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The story of David Lang was published in Fate magazine by journalist Stuart Palmer, who claimed that he had been told the story by Lang's daughter. However, no trace of David Lang nor his family (including his apparent daughter) was ever found in any records of that period, and the entire article was later determined to be a hoax likely inspired by the short story "The Difficulties of Crossing a Field" by Ambrose Bierce (1909), collected in his book Can Such Things Be?. In 1999, the modern composer David Lang based an opera on Bierce's story. (The story has also become a popular urban legend).
In July, 1854, planter Orion Williamson, who lived near Selma, Alabama, was sitting with his family on the veranda. He went to talk to his overseer about horses he’d bought and walked into the pasture. Williamson saw neighbor Armour Wren and stopped to greet him. As Wren’s coach turned homeward, one of the horses stumbled. The steed had recovered when James asked his father what happened to Williamson. The man disappeared!