History is rife with strange tales of people who have mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth without a trace, but one area that seems to get decidedly less coverage is the various accounts of those who did just the opposite, appearing out of nowhere cloaked in mystery and emanating questions and puzzles around them that have never been satisfactorily answered. Here we have strangers who have stepped out of thin air from another place, perhaps even another time or plane of existence, and have gone on to leave impenetrable mysteries in their wake to this day. Stepping out of blue and into our imagination, these baffling appearances represent a phenomena every bit as perplexing as strange disappearances. Let us journey into the bizarre world of mysterious individuals who seemingly appeared from nowhere.
One of the earliest, most well-known, and indeed bizarre cases of people appearing out of nowhere occurred in the mid-12th century, when two children mysteriously appeared in the sleepy village of Woolpit, in the English county of Suffolk, and went on to become an enduring mystery known as the Green Children of Woolpit. Allegedly one day, two young children, a boy and a girl, suddenly and inexplicably emerged from a deep pit used for trapping the wolves that terrorized the region in those days. If this wasn’t already odd enough, it immediately became apparent that these were no ordinary children, as they both reportedly had skin that was tinted green, and were dressed in strange, unfamiliar clothing made from an unusual fabric that no one recognized. The children seemed to be more or less healthy but somewhat dazed and confused, and when villagers tried to speak to them they spoke a strange, unintelligible language that no one had ever heard before. Not knowing what to do with these enigmatic children, the locals presented them to a wealthy landowner by the name of Sir Richard de Calne, who took them into his care. Things would only get stranger from there.
The children immediately started crying uncontrollably when they arrived at their new caretaker’s house, chattering with each other in their alien tongue but no one could understand a word of what they were saying. When presented with food, the green-skinned children would not eat anything, even though they made it clear that they were quite hungry. Bread, meat, fruit and vegetables were all offered, but everything was refused by the children until they were presented with beans still in their pods, which they ravenously devoured. For several months this was the only food the children would eat, until they gradually began to consume other things such as bread. Tragically, the boy purportedly became increasingly morose and sullen in this new environment, eventually becoming very ill and wasting away until he died. The girl, on the other hand, seemed to adapt reasonably well to the new world she had found herself in, her green pallor gradually dissipated, and she even started picking up the English language. That’s where things got even weirder still.
When she was able to somewhat express herself in English, the girl began to try and explain where they had come from. She claimed that the boy had been her brother and that they had come from a faraway land located deep underground, where the sun never shone, where it was always dark, and where all of the people had green skin; a fantastical place she called St. Martin. When asked how they had arrived at Woolpit, the girl told the mesmerized villagers that she had been out herding cattle with her brother and had followed the animals into a large cavern. As they plunged deeper into the cavern the girl claimed that they had heard a strange sound like bells, which they followed into the uncharted blackness, becoming more and more disoriented until there was a sudden bright shaft of light that had pierced through the gloom and hurt their eyes. When the children had followed the light they exited the cavern, only instead of their homeland before their eyes it had been the bottom of the wolf trap pit they had been found in. It was a bizarre tale to be sure, and nobody was quite sure what to make of it, although there was all manner of speculation. The girl would subsequently go on to live a relatively normal life in the village, adjusting comfortably to her new home, integrating into society well, and even being baptized and eventually getting married.
The story of the Green Children of Woolpit went on to become a popular tale of curiosity and is still much discussed to this day. It is difficult to know what to make of this story, and hard to ascertain just how many elements actually took place and which are mere myths, exaggeration, folktale, fancy, and fairy tale. There have been a wide range of theories proposed for the Green Children’s origins, ranging from the somewhat plausible to the more far-fetched. The enigmatic children have been alternately theorized as being from a parallel dimension, aliens, inhabitants of some hidden subterranean civilization, feral children raised by animals, orphans with arsenic poisoning or malnutrition which made their skin green, or Flemish immigrant refugees fleeing persecution and a battle that had killed their parents. In the end, no one really knows who they were, where they came from, or indeed how much of the story is even based in reality, and so the story of the Green Children of Woolpit has become an enduring mystery that will perhaps never be solved.
