David Lang was famous for, supposedly, disappearing in broad daylight from his Gallatin farm. Just, one second he was standing there and the next second he wasn't. This was an incredibly famous story in the '50s and '60s and sometimes cited as proof of alien abductions. Turns out, it didn't happen.
It is more likely that the tale of David Lang was invented by the mystery-novel writer Stuart Palmer. In July 1953 Palmer published the earliest known account of the Lang story in FATE Magazine. Palmer's article was almost certainly the source that both Wilkins and Edwards later relied upon.
Palmer claimed that the tale had been told to him by Sarah Lang, the daughter of David Lang. But in reality, Palmer probably lifted the idea for the tale from a short story by Ambrose Bierce, "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field," which Bierce included in his story collection Can Such Things Be? (1893). Bierce's story describes a plantation owner who vanishes into thin air. In his 1953 article, Palmer claimed that Bierce's story was inspired by the Lang incident. However, the opposite is most likely true — the Lang tale written by Palmer is almost certainly a reworking of Bierce's story.
In a move after my own heart, Danielle Eldredge went and found out about the land that legend held swallowed Lang. Her story over at the Tennessean is really interesting.
Myth or not, the Lang story leads one to wonder about the property’s history. If Lang didn’t live there, who did? Who is buried in the family plot beside the historical home? What stories would the walls tell if they could talk?
To find the answers to those questions, I played detective for a day. I looked into old property records and called around to see who knew the truth about Long Hollow’s history.
My big break in the case came when I connected with Ken Thomson. He’s a local historian and genealogist who also happens to be the great-great- great-grandson of Long Hollow’s longest owner, and one inhabitant of Long Hollow’s family grave plot — Andrew Everman Frakes. Frakes’ family lived on the Long Hollow property during the time Lang supposedly did.
She goes on to tell a story about how Confederate troops occupying the Frakes farm ended up doing farmwork for the injured Frakes. That reminded me of a similar story at Rose Hill about how Union troops ended up doing gardening there. I'm sure both stories are true, but it makes me wonder if "troops doing yard work" was a common type of story told by people living under occupations.
Anyway, I can't help but think that Ambrose Bierce would be so tickled to discover that his story became a "real" thing that supposedly happened in Gallatin. And I'm tickled to know that I can go see where David Lang didn't really disappear.