I is for Invisibility

The Letter IWhen I think of spontaneous things, certain activities jump immediately to mind – marriage proposals, inappropriate comments, fun outings, etc.

Invisibility is NOT one of the things I imagine.

Spontaneous human invisibility has been reported for centuries, back to 2500 B.C.E. There are two kinds of invisibility – the voluntary kind, such as when a spiritual master deliberately focuses on becoming invisible, and the involuntary kind, where a person just disappears.


In the practice of yoga, “concentration and meditation can make the body imperceptible to other men, and a direct contact with the light of the eyes no longer existing, the body disappears.”

In the thirteenth century and forward, texts describe sorcerers and magicians who were able to make themselves invisible.

Shamanism in South America, Australia and the polar regions also describe the ability to vanish.

Rosicrucianism taught that a cloud or body of mist can be called out of the invisible to surround a person and hide them from the sight of others.

An early Masonic leader, John Macky, taught a method whereby a man could render himself invisible.

Exactly how the invisibility is attained is unclear in each of these situations, but historical writings show that mankind has been concerned with the idea for centuries.


More interesting to me is the idea of involuntary invisibility.

Diderici the Prisoner

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)

James Worson and the Footrace

In 1873, James Worson of Leamington Spa, England, was a simple shoemaker who also fancied himself somewhat of an athlete. One fine day, James made a bet with a few of his friends that he could run non-stop from Leamington Spa to Coventry. Knowing that this was a good 16 miles, his friends readily took the bet.

As James began to jog at a moderate pace toward Coventry, his friends climbed into a horse-drawn cart to follow him and protect their bet. James did well for the first few miles. Then his friends saw him trip on something and fall forward… but never hit the ground. Instead, James completely vanished. Astonished and doubting their own eyes, his friends looked for him without success, then raced back to Leamington Spa to inform the police. An investigation turned up nothing. James Worson had run into oblivion.

(From Into Thin Air, by Paul Begg)

Charles Ashmore at the Well

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)

From Vanished – Into Thin Air!

Bennington, Vermont

Between 1920 and 1950, Bennington, Vermont was the site of several completely unexplained disappearances:

  • On December 1, 1946, an 18-year-old student named Paula Welden vanished while taking a walk. Welden was walking along the Long Trail into Glastenbury Mountain. She was seen by a middle-aged couple that was strolling about 100 yards behind her. They lost sight of her when she followed the trail around a rocky outcropping, but when they rounded the outcropping themselves, she was nowhere to be seen. Welden has not been seen nor heard from since.
  • On December 1, 1949, Mr. Tetford vanished from a crowded bus. Tetford was on his way home to Bennington from a trip to St. Albans, Vermont. Tetford, an ex-soldier who lived in the Soldier’s Home in Bennington, was sitting on the bus with 14 other passengers. They all testified to seeing him there, sleeping in his seat. When the bus reached its destination, however, Tetford was gone, although his belongings were still on the luggage rack and a bus timetable lay open on his empty seat. Tetford has never returned or been found.
  • In mid-October, 1950, 8-year old Paul Jepson disappeared from a farm. Paul’s mother, who earned a living as an animal caretaker, left her small son happily playing near a pig sty while she tended to the animals. A short time later, she returned to find him missing. An extensive search of the area proved fruitless.

From Vanished! Unexplained Disappearances

The Disappearing Diplomat

British diplomat Benjamin Bathurst vanished into thin air in 1809. Bathurst was returning to Hamburg with a companion after a mission to the Austrian court. Along the way, they had stopped for dinner at an inn in the town of Perelberg. Upon finishing the meal, they returned to their waiting horse-drawn coach. Bathurst’s companion watched as the diplomat stepped over to the front of the coach to examine the horses – and simply vanished without a trace.

From Vanished! Unexplained Disappearances

Creepy? You bet. Can people really vanish like this? Are they being abducted by aliens? Or is it simply a case of individuals masterminding their own disappearance for personal reasons?

My Idea:


I would write a story about an alien who existed outside of our visible spectrum. He/she/it could observe us, but not be seen. In the alien’s observations, it would note people who are unhappy with their life. It would then use its abilities to “bend light” and make the target person vanish from our visible spectrum. The person would find themselves living amongst a new group of people, all vanished, but inhabiting the same world as before.

I would focus on a man who was “vanished” by the alien, but who wasn’t truly unhappy. And all he wants is to figure out what has happened to him and how to get back to his previous life.

The idea is rough, but I think it has promise.

What do you think about human invisibility?

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photo by: gagilas