October 6, 2011

Unexplained disappearances

This first account is an excellent case in point because it defies any rational explanation for one simple reason: it occurred in full view of witnesses. The year was 1815 and the location a Prussian prison at Weichselmunde. The prisoner's name was Diderici, a valet who was serving a sentence for assuming his employer's identity after he died from a stroke. It was an ordinary afternoon and Diderici was just one in a line of prisoners, all chained together, walking in the prison yard for the day's exercise.
As Diderici walked with his prison inmates to the clanking of their shackles, he slowly began to fade - literally. His body became more and more transparent until Diderici disappeared altogether, and his manacles and leg irons fell empty to the ground. He disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. -- from Among the Missing: An Anecdotal History of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present, by Jay Robert Nash.

We discovered (very late at night such a discovery is inevitable) that there is something monstrous about mirrors. That was when Bioy remembered a saying by one of the heresiachs of Uqbar: Mirrors and copulation are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind. -- from "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges.

[Brion Gysin] next decided to experiment with mirror-gazing. He had in his room two high armoires with heavy plate-glass mirrors on the doors. He told Burroughs that he would gaze for 24 hours if he had help in being handed food and No-Doz pills and cigarettes and joints. The idea was that you could see your former incarnations and be in better touch with yourself. You had to keep staring without closing your eyes, paying no attention to the tears streaming down your cheeks.
Brion at first saw 19th century scientists in their laboratories. Obviously something momentous was happening in their experiments. Then the scene shifted, and he saw much more ancient figures, like a horde coming off the Asian steppes, great chieftains wearing amazing headdresses, with deeply scarred and tattooed faces, fierce warriors, hundreds of them, perhaps from Siberia. Finally they disappeared completely, and Brion found himself looking into a space that was at the same time limiting and limitless -- was it an enormous room, or was it a landscape? There was a layer of blue-gray cloud about waist-high, breathing, moving, pulsing, and that was the end -- it was like looking at the void. -- from Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S Burroughs, by Ted Morgan.

All but die-hard fans had checked out by this point – a pity, because David Lynch’s Twin Peaks prequel contained some moments of blood-curdling horror and ineffable strangeness that marked it as a much darker, spookier enterprise than the often whimsical TV series. The strangest bit of all is the largely irrelevant prologue: FBI agents invisible to the closed-circuit cameras, Lynch’s odd cameo, David Bowie’s slightly less odd cameo, the suddenly ominous words “Let’s Rock” across the windscreen of an abandoned car … -- from my capsule review of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, sometime in the late 1990s.

Characters are introduced and disappear for no special reason, not even mystical. It seems more likely that actors of the caliber of Kiefer Sutherland and David Bowie could spend only a limited amount of time on the picture, and that Mr Lynch accommodated them and himself by introducing into the script intimations of the occult. He can't get off the hook that easily. -- from Vincent Canby's review of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, New York Times, August 29, 1992.

Most disappearances do not have witnesses, yet there is sometimes circumstantial evidence that is no less puzzling. This is the case for the vanishing of Charles Ashmore. It was a cold November winter night in 1878 when 16 year old Charles went out into the dark with a bucket to fetch water from the well for his family on their Quincy, Illinois property. He did not return.
After many minutes, his father and sister became concerned. They feared that Charles perhaps had slipped in the snow that blanketed the ground and was injured, or worse, had fallen into the well. They set out to look for him, but he was just gone. There was no sign of a struggle or fall ... only the clear tracks of Charles' footprints in the fresh snow that led halfway to the well, then abruptly stopped. Charles Ashmore had suddenly disappeared into the void. -- from Into Thin Air, by Paul Begg.