An Unfinished Race

James Burne Worson was a shoemaker who lived in Leamington, Warwickshire, England.  He had a little shop in one of the by-ways leading off the road to Warwick.

He was considered to be an honest man, although like many of those in his class in the English towns, he was somewhat addicted to drink.  In other words he was known to tip a few. When he was drinking he would make foolish wagers.

One evening when he had too much to drink he was boasting of his prowess as a pedestrian and athlete. The race would be a match against nature.  For a bet of one pound he planned to run all the way to Coventry and back. This was a distance of a little more than forty miles.

This race occurred on the 3d day of September in 1873.  He left with the man with whom he had made the bet, and was accompanied by Barham Wise, a linen draper, and Hamerson Burns, a photographer followed in a light wagon.

It started out fine and for several miles Worson was running at an easy gait, without apparent fatigue. He wasn’t drunk enough for his power of endurance to fail him.

The three men in the wagon stayed back a short distance, giving him occasional friendly  encouragement and sometimes mocking him.  Suddenly – in the very middle of the roadway, not a dozen yards from them, and with their eyes fully upon him – the man seemed to stumble, pitched headlong forward, uttered a terrible cry and vanished!  He didn’t just fall to the ground – he vanished before touching it.  No trace of him was ever discovered.

The men searched for him but had no luck. Reluctantly they returned to Leamington, told their astonishing story and were later taken into custody.  But they were of good standing and had always been considered truthful, at least when they were sober, which they were at the time of the occurrence,

Nothing ever transpired to discredit their sworn account of their extraordinary adventure, although there was plenty of people who thought them guilty and plenty of others who thought them innocent in the United Kingdom.  If they had something to conceal, their choice of means is certainly one of the most amazing ever made by sane human beings.

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