On December 24, 1890, the Lerch family and their friends were enjoying Christmas festivities at their farm in South Bend, Indiana. Among the guests was Reverend Samuel Mallelieu, the local Methodist minister, who had come to join in the celebrations. However, as the night wore on, the mood at the party took a dark turn, and an event occurred that would lead to the mysterious disappearance of one of the Lerch family members – Oliver Lerch.
Oliver Lerch’s Disappearance
Oliver Lerch was the eldest son of Tom Lerch and his wife, and was known to be a quiet and reserved young man. According to the legend, the day had been overcast with light snow, resulting in new, unspoiled snow covering the area surrounding the well. As the night progressed, Oliver was seen leaving the party to go outside, but he never returned. The party was abruptly interrupted by Oliver’s frantic screams for help, shouting, “It’s got me!” Everyone rushed outside and followed Oliver’s footprints in the snow, which abruptly stopped at the well.
All that could be heard was his voice in the distance, still yelling for help. Some claimed that the voice sounded like it was coming from above, suggesting that the culprit could fly. Later on, there were reports that “they” had taken Oliver, although it remains unclear who “they” might have been. Despite extensive searches of the surrounding area, no trace of Oliver was ever found.
The disappearance of Oliver Lerch sent shockwaves through the community and sparked a widespread investigation. The local sheriff and his deputies scoured the area for any clues, but the trail quickly went cold. Some rumors suggested that Oliver had been murdered by one of the guests, while others speculated that he had run away from home. However, there was no concrete evidence to support any of these theories.
Over time, the case of Oliver Lerch’s disappearance faded from the public eye, and it remained unsolved for decades. However, in 1924, a shocking discovery was made when construction workers found human bones near the Lerch family farm. The bones were eventually identified as belonging to Oliver Lerch, but the circumstances of his death remained a mystery.
Supernatural Forces Speculated
Some have even speculated that supernatural forces may have been at play. The fact that Oliver vanished without a trace and that his remains were found years later in an unexpected location suggests that something beyond human agency may have been involved. Additionally, reports of strange noises and ghostly apparitions in and around the Lerch family farm have led some to believe that Oliver’s spirit may still haunt the area. However, without any concrete evidence, it remains impossible to say for sure whether the case of Oliver Lerch’s disappearance was influenced by paranormal activity.
The story of Oliver Lerch’s disappearance gained additional notoriety when it was discussed in the book, “The Case For the UFO: Unidentified Flying Objects” by ufologist and author Morris Jessup (1900-1959). The author discussed several unexplained disappearances, including that of Oliver Lerch, which he asserted was factual. He stated that the South Bend, Indiana Police Department had documented the details of the disappearance, making it one of the most well-documented cases of mysterious disappearances. However, many have debunked the story as a likely hoax and point out to several discrepancies in the story.
Alien Abduction or Folklore
One discrepancy between the many accounts detailing the events surrounding Oliver’s disappearance is the date it occurred. The range of days recorded include both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while both the years 1889 and 1890 have been claimed. The warm weather conditions recorded for December 1889 and December 1890 also pose a problem as they indicate high temperatures in the fifties and sixties, which would have prevented the existence of freshly fallen snow, thus making it impossible for Oliver’s footprints to be visible.
Several witnesses were mentioned in the different books and articles related to the disappearance, providing an opportunity for further inquiry. Among them was Methodist pastor Samuel Mallelieu, who was reported to have attended the Christmas gathering. However, attempts to locate any person bearing his name residing in South Bend during the years of 1889 and 1890 through several church records yielded no results. Another incriminating discovery is the inability to authenticate the existence of an individual named Oliver Lerch in South Bend, Indiana.
A comparable story exists in a science fiction tale written by Ambrose Bierce in 1893, which could serve as the origin of the abduction account. The story features Charles Ashmore, who resided in Quincy, Illinois, and is set in November 1878. Ashmore was on his way to the well when his tracks suddenly ended in the fresh snow, and his family could hear him calling for help from a significant distance. The story was later modified, with Ashmore being given a new name and relocated to South Bend for unknown reasons.
The disappearance of the young man on Christmas Eve remains a haunting tale that has captured the imagination of many. It serves as a reminder that even during joyous celebrations, there can be inexplicable and mysterious circumstances. However, as there is no evidence to support the occurrence of the events described and the story is based on a false account, it can only be classified as a work of fiction.