Another story similarly rendered muddy and murky by the passage of time and retellings is a strange appearance in Mexico City on October 26, 1593, of a Spanish soldier who seems to have appeared out of thin air after being teleported over vast distances. On the day in question, guards at Mexico City’s Plaza Mayor noticed a dazed looking man walking about in a trance and wearing the uniform of a Philippine soldier. In addition to him being very far from the Philippines, no one could figure out how the intruder could have possibly slipped past the high security of the premises, and the suspicious guards immediately detained him. When the stranger was questioned, he had quite the fantastic story to tell. He claimed that his name was Gil Perez, a soldier and guard at the Governor General in Manila, Philippines, and that on October 23, 1593 had been at his post on high alert following the shocking assassination of governor Don Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas. Exhausted, Perez had allegedly leaned on a wall and closed his eyes for a moment, but when he opened them again he was in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by new sights and smells. Disoriented, Perez nevertheless had dutifully gone back to his guard detail until he realized that his uniform was not the same as the guards around him, which was around when he had been apprehended. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the skeptical Mexican guards did not believe a word of this spectacular tale, and Perez was promptly thrown into prison and accused of being a “servant of the devil.”
Perez languished in prison for months until a ship arrived from the Philippines along with news of the Manilla governor’s assassination, which had until that point been unknown in Mexico. Further corroborating Perez’s story was the testimony of someone on the ship who claimed to know Perez and to have actually seen him on duty on October 23, although it was not known that he had gone to Mexico. Considering that he had been detained since the 26rd of October and that he could not possibly have known of the assassination, since the news had taken months to travel across the ocean by ship, as well as the claims by those on the ship who apparently knew him, the Mexican authorities had no real choice but to grudgingly believe Perez. In light of this information, the Mexican authorities then reportedly released him and allowed him to go home, this time the long way by ship. It is not known if Perez was really who he claimed to be, and indeed it is uncertain just how much of this story is true, if any, or what parts may have been exaggerated or fabricated over retellings, but theories by those who put stock in it include the ideas that he was simply a lying imposter or a deserter, to spontaneous teleportation, interdimensional portals, or even alien abduction.
Similarly bizarre is the tale of a man who allegedly teleported not over space, but seemingly through time itself. The story goes that one evening in June of 1950 a man wearing 19th century clothing was suddenly observed wandering aimlessly about in the middle of a busy intersection in New York City. As the dazed man walked around in aimless circles he was then allegedly hit by a taxi and killed. When the body was examined things became bizarre fairly quickly. The man, estimated as being about 30 years old, was dressed in immaculate clothing and shoes, but they were around a century out of date, right down to shoes that were fastened with old fashioned oversized buckles. The man was also found to have been carrying some rather odd items, including very old banknotes with dates preceding the 1870s, a 5-cent copper token for beer at a saloon no one had ever heard of, a bill for the care of a horse and washing of a carriage from a livery stable that turned out not to exist anywhere, and a letter from Philadelphia dated June 1876. There was also a business card emblazoned with an address and the name Rudolph Fentz.
Armed with a name and address, a Captain Hubert V. Rihm with the NYPD Missing Persons Department then allegedly went about trying to track down the identity of the puzzling stranger and was quickly met with frustration. The address written on the card led to people who had never seen or heard of the man, the name Rudolph Fentz was not listed in the phone book nor were any next of kin, he did not turn up any fingerprint records, and no one by that name had been reported missing. He seemed to not exist. It was almost by chance that the baffled investigator came across a listing for a Rudolf Fenz Jr. in a telephone directory dated 1939. This led Rihm to an elderly lady who claimed to be the widow of Rudolf Fenz Jr., and it was this lady who would tell a story that would make everything even more bizarre.
