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  • Long Distance Runner DOESN’T Disappear into Broad Daylight December 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    There is something fascinating about people just vanishing, perhaps particularly in those rare instances when people are actually watching them. Beach has recently been chasing after records for the following interesting case. We’ve taken enough words from The Examiner to give some kind of outline here.

    James Burne Worson was a shoemaker by trade living in Leamington, Warwickshire, England. His friends and family were often annoyed by Worson’s constant bragging about his advanced aptitude as a long-distance runner….Worson immediately accepted the challenge, and jumped up to begin his mission. Wise and Burns followed a few yards behind in a horse-drawn cart, never allowing Worson to leave their sight. Although Worson had consumed alcohol prior to the start of his journey, he seemed to be running along just fine. He was enjoying himself, even laughing and joking with his companions as he ran. After several miles of this frolicsome behavior, suddenly in front of his friends’ eyes, Worson appeared to trip and fall forward in the middle of the road, giving out a frightened cry, and disappearing into thin air before he even hit the ground.

    How can we explain this kind of event. The author of The Examiner intones:

    A theory of ‘void spots of universal ether’ has also been offered as an explanation for unexplained disappearances by Dr. Maximilian Hern, a scientist and author. He believes these spots only lasted a few seconds, but ‘were capable of destroying any and all material elements that happened into them.’

    But what really happened to JBW? Well, the answer is that he was Bierced. And what does to be Bierced mean? Well, Ambrose Bierce (obit 1913?) is, of course, the short story writer who himself vanished mysteriously. Many years before though he wrote a story that was entitled An Unfinished Race and that was included in his best short story collection, Present at a Hanging and Other Ghost Stories (1918), put together post mortem from several shorter works. It was originally written in 1893

    James Burne Worson was a shoemaker who lived in Leamington, Warwickshire, England.  He had a little shop in one of the by-ways leading off the road to Warwick.  In his humble sphere he was esteemed an honest man, although like many of his class in English towns he was somewhat addicted to drink.  When in liquor he would make foolish wagers.  On one of these too frequent occasions he was boasting of his prowess as a pedestrian and athlete, and the outcome was a match against nature.  For a stake of one sovereign he undertook to run all the way to Coventry and back, a distance of something more than forty miles.  This was on the 3d day of September in 1873.  He set out at once, the man with whom he had made the bet, whose name is not remembered–accompanied by Barham Wise, a linen draper, and Hamerson Burns, a photographer, I think, following in a light cart or wagon.

    For several miles Worson went on very well, at an easy gait, without apparent fatigue, for he had really great powers of endurance and was not sufficiently intoxicated to enfeeble them.  The three men in the wagon kept a short distance in the rear, giving him occasional friendly “chaff” or encouragement, as the spirit moved them. Suddenly – in the very middle of the roadway, not a dozen yards from them, and with their eyes full upon him–the man seemed to stumble, pitched headlong forward, uttered a terrible cry and vanished!  He did not fall to the earth – he vanished before touching it.  No trace of him was ever discovered.

    After remaining at and about the spot for some time, with aimless irresolution, the three men returned to Leamington, told their astonishing story and were afterward taken into custody.  But they were of good standing, had always been considered truthful, were sober at the time of the occurrence, and nothing ever transpired to discredit their sworn account of their extraordinary adventure, concerning the truth of which, nevertheless, public opinion was divided, throughout the United Kingdom.  If they had something to conceal, their choice of means is certainly one of the most amazing ever made by sane human beings.

    Beach loves the way that Fortean material leaks effortlessly from fiction into fact, and back again. He came across another example recently over at Bad Archaeology, a very amusing post.

    There must be many more: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Also just as an aside Bierce wrote three short stories about people disappearing: An Unfinished Race, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and Charles Ashmore’s Trail. The last is particularly terrifying and particularly familiar because Algernon Blackwood ripped it off shamelessly for his own Entrance and Exit. Talk about greedy reading.


    31 Dec 2012: Bobskinn writes in I was interested to read your recent blog on disappearances and how fictional stories can become reported as fact. You mentioned Ambrose Bierce, and his story “The difficulty of crossing a field” which can be found here: and  “Charles Ashmore’s Trail” (Here:  )  As you may know, these stories appears to be origin of a number of similar tales of disappearances that have been reported as factual occurrences in periodicals, books and on the net. Often the character who vanished is an David Lang, Oliver Lerch or Larch, or a David or Oliver Thomas (in a version translocated to Wales). For a blog about this, with a useful additional summary by one reader in the comments, see here. Wikipedia also mentions the case, giving the Ambrose Bierce connection, here:. Chris S also writes in over David Lang with a great link: Thanks Chris and Bobskinn!