Posted July 30, 2014on:
In recent years news has emerged of a strange, eccentric figure who had been seen walking through a Swiss forest, causing consternation to the locals. Things reached a peak in the Autumn of 2013 when a blurred image of the figure was captured on film for the first time. The figure, nicknamed “Le Loyon”, has been seen in the Maules region of western Switzerland, over the past 10 years. This person, who seems to be tall and heavily-built, wears a military-style uniform, a cloak, and has a gas-mask covering his/her face.
When the ‘Daily Mail’ first published the story in September 2013, there was a lot of reaction from readers along the lines of that this person was clearly a harmless eccentric, who meant no harm to anyone. He/she had never made any threatening movements, or shouted aggressive words, and had even on one occasion been seen carrying a bunch of flowers. But the locals insisted that they found this figure unsettling, and were now afraid of venturing into the woods alone. The local police said publicly that they wanted to talk to the person, to ask them to tone down their disturbing appearance.
Speculation abounded about the figure’s strange choice of attire. Perhaps they suffer from a serious skin defect? Perhaps they are a recluse, or someone obsessed with the Apocalypse, who chosen to live removed from society?
A couple of months later, at the end of November 2013, there was a sad development to this story, when French news website ‘Le Matin’ published a suicide note, allegedly from Le Loyon, claiming that his/her life had been made intolerable by public scrutiny, and they had no choice but to end it all. The note had been found in the forest alongside Le Moyon’s cumbersone outfit. In reference to their custom of wearing a mask, Le Loyon wrote: “you do not seem to know Sacher-Masoch, you would discover it takes all kinds to make a world”.
This only makes the mystery even more tantalising. Leopold Sacher-Masoch was a 19th-century Austrian writer, who had a sado-masochistic relationship with a woman called Baroness Fanny Pistor. Leopold had signed a contract to be her slave (very ’50 Shades Of Grey’), which stipulated that the Baroness must wear furs when she was feeling in a particularly cruel mood. This inspired the title of Leopold’s most famous work ‘Venus In Furs’, which is about a man obsessed with being cruelly treated by his mistress. Leopold ultimately gave his name to the word “masochism”. Leopold died in a lunatic asylum in 1905.
There is some scepticism that Le Loyon did indeed commit suicide. There is a total absence of a body for one thing, and people who have read the suicide note in its original French say it is more symbolic than literal. It might well be the case that Le Loyon staged his/her own suicide to get the media to leave them alone.
Whether it was a real suicide or not, the reaction from the local populace was not exactly sympathetic. One resident was quoted as saying “this is rather good news”. There has been some quite understandably shocked reaction to comments like this. Even if you did find Le Loyon intimidating, to be glad at his/her death seems callous. After all, the police were simply just asking him/her to adopt a less scary costume, not to do away with themselves! In fairness though, to look at it from the locals’ viewpoint, it would be daunting to meet such a tall figure garbed like this when you’re walking in a remote spot. And it must have been a very frightening sight for children.
A gas-mask is a very scary image. Anything which covers the face completely can feel forbidding, but gas-masks are particularly hideous, and, with their associations with war and gas-poisoning, are very unlikely to summon up any happy thoughts when you see one.
We had a similar situation in Britain a few months ago, when an odd character called the Northampton Clown was roaming the streets of the town at all hours of the day and night. It is generally recognised that many people find the image of a clown in full traditional slap make-up and costume scary, some even suffer from a phobia of clowns. Like Le Loyon, as far as I’m aware, the Northampton Clown never made any aggressive moves to anyone or even shouted anything. He just stood there, staring. He could argue he never meant any harm, but just to have some strange figure in full clown’s costume appearing out of the blue and staring at you would be quite enough for many people, particularly late at night!
And so it’s the same with Le Loyon. You’re walking in a remote part of the countryside, and you see a very tall figure in military clothes, wearing a gas-mask. With the best will in the world, it’s quite possible you’re not going to think “hey! that’s cool!” when you see it. (And if you claim you would, I can only assume you’ve never walked by yourself in an isolated area!).
My gut feeling is that Le Loyon is still alive – or at least I sincerely hope so anyway – but that he/she has decided to terminate their strange attire. The story of Le Loyon does pose the question: when does eccentricity stop being harmless?
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