The lady claimed that a 31-year-old Rudolph Fentz Sr. had mysteriously disappeared while out for his daily walk in 1876, when her husband had been only a child. At the time, authorities had apparently launched a massive investigation into the disappearance and had turned up no trace of the missing man. He had vanished without a trace. Intrigued by this new information, Rihm then supposedly checked missing person reports from 1876 and found to his astonishment that indeed a Rudolph Fentz had disappeared that year during an early evening walk and was never found, just as the lady had told him. Eerily, the description for Fentz on the day he vanished matched the mystery man’s exactly, right down to the clothes he had been wearing, and the photo included was a dead ringer for the man. Fearing that no one would ever possibly believe him, Rihm was then said to have dropped the odd findings from the official investigation. Over the years the mysterious story of Rudolph Fentz has inspired speculation that he may have been somehow sucked up in some sort of vortex and inadvertently time travelled, and the tale has made the rounds sparking debate for years.
However, as incredible as this story sounds, there is unfortunately evidence that it is at least partly a fictional account, if not entirely fabricated. Although there have been many articles and books citing the account as a genuine, factual report, it was later found that the first such mention of the Fentz story, which appeared in the 1972 May/June issue of the Journal of Borderland Research, was originally sourced as being from a 1953 book called A Voice from the Gallery, by Ralph M. Holland. It seems that Holland had gotten this particular account from a magazine called Collier’s, in a short story entitled I’m Scared, which was by a science fiction author named Jack Finney. Considering that the story is almost exactly the same as the account so often classified as a real event, it is very likely that the case of Rudolph Fentz is based on pure fiction. It is still an interesting case nevertheless, and illustrates just how muddied the waters can get when trying to determine how credible a particular account is or how closely intertwined with reality it is.
Another case from history which has gained quite a lot of recognition is that of a mysterious young man named Kaspar Hauser. The setting of this account is Nuremberg, Germany, where on 26 May 1828 a young man in his teens who no one recognized suddenly appeared wandering the streets. The seemingly bewildered, confused boy was found to be carrying a letter addressed to a Captain von Wessenig, who was the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment. The unknown author of the letter stated that the boy was attained as an infant, taken in, educated at home, and had never left the confines of the house. The letter ended with the statement that the boy wished to be a cavalryman, that his father had been a cavalryman, and Wessenig was given the ultimatum to either “take him in or to hang him.” Another short letter was found that seemed to be from the mother, who called the boy Kaspar and claimed that his true father had been a cavalryman who had died for reasons unspecified. Oddly, both letters seemed to be written in the exact same handwriting.
Questions posed to the boy and indeed all attempts to communicate with him proved to be frustratingly futile, as the only thing he would say was “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” or “Horse!” repeated over and over again. When pressed on anything, he would simply say “Don’t know.” He refused to eat or drink anything except bread and water. He also showed only the most remedial awareness of common everyday rituals such as using money or basic grooming and social skills, and he was only able to read to a very limited degree. The only useful information he seemed to be able to provide was his full name in a childish scrawl on a piece of paper; Kaspar Hauser. Other than that, no one had any idea of who he really was or where he had come from. He was a total enigma.
The first theory as to Kaspar’s origins was that he was some sort of feral child raised among animals out in the wilderness, which would explain his lack of social awareness and limited communication skills. However, as Kaspar began to gain the ability to more fully express himself more light began to be shed upon his mysterious background. He described how he had essentially been raised in a dungeon; a tiny darkened cell not even large enough to stand in, in which he had lived totally alone and slept on a straw bed. His meals were claimed to have been bread and water left for him each morning. He claimed that not once in all of his years growing up did he ever meet his mysterious caretaker, or even another human being for that matter. The boy had never learned to talk or even walk, and had lived his whole life hunched over in that cramped, dank cell with only a few small wooden toys to keep him company. It was not until right before he was released that he had met another person for the first time, who he claimed was a man who did not show his face and had taught him to write his name, stand, and walk. The enigmatic stranger also had apparently taught Kaspar his first words by phonetic repetition and rote memory, “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was,” the actual meaning of which he could not comprehend at the time.
