1956: Raoul Hinay's Escape

The Jarvis Record, of Jarvis, Ontario, Canada, is currently the earliest report I can find of the following incident. On November 22, 1956, an article in the Jarvis Record explained that in the town of Sulmona, Italy, residents were actively avoiding one area of town where something very strange happened.

        Sometime three months earlier -- so, presumably in August 1956 -- a concert troupe had visited the town to perform. Among this troupe was Raoul Hinay, a fifty-year-old Hungarian who claimed to have amazing abilities learned in India while studying Yogi. To demonstrate, he had himself buried alive in front of witnesses.

        Among the witnesses were the local police chief, a magistrate, and a doctor. Hinay's hands were tied, and then he lay down in a coffin which was closed tight, and marked with official seals which would show if the lid was removed. The coffin was then lowered into an eighteen foot deep hole, and the hole was filled with dirt.

        The witnesses waited eight hours before the coffin was dug back up. The official seals were checked, and found to be intact. The coffin was opened.

[Larger version here]

        It was empty except for the ropes that had bound Hinay's hands.

        There was an immediate search to locate the missing man, and the grave itself was checked for evidence of tunnels... but Hinay could not be found, and there was no clear way that anyone could have escaped from the coffin or grave while it was being watched, as there were no tunnels. Before the Jarvis Record reported on this matter, apparently the International Police Commission had also investigated, and also had no better answer.

        The Jarvis Record then stated that parents in Sulmona had started to warn children that if they were bad, "The Yogi Man will get you!" It also noted that a similar disappearance had occurred in 1900 in Los Angeles, California in the United States, where an indian fakir -- holy man -- had been buried for ten hours in a coffin and a fifteen foot deep grave, and then was missing from the coffin when it was raised back to the surface; the fakir was never found.

Questions, Questions

        I only have two other references to this strange event, and they don't add anything more. The story turned up in The Morning Call, newspaper of Paterson, New Jersey, USA, on January 2, 1957, which presented the story above summed up into one paragraph, minus the reference to parents scaring their kids with the "Yogi Man" and the mention of the 1900 Los Angeles incident. Next the story was reported in FATE Magazine for April 1957, which likely got the account either from the Morning Call, or another paper with the shortened account; FATE is where I first ran across this matter.

        I have yet to find any reference to this event in Italy. I'm still searching for newspapers related to the Sulmona area and possible libraries to inquire at, so I can't confirm the details are true yet; and without a reference from Italy -- where the event supposedly happened -- it's a bit suspicious that the story should first turn up in Canada. Also, I have not found anything that would correspond with the report of a fakir being buried and vanishing in Los Angeles in 1900, but it's clear from newspapers of the time that Indian mysticism and tricks performed by fakirs -- and fakers -- were popular topics all over the country.

        Having said that all that, it needs to be noted that the bref mention this event got in the 1957 issue of FATE Magazine appears to have been partial inspiration for a much better known -- and false -- paranormal account. See the link below!

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