon more by my son’s manner than by anything he had himself observed. [This sentence in the testimony was stricken out.] As we got out of the carriage at the gate of the field, and while Sam was hanging [sic] the team to the fence, Mrs. Williamson, with her child in her arms and followed by several servants, came running down the walk in great excitement, crying: ‘He is gone, he is gone! O God! what an awful thing!’ and many other such exclamations, which I do not distinctly recollect. I got from them the impression that they related to something more than the mere disappearance of her husband, even if that had occurred before her eyes. Her manner was wild, but not more so, I think, than was natural under the circumstances. I have no reason to think she had at that time lost her mind. I have never since seen nor heard of Mr. Williamson.’

This testimony, as might have been expected, was corroborated in almost every particular by the only other eye-witness (if that is a proper term) — the lad James. Mrs. Williamson had lost her reason and the servants were, of course, not competent to testify. The boy James Wren had declared at first that he saw the disappearance, but there is nothing of this in his testimony given in court. None of the field hands working in the field to which Williamson was going had seen him at all, and the most rigorous search of the entire plantation and adjoining country failed to supply a clew. The most monstrous and grotesque fictions, originating with the blacks, were current in that part of the State for many years, and probably are to this day; but what has been here related is all that is certainly known of the matter. The courts decided that Williamson was dead, and his estate was distributed according to law.

The similarities between the traditional David Lang legend and the Orion Williamson are certainly striking and indeed the stories appear to be almost identical.  Was the David Lang tale simply a legend based upon a true account that occurred many years earlier?

Researcher Robert Nash believes that a traveling salesman named Joe Mulhatten was stranded in Gallatin, Tennessee in December, 1889 and had a little too much time on his hands.  Mulhatten was known to compete in ‘liar’ contests to see who could come up with the best tall tale.  Being familiar with the Orion Williamson incident, he wrote an updated account changing the name, location, etc. to come up with the modern day David Lang legend.  The only problem with this theory is that many David Lang researchers believe that Mulhatten himself is a fabrication.  They believe that Mulhatten is a legend based upon a very real traveling salesmen in the 1880’s, known also for his tall tales, named Joseph M. Mulholland (‘Mulhatten’ or ‘Mulholland’?).  One and the same?  Both tall tales? Did either one really exist?


Truth or legend?  Wherever Mr. Lang was, whatever dimension he now existed in, there was one more supposed contact from that place that took place 30 years later. Shortly after the death of her mother, Sarah, the youngest of David Lang’s two children, received a letter written in her father’s handwriting. "Together now. Together now and forever"…

Updated: Myth?

Many believe the story of the Disappearance of David Lang is simply a myth. Howard Barnes, author of "Small Shaky Planet" dropped us a line and pointed out that Fate Magazine, who once printed a story on the disappearance of David Lang, subsequently printed an apology after digging deeper into the matter and being unable to verify several of the key facts about the case.

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