Such a strange yet undeniably intriguing story soon circulated among the media, and before long Kaspar Hauser was big news all over the world, with people everywhere wondering just who he was. At the time, theories were already swirling, claiming that he was everything from royalty to a flat out liar. In the meantime, Kaspar was taken into the care of a schoolmaster and philosopher by the name of Friedrich Daumer, who further educated him in a wide variety of subjects. Over time, Kaspar adjusted to his new life, but no one was any closer to understanding his murky origins. Indeed, a series of bizarre occurrences would only serve to deepen the mystery surrounding him.
On 17 October 1829, Kaspar was found in the cellar with a cut on his forehead after he had failed to show up for his usual lunch. The visibly shaken boy claimed that he had been attacked by a man in a hood, who had sounded exactly like the man who had brought him to Nuremburg and who had threatened him before cutting him with a knife and fleeing. Kaspar then claimed that he had escaped down into the cellar to hide, leaving a trail of blood along the floor as he did so. In the wake of the mysterious attack, Kaspar was moved into the care of a municipal authority by the name of Johann Biberbach for his own safety. It was never found out for certain just who had attacked him, or indeed whether he had merely inflicted the wound on himself. The move would not stop the strange string of events unfolding. After Kapsar had settled into Biberbach’s house, yet another odd incident would occur, when on 3 April 1830 there was a sudden gunshot that rang out from his room. Kaspar was found to be bleeding from a gash on the side of his head, and when pressed on what had happened he claimed that he had been climbing up on a chair to reach some books and had accidentally knocked down a gun hanging on the wall, which had then gone off. Oddly, the cut on his head did not seem have been consistent with a gunshot wound. Kaspar was moved yet again, this time to the house of his next patron, a landowner named Baron von Tucher.
During this time, there were beginning weird rumors that Kaspar was a rather unpleasant, abrasive person to be around. In fact, both Biberbach and von Tucher openly complained that the boy was disagreeable, a habitual liar, and extremely vain, with an exasperated Biberbach once stating that Kaspar was skilled in the “art of dissimulation” and “full of vanity and spite.” Claims such as these started to eat away at the boy’s credibility, and there was increasing speculation that he had faked the knife attack and gunshot perhaps in order to manipulate others into feeling sorry for him. Further evidence of deception would come when a British nobleman named Lord Stanhope took him into custody and spent immense resources trying to investigate Kaspar’s past based on his accounts, but had come up completely empty-handed, leading him to doubt that the boy was telling the whole truth. Yet another caretaker of Kaspar’s named Johann Georg Meyer quickly parted ways with the boy after a strained relationship full of arguments and lies, and he would later proclaim “I had been deceived.” Yet another caretaker by the name of Anselm von Feuerbach would later say of Kaspar “Caspar Hauser is a smart scheming codger, a rogue, a good-for-nothing that ought to be killed.” Not exactly words of praise.
With doubt cast on the veracity of his story, and his credibility unravelling even as speculation boiled on where he had come from or even who he was Kaspar would meet an end that was every bit as mysterious as his life had been. On 14 December 1833, Hauser came home with a deep wound in his chest, and claimed that he had been attacked by a knife-wielding man in Ansbach Court Garden. An investigation would turn up a purse lying in the garden which contained a cryptic note scrawled on a piece of paper which was written in mirror writing in German and rife with grammatical mistakes. The mysterious note read:
Hauser will be able to tell you quite precisely how I look and from where I am. To save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come _ _ . I come from from _ _ _the Bavarian border _ _On the river _ _ _ _ _I will even tell you the name: M. L. Ö.
It has never been conclusively determined what the message means, who wrote the note, or what role they had to play in Kasper’s fate, if any. Kaspar Hauser would die of the grievous knife wound on 17 December 1833; his death as every bit as weird and mysterious as his life had been, leaving behind the strange note and far more questions than he had ever been able to answer. The headstone of his grave, located in the city cemetery of Ansbach, is testament to his enigmatic origins and life, reading “Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious. 1833.” Indeed, the mystery and speculation surrounding the life and death of Kaspar Hauser has shown little sign of waning in the subsequent years, and he has spawned numerous theories about who he could have been and who was responsible for his death.
