In the early 2000s, reports and accounts began to emerge from Switzerland of a bizarre man with a gas mask on his face, an ominous looking military-type boiler suit around his body, and a menacing, hooded cloak-type coat emerging and disappearing into the nearby forests and woodlands of the picturesque country.
What is perhaps interesting about this mystery figure – named “Le Loyon” by those who told of accounts with it – was despite sightings and reports for almost a decade, there was no actual proof of the mystery figure until the summer of 2013 when one onlooker managed to capture the strange clad person walking back into the greenery of western Switzerland.
Indeed, until that point, tales and sightings of Le Loyon, sometimes referred to as The Ghost, or Hermit of Maules, had a decidedly supernatural feel to them. The strange, dark figure was “a giant” in some accounts (most state him to be just over 6 feet), while others told of a “threatening” feeling that they couldn’t explain.
These were interspaced with sightings of the masked stranger being seen picking flowers and even going out of its way to avoid people. Indeed, for all the sightings, tales, and insight into just what this bizarre, hooded figure was, no one who experienced an encounter with this mysterious stranger would ever come to any harm.
There are several claims and theories as to the identity and purpose of this seemingly strange individual. Some of which we will explore shortly. First, however, we will examine some of the initial reports.
A Real Life, In The Flesh, Contemporary Urban Legend!
Reports began at sometime in the early 2000s, certainly no later than 2003. And all of them were very similar in nature. A strange figure wearing heavy clad military attire complete with an old, early-twentieth-century gas mask, an addition that only served to increase the menacing look. The figure also dons a pair of heavy-duty boots and a long, hooded cloak.
While the overall size and build of the person would suggest it is a man – indeed most reports elude to a “masked man” – in truth, it was not known whether the figure was a man or a woman.
In fact, initially, the sightings would take on an urban legend type of status. With some residents suggesting the figure was most likely a strange spirit or a ghost.
Over time, however, most people came to believe the strange masked figure was indeed a person, most likely a man, who had simply taken to living an isolated existence somewhere in the dense forests of Switzerland. Perhaps a person who had chosen to reject the modern world and simply ventured out when required to do so.
Although, what that reason might have been, however, is unclear. Most sightings catch the strange figure either emerging from or going back into the woodland. As trite as it sounds, for example, it is unlikely this person was merely “popping to the shops” for supplies.
Unless, of course, they would discreetly remove their menacing attire before doing so. But what would the reason be for such behavior? Some people have put forward that the person behind the mask may have a disfigurement. Perhaps, the last part of their journey into whatever public space aside, such a grim look not only hides their features but also keeps others at a distance?
“Families Won’t Go Into The Forest Anymore!”
The reasons for these regular and persistent appearances remained, and still remain, unknown. However, the sightings and reports of this strange and elusive figure would continue well into the second decade of the twenty-first century. And although there was no known acts of violence, or even threats thereof, most who ran into the strange masked person would recall how frightened the encounter left them.
One local resident and mother would recall:
It scared my children. He came out of the woods with his military clothes. We saw neither his face nor his eyes behind his big, dark gas mask. It was scary!
Another resident named as Marianne Descloux would bluntly state:
It was a rainy Sunday. He had on a cap, a dark cloak and gas mask. What goes on in his head? I don’t know. It was unpleasant. I hope I never run into him again!
Indeed, Descloux would further state that she would “never return” to the forest again.
Despite the lack of any threatening behavior, or of the strange figure breaking the law, local police would step up their search for him in 2013 following one resident capturing a picture of the strange figure (which we will look at in a moment). According to their press report, they wished to request Le Loyon, whoever it might be, to be “less threatening”.
One local farmer, perhaps missing out on the seasonal trade in the area, would complain:
Families simply won’t go into the forest anymore!
Many local residents would see their once quiet and picturesque town becoming famous for this strange and menacing figure, who, in turn, was quickly becoming the Swiss version of the “Loch Ness Monster”. And for the local population, an annoying and unnerving thorn in their collective side.
The 2013 Picture – The First Evidence Of Le Loyon’s Real Existence!
In 2013, a picture appeared on a Swiss media platform claiming to be the first evidence of Le Loyon’s existence. The picture, taken by an unnamed photographer (which you can see again below), clearly shows the mystery person walking away from the camera.
The picture would come from a local resident with his mobile phone. According to the man, he and Le Loyon were almost face-to-face. The photographer, along with his family, stood staring at the bizarre and grim looking figure. In turn, it stared back.
After Le Loyon turned and walked away, the man reached for his phone. As carefully as he could, he snapped the first, and only, picture of this cloaked individual.
The unnamed photographer would state:
He had a military cape, boots, and an army gas mask – an antique type…He stared at me and then turned his back on me and left in silence!
