My grandpa was a British infantryman in the Second World War. He was only about 19 years old when he enlisted to serve his country, and while he thought that joining the military would give him opportunities to see exotic locations around the world, he was never deployed to Tunisia, or Italy or the Pacific, instead he ended up practically in his own backyard—Switzerland.
This is just some historical information, but it’s important to understand before reading the rest of this story: Switzerland did its best to maintain “neutral status” throughout the war. But regardless of its attempts to maintain neutrality, Switzerland was still highly sought after by both the allied and the axis powers. Once the Nazis began committing acts of aggression against Switzerland, England provided reinforcements to the Swiss military. Yet, in an effort to prevent open war within its borders, the Swiss government instructed its military (and subsequently, the British reinforcements) to perform a series of tactical retreats into the Alps. That’s how my grandpa found himself stationed in a remote village in the Swiss Alps.
At this time, it was early in the winter of 1943, and my grandpa’s company was stationed in a secluded village of about 500 people. Part of the advantage that they had with this location was that it was really hard to get to and therefore had little chance of being spontaneously invaded by Nazi Germany, but this was also a disadvantage because it made communication with the rest of the Swiss military very difficult. The issue with communication was further compounded when sometime in early December, a series of blizzards swept through the region and completely destroyed the few lines of communication that they had in the first place.
So, essentially trapped in this isolated Swiss village without being able to make contact with the rest of the army, my grandpa’s Captain decided it would be best to uphold the standing orders and continue defending the village.
Weeks passed. Any roads to the outside world were buried in 7-9 feet of dense snowfall, and any telegraph/phone lines that they had were equally useless. It grew deeper into winter, the leaves were stripped from the trees and the bare trunks protruded from the mountainside like broken ribs. The town was nestled between two large mountains, sunlight only directly reached the town for a few hours each day, making the soldiers feel as if they were living in a state of perpetual dusk.
One night my grandpa was at the town bar with a few of his friends from the company, and a group of locals approached them, one of them in particular was visibly upset. All of the Swiss people in the town grew up speaking German, and none of them were used to having Brits around, so one of them began shouting in broken English:
“Where… take you… the children?”
Luckily, one of the guys my grandpa was drinking with spoke fluent German, and was able to act as an impromptu translator. After several minutes of confusion and yelling, the “translator” turned to my grandpa and the rest of the soldiers and said:
“They say some of the village children have gone missing. They want us to do something about it.”
Now obviously, the British military doesn’t exactly act as a bunch of “mercenaries for hire,” so my grandpa and his friends told the villagers to come back to the “Headquarters” (really just a makeshift barracks that they had thrown together in the town’s church) to talk to the Captain.
Due to the language barrier, the villagers’ discussion with the captain took about two hours. And basically what the Captain and his self-designated translator were able to piece together was that:
A few weeks after the company entered the village, the locals had noticed a variety of bizarre incidents. At first it was just benign stuff like “vanishing” pieces of wood and tarp from peoples’ sheds, but over the following two months, people realized that valuable items were being stolen from their homes—one man claimed that his family heirloom, a hand-made ceremonial halberd (sort of like a traditional Swiss war axe) had disappeared from above his fireplace mantle. The culmination of all of these incidents was when a village child went missing.
Of course many assumed that the child’s disappearance, although tragic and disconcerting, could be attributed to something as simple as the boy falling into a snowdrift while playing outside or possibly being attacked and killed by a wolf or other predatory animal.
But there wasn’t only one child that disappeared. There were several.
The villager who entered the bar who looked especially upset? That was the father of two young boys who had gone missing two days before. He had searched everywhere for them, even rounded up a posse of his fellow townspeople to join the effort, but they couldn’t find a single clue as to what had happened to the children.
The Captain told the villagers that he would continue to look into the matter, and that he would begin sending some of his men to patrol the streets each night looking for whoever (or whatever) was the culprit behind all the strange thefts and abductions.
Later that night, Private Reginald disappeared from the barracks.
Disappearing children was one thing, but a grown man? It seemed unlikely that an animal (even a wolf) could have taken down a healthy full-grown man on its own. Naturally, rumors began to surface that there was some sort of monster living in the mountains that came down at night to feast on the occupants of the village.
Despite the nightly patrols ordered by the Captain, the disappearances kept occurring. Reginald was the only adult victim of whatever was preying on the village, the rest of the victims were all young kids between the ages of five and ten.
All in all, including the original three kids who had gone missing, seven children vanished from the town.
Many people in my grandpa’s company were growing suspicious. One explanation that got passed around was that impoverished villagers were actually selling their own children to human traffickers for extra cash. But even that didn’t make sense because the roads into and out of the town were still blocked by snow.
Three more weeks passed without incident, at this point it was early spring and the snow was starting to thaw. That night, coincidentally when my grandpa was on patrol with several other soldiers, they discovered what was behind the children’s and Reginald’s disappearances…
It was sometime past midnight when my grandpa and his comrades noticed a figure peering through the bedroom window of one of the villagers’ houses. My grandpa was at the opposite end of the street, so at first the figure looking through the window didn’t see the patrol. My grandpa and the other soldiers yelled at the prowler, and it immediately tore itself away from the window and began running away. Everyone in the patrol was certain that this was what was behind the disappearances and break-ins. They ran as fast as they could in pursuit, through the melting snow and ice in the dead of night screaming at whatever it was to stop. They kept running and running, and soon they found themselves on the outskirts of the village, where the snow was still fairly deep. The figure “jumped into the ground,” it looked like it had vanished into thin air at first, but as the patrol grew closer, they realized that the prowler had actually just jumped into a “cave” that had been hollowed out in the side of a snowdrift.
Just as the soldiers began yelling into the cave for the figure to come out and show itself, several gun shots exploded out of the entrance to the snow cave. Without thinking, my grandpa and the rest of the patrol shouldered their weapons and all began firing into the hole.
They waited for what seemed like hours, but was really just a couple of minutes. One incredibly brave member of the patrol volunteered to climb into the cave and investigate, he drew his pistol, kneeled down and crawled into the cave. Several seconds later, he emerged with a completely horrified expression on his face.
My grandpa took out his flashlight and shined it into the cave, when he saw the gruesome explanation behind the strange occurrences in the town.
The “figure” that they had been chasing was Reginald, the private who had “gone missing” weeks before. They had shot Reginald right through the heart.
The cave was not only occupied by Reginald, but also the bodies of seven partially eaten children.
Either due to the stress of being snowed in all winter, living in near constant darkness or some sort of terrible mental issue, Reginald had gone completely insane and had begun breaking into the villagers’ houses, and snatching their children from their homes in the middle of the night. He had used the halberd that had been reported missing to dismember the bodies after he slit the children’s throats and hid them in the cave he carved into the snowdrift.