One popular theory at the time was that Kaspar was in fact the hereditary prince of Baden, and the prince had been switched with another baby before mysteriously appearing 16 years later in Nuremburg as Kaspar Hauser. In this scenario, Kaspar was imprisoned by the Countess of Hochberg so that her sons could be successors to the title in the absence of any surviving male progeny of Charles, Grand Duke of Baden, and indeed it was for this reason that he was surmised to have been ultimately murdered. While this theory has often been thrown about, there is very little evidence to show that this was the case and it has largely been dismissed by historians.
In light of many of the inconsistencies and oddities of Kaspar’s story, there are others who believe that the whole thing was more or less a big scam carried out by Kaspar himself, or that it was merely a tall tale woven by a possibly mentally impaired teenager. There are several issues that cast doubt on Kaspar’s own version of events. One is that when he was found he did not seem to exhibit any of the health issues that one would expect of someone who had lived their whole life in a cramped, subterranean dungeon as claimed. For instance, such a long, uninterrupted period of time in absolute darkness should have most certainly resulted in rickets, yet the records show that Kaspar had no such condition, and in fact he was described as being rather healthy looking with a vibrant complexion. He was also in good physical condition for someone who claimed that they had been unable to stand their whole life and had just learned to walk, and Kaspar was able to run or climb stairs with no particular difficulty. It seems that anyone who had lived under such harsh conditions for their entire life would likely have been paler, sicklier, less physically fit, and indeed far more mentally impaired than Kaspar seemed to be. It has also been pointed out that the letters he had been carrying when he was originally found bore handwriting that was uncannily similar to his own. For these reasons, it is thought that the whole account of his previous life had been a fanciful fiction, that Kaspar was a pathological liar, and that the attacks he had suffered were also lies, with the wounds self-inflicted.
Indeed, in this theory the very knife wound that killed him may have been from Kaspar himself, and he had simply cut himself more deeply than he had intended. Other clues surrounding his death point to this possibility as well. For instance, the handwriting and grammatical mistakes of the note found in the garden from the alleged attacker were similar to Kaspar’s, and the letter had been folded in the same characteristic way that he folded other letters he had written. However, for all of the speculation and theories, to this day no one really knows for sure who Kaspar Hauser was, where he came from, how much of his story was true, or who really killed him and the case continues to be a baffling enigma that puzzles to this day.
Equally baffling is yet another strange account which allegedly took place in 1954 at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan. In July of that year, a Caucasian looking man dressed in a suit stepped off a plane that had originated in Europe and causally made his way to customs. When customs asked him the purpose of his visit, he told them that he was there on business, and had indeed been to Japan several times before for the same reason. In fact, the man was conversant in Japanese, as well as French and Spanish. Indeed, his wallet contained currencies from a few European countries. At this point, he seemed to be just an intelligent, well-travelled business man, and there was no reason to be suspicious. Yet then they asked him where he was from and things got strange.
When asked his country of origin, the man matter-of-factly stated he was from Taured, as if it was the most natural answer in the world. The problem is, there is no such country, and when the suspicious customs officer informed him of this the man looked baffled, presenting his passport and insisting that this was indeed where he was from and that it was a country lying between France and Spain. The official-looking passport was indeed issued from a country called Taured, and held customs stamps from several European countries, as well as three previous stamps from Japan, just as the man had said. The man even had a valid-looking driver’s license from Taured. At this point the enigmatic stranger was starting to arouse suspicion, and he was ushered away for further questioning. He was shown a map of Europe and asked to point out where Taured was, yet he seemed genuinely bewildered when he could not locate it there where he claimed it should have been. The only country that was in the location he indicated was the tiny nation of Andorra, and the frustrated man claimed that it was Andorra was the made-up country and that in its place should be Tuared; a country he claimed had existed for over 1,000 years. The skeptical customs officials asked him where he was headed for work, and when they tried the number that the man provided the company on the other end of the line stated that they had never heard of him. A call to the hotel where he claimed to be staying likewise turned up no evidence that he had ever booked a room there, and furthermore the bank information he gave turned out to be from a bank that no one had ever heard of and which could not be contacted. Baffled authorities decided to book him into a hotel under observation as they tried to figure out what to make of his story, yet the following day the man was nowhere to be found in his room, despite the fact that authorities had been outside the whole night. He had simply vanished. Later, when police went to the airport to retrieve the man’s passport and driver’s license for an investigation, they were found to be mysteriously gone without a trace as well.