The spotlight of the media and the general public was now firmly on the area in question. And on the real identity of Le Loyon. As claims reached far and wide thanks to the Internet, many adventurers and researchers into the strange and bizarre would descend on western Switzerland. Each looking for their own encounter with Le Loyon. And perhaps to solve the mystery as to just who was behind the mask.
For several weeks, at least in the region of western Switzerland, the atmosphere was reaching fever pitch. Who was this mysterious person? And perhaps more worrying, what would members of the public do next in terms of confronting this masked figure? Indeed, the more fear spread through the community, the more likely a “preemptive attack” became.
Then, however, several months later, things took an even stranger turn.
The “Killing Off” Of An Unwilling Urban Legend?
In late-2013, several months after the picture of Le Loyon appeared in newspapers around Switzerland and online media platforms across Europe and beyond, a website named Le Matin, published what they claimed was a “suicide note”, written by Le Loyon.
According to their report, the note surfaced in a clearing where most of the sightings of the mystery masked man occurred. Along with the long, hooded, cloak-like trench coat.
The note would, if genuine, confirm the person’s identity as a man. He would claim that the constant glare of attention, particularly since the publication of the picture in the autumn of that year, had led him to believe that this “end” was better than then “the risk of a hunt for a beast” by the public. The note would state:
I think the media coverage has had only two effects – to deprive a person of his harmless outlet and to unsettle some!
Many believe the suicide was not an actual reference to literally ending his life. But merely “killing off” the persona or the character of Le Loyon.
The note would also make several references to Austrian author, and a person largely regarded as being at the beginnings of the sadomasochism movement (indeed – masochism derives from his name), Sacher Masoch. Might this seemingly throwaway line be the main clue? One that while not identifying the person, certainly identifying the motive for their actions?
In fact, these lines, combined with the chosen attire which has echoes of the masochistic world, appear to be both an explanation and a snarling attack on the rest of society?
Do These Sightings Say Anything About Society?
So, what should we take note of the references to the Austrian author, Sacher Masoch.
The writer of the note would state:
You do not seem to know Sacher Masoch. You would discover it takes everything to make a world!
While it is pure speculation, might it be that the person behind the mask is someone who enjoys such outlets as Sacher Masoch? And even masochism and/or sadomasochism in general?
It is certainly an interesting thought. And is arguably the most likely scenario. And perhaps of more interest, what does the reaction to the sightings say about us as a collective? Realistically, there is no doubt that most of us would indeed stare a little at a person walking out of the forest in such macabre get-up. Maybe even feel a little unnerved and intimidated by it. It is, though, still perhaps a sad condemnation of our society in general.
Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves of the Green Man of Pennsylvania, sometimes referred to as Charlie “No Face”. During the 1950s and 60s, sightings of the Green Man would often occur near State Route 351 near the Peters Creek area. Many bored teenagers would often venture up to this region at night. All had hopes of seeing the faceless man, who also had no right arm.
Indeed, many knew of this bizarre ghost-like monstrosity.
In reality, however, the Green Man was Charlie Robinson, a local man who as a boy would climb a railway bridge in order to see a bird’s nest. In doing so, he would suffer horrific burns from the electrically charged wires above. Although there were no long-lasting health effects, Robinson would often only venture out at night. And even then, many not familiar with his story would run in shock at the sight of him.
The Real-Time Roots Of An Urban Folklore Legend!
Are the accounts and sightings of the mysterious man of the Swiss woodlands those of an individual who was simply going about his business? Albeit in a manner that most of us would indeed find strange? Did they then find themselves at risk of a potential attack?
It would certainly seem, like the Green Man of Pennsylvania, behind the monstrous mask, there was a very real person. Only, unlike Charlie Robinson, Le Loyon had the option of removing their mask and going back to anonymity.
That being said, as with all things, until we have definite proof then all possibilities, as possibilities, are open to debate. Was there more to this than just a man following his own hedonistic compass? Might the “killing off” of Le Loyon itself have reasons unknown to us? And, perhaps of most interest, will he appear again at some point in the future?
We should, though, be cautious that any sightings that might occur in the future are not merely copycat hoaxes. As opposed to the return of the masked man of the Swiss forests.
Whatever the reasons, and whether or not Le Loyon is “dead and gone”, the incident and sightings are yet another layer of intrigue to our rich and varied collective existence.
Ultimately, the case gives us a lot to think about on several different levels. And, how might that thought process be applied, where appropriate, to urban legends and folklore of the past? Perhaps we might see that some of the tales of “monsters”, “goblins”, and “ghouls” may have more reality at their true origins than we might at first think.
Check out the video below. It looks at this fascinating if strange case a little further.