The Mysterious Disappearance of Benjamin Bathurst

Benjamin Bathurst, a British diplomatic envoy, disappeared while travelling across Europe during the Napoleonic wars:

After stopping at the town of Perleberg and arranging for fresh horses at the post house [1] Bathurst and his attendant retired to a neighboring inn, the White Swan. Later, after being told the horses were being harnessed and his portmanteau (a large leather trunk) was being reinstalled on his carriage, Bathurst stepped outside to inspect the proceedings.

The myth has it that in full view of witnesses he walked behind the horses and carriage and disappeared. He was not seen to leave the inn yard. He was not seen again, ever. His attendant only minutes behind him, is said to have checked around, in and under their chaise (carriage) but with no success.

Bathurst had vanished. [2]

Further research suggests that Bathurst's disappearance was not quite as portrayed and that he was probably murdered.

The disappearance did not create much excitement at the time, murders and robberies so common in the region that the loss of one commercial traveler (Bathurst was traveling incognito) was hardly noticed. Things changed, however, when his real identity was revealed and pressure was brought to bear on the local authorities.

A vigorous search followed and the Englishman's valuable coat was found hidden in the outhouse of Auguste Schmidt, a hostler (groom) working in the courtyard at the inn; his pantaloons were discovered a little later by scavengers in the woods three mile to the north.

Forty years or so would pass before the demolition of a nearby house revealed a skeleton, the skull fractured as if by a heavy instrument. The owner revealed he had purchased the property years earlier from Christian Mertens who had inherited it from his father an employee at the White Swan at the time of the disappearance (and apparently a suspect).

In view of the evidence (some admittedly circumstantial) it would seem that Bathurst was targeted for his belongings and money, his fate a result of his seeming station, the supernatural/paranormal aspects of the mystery greatly exaggerated.

[1] A house/stable where horses were kept for postriders (think Pony Express) or for hire to travellers.

[2] A number of authors, mostly in the realm of science fiction, have written stories postulating time travel, parallel universes, other dimensions etc., as the reason. The case is also mentioned by Charles Fort in his book Lo!, the disappearance becoming one of the best known of the Fortean genre.

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