Owen Parfitt, from Shepton Mallet, is a strange disappearance indeed. However, there is much information that must be presented here before we talk about the mysterious disappearance of this man. He was wild child who love to do all the naughty things young men did in that time and he would spend much of his older life recounting his ‘wild’ tales of his youth. He would do this anyone who would give him the time of day. However, old age had left near enough disabled and unable to care for himself. The locals believed this to be penance for you wild youth.
He often bragged about being with pirates, and of course his escapades with young women with tales that would make the sailors of his day blush with shame. Most people paid little mind to his ramblings believing he was not all right in the head and forgetting some things or making most of it up. His disability left him no choice but to rely on his sister to help thought each day for even the simplest of tasks. Both him and his sister were well known in the area and for the most part fairly well liked.
The day he vanished, June of 1763, Parfitt had insisted on sitting outside of his sister’s home as he was tired of being cooped up inside. It was a warm day and his desire was to get fresh air into his lungs while it was a good day and time to do so.
So a neighbor had carried him out to the porch with some help from his sister. They set him up in a chair on the porch, and was left there to enjoy the day. Across the road, a very short distance away, several farm workers were laboring within easy earshot of Owen. Certainly if someone had approached him where he sat on the porch, somebody would have seen something.
Nobody saw a thing.
As the hours passed his sister looked outside to see darkening skies, meaning a bad storm was approaching. She stepped out to let her brother know that it was going to be time to go inside due to the weather. However, the chair he had been sitting on was empty rocking silently in the breeze. Her brother who could not walk himself was nowhere to be seen. Knowing that he could not have moved anywhere by himself, she asked the farm workers if they had seen someone come get him, but none of them had.
Panicking, the sister enlisted the help of the farm workers and neighbors to search the area. It wasn’t possible that Owen would have left on his own, so it seemed he would be easily found.
Impossibly, they never found a trace of the crippled man.
Over time, neighbors passed along tales about what had happened to him, including that he’d been taken by the devil or that pirates carried him off in order to get him to tell the location of buried treasure.
Owen’s incredible disappearance was never solved and became a popular piece of local lore.
The story had faded over time becoming nothing more than a myth, however it became local news again in 1813, when some routine construction in Shepton Mallet unearthed a human skeleton. Everybody jumped to the conclusion that it must be Owen’s remains, and theories were put forward as to how Owen’s body had come to such an undignified end. The medical community nipped the gossip in the bud, however, when it stated that the skeleton was that of a young female. Another episode of construction in the area in 1933 shed no new light on Owen’s fate.
He remains one of southwest England’s most intriguing mysteries.
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