It is hard to know what to make of this account. Although it has appeared in many Internet articles, as well as mentioned as a factual account in several books, such as The Directory of Possibilities and Strange But True: Mysterious and Bizarre People, there seems to be a lack of any solid original source to verify it, giving it more the distinct air of an urban legend. Nevertheless, there have been numerous theories posed for who the mysterious stranger could have been, ranging from a time traveler to a visitor from some parallel dimension who had somehow pushed through the veil that separates our realities. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to prove or disprove this amazing story, and it remains a mystery.
Curiously, this would not have been the first case of such a puzzling stranger appearing from a phantom country no one had ever heard of. In an eerily similar case, in 1851 a man calling himself Joseph Vorin was found wandering about a village in the rural German district of Lebas, near the town of Frankfort-on-the-Oder. Thinking he was a vagrant drifter, authorities approached the stranger and asked him where he had come from. The stranger, who appeared to be Caucasian, answered in broken German that he was from a faraway country called Laxaria, which he claimed could be found out over the seas in a region he identified as Sakria, neither of which were real places that anyone had ever heard of. When he was detained and brought to Frankfurt for further questioning, things got more bizarre still. Vorin was found to be unfamiliar with any other European language except German, of which he had only a rudimentary grasp, but he claimed to be a native speaker of two unintelligible languages which he said were called Laxarian and Abramian, with one being the written language of the “Clerical Order of Laxaria” and the other the common language of his people. The stranger was apparently very persuasive, explaining the geography of his country and even his religion, which he called Ispatian, in great detail. Vorin further claimed that he had been searching for his missing brother, but that he had become shipwrecked on his journey and had ended up in Germany. It seems that in the end, the baffled authorities came to the conclusion that he was telling the truth and released him.
In 1905 in Paris, France, another such stranger was apprehended when he tried unsuccessfully to pilfer a loaf of bread from a marketplace. When questioned by police, the man claimed in imperfect French that he was from a country called Lizbia. It was at first thought that he was trying to say “Lisbon,” and a Portuguese translator was brought in to help police further question him in more detail. However, the stranger did not speak a word of Portuguese, and indeed did not seem to even be able to locate the country on a map. The man humored authorities by speaking in what he claimed to be his native language, and although it seemed to follow basic rules of syntax and have its own vocabulary, no one had ever heard of it before and indeed no linguist was able to place it. Unfortunately, the authorities could not do much to keep him, and when he had been sternly warned about attempted theft he was released. This is another case for which it is hard to ascertain the parts which could be true or fabricated, and which will probably always remain a curious puzzle.
So what are we to make of all of this? In these disparate stories of mysterious strangers who have appeared from seemingly nowhere do we have in some instances cases of such oddities as time travel, interdimensional portals and spontaneous teleportation? Is there truly something at work here that goes beyond what we know of our universe, with these people somehow walking the line on the limits of reality, transcending the horizons of what we think we understand of space and time? In other cases, such as that of Kaspar Hauser, do we have a true tale of intrigue or merely the ramblings of a swindling degenerate liar? Is any of this possibly real or is this all just urban legends, tall tales, and exaggeration over time, with some of these people having never really even existed at all? Who were these inscrutable strangers, where did they come from, and what did they want? There is a plentitude of questions raised in cases like these to which we are likely doomed to never know the answers to, with the clues fading into legend and obscurity, vanishing just as surely as these mysterious people allegedly appeared.