|“Fairy Folk,” Arthur Rackham|
If you do any investigation of Fortean phenomena, you soon learn that ancient chronicles are a gold mine for High Strangeness. If town historians are to be believed, they saw some of the damndest things, and, happily for those of us with a taste for The Weird, they bunged it all down on paper. The following story is an outstanding example. It was preserved by one Renward Cysat, the town chronicler of Römerswil, Switzerland, in a document which bears the catchy title, “Collectanea Chronica und Denkwürdige Sachen pro Chronica Lucernensi et Helvetiae.”
On November 15, 1572, 50-year-old Römerswil farmer Hans Buchmann went to the Römerswil inn. He carried with him sixteen florins, the amount of a debt he wished to repay to the inn’s owner, Hans Schurmann. When he found that Schurmann was not there, he set out for the nearby village of Sempach in order to deal with other business matters. When Buchmann did not return home the next day, his wife sent their two sons to find him. The boys failed to locate their father, but on the path to Sempach, they did find Buchmann’s hat, coat, gloves, and saber. The boys immediately came to the conclusion that a cousin named Klaus Buchmann, who had been at feud with the family for years, had murdered their father. Klaus was interrogated by the authorities and his property searched, but found no evidence that he had been involved with the disappearance.
For four weeks, Hans’ family waited in vain for some sign of their missing relative. Finally, news came of his whereabouts, and it was probably the last thing they were expecting: Hans was in Milan. On February 2, 1573, Buchmann was finally returned to his family, very much the worse for wear. His loved ones were shocked to see that he had lost all his hair, and his head was so swollen he was virtually unrecognizable.
The town authorities, evidently suspecting that Hans had been part of some sort of scheme to frame cousin Klaus for his murder, brought Hans in for questioning. (Renward Cysat was one of the witnesses to the interrogation.)
Buchmann’s story was both extremely simple and jarringly weird. On the day before he disappeared, he went to Sempach. He said he had very little to drink while there. When dawn arrived, he set off for home. As he was walking through the forest, he began hearing an odd noise. At first, he thought it was a swarm of bees buzzing, but then it began sounding more like strange music. He began to feel frightened and disoriented, losing the sense of where he was or what he was doing. In his panic, he unsheathed his sword, blindly swinging it around him. While he was lunging around, he lost his hat, coat, and gloves. As he fell into a faint, he sensed that he was being lifted off the ground.
When he finally regained consciousness, he found himself in Milan. Two weeks had passed. His head was swollen and painful, and he was weak from lack of food. As he was unfamiliar with Milan and did not speak the language, Buchmann would have been in dire straits indeed if he had not found a German-speaking guard who was willing to help him get back home.
And that seems to have been that. The town officials were no doubt tempted to reply, “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it,” but it was clear that something very unusual had happened to Bachmann on the road between Sempach and Römerswil. Everyone, evidently, was forced to leave it at that.
Cysat gave his opinion that his friend Buchmann had been kidnapped by fairies. I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any.