The Mystery Of Le Loyon, The Gas Mask
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The Mystery Of Le Loyon, The Gas Mask

Jun 05, 2023

April 17, 2023 by Lucia

Previously: Maria Labo.

Type: Unknown. Subject, known alternately as Le Loyon or the Ghost of Maules, is typically presumed to be closest in classification to PE (Preternatural Entity); however, it is distinctly possible that subject is simply a HWAUH (Human With An Unusual Hobby).

Period/location of origin: Late 1990s/early 2000s, reportedly; the forest of the village of Maules, Switzerland. Maules is located in the municipality of Sâles within the district of Gruyère, which itself is within the Swiss canton (state) of Fribourg.

Please note that although many sources state that reports of encounters with subject date back to at least 2003, and some as early as the late 1990s, these reports are not cited directly in these sources. This researcher has also not been able to locate dated documentation of these alleged early accounts or sightings. This does not, of course, mean that these sightings did not occur — simply that documentation is scant, suggesting that reports may have spread more by word of mouth than anything else. For further information concerning the timeline of subject's activities, please see Additional notes.

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Appearance: Subject, nicknamed "Le Loyon," but sometimes referred to as the Ghost of Maules (in French, le Fantôme de Maules), appears to be a human or humanoid figure approximately 190 centimeters (six feet) tall and dressed in a military-style cloak or cape and a gas mask. Subject has also been described as wearing overalls, a white combinaison chimique or chemical protective coverall, or a boilersuit beneath the cloak, and with a hood pulled up over his head.

Subject's true identity has never been determined. Subject's reason for dressing in this manner has also never been determined.

Modus operandi: Subject was once known to roam the woods near Maules, often on Sundays, although not necessarily exclusively so. Beyond the roaming, however, subject does not appear to have had any other sort of agenda. Subject simply… enjoyed walking in the woods while dressed in a slightly unusual style.

Although it has been suggested that subject may have been a ghost, or an extraterrestrial, or something to be feared for more earthly reasons, subject did not actually give us any reason to fear him.

Indeed, any sort of fright witnesses have attributed to subject seems mostly the have been the result of witnesses observing something unfamiliar or which they don't understand, rather than anything that subject has specifically done to them — that is, the fear says more about the witnesses and their biases than it does about subject himself.

Subject's modus operandi has been recorded in the past tense due to inactivity. See: Additional notes.

Containment: None required. Subject was not dangerous when he was active, and therefore required not containment then; furthermore, subject has not been observed since 2013, and therefore requires no containment now, either.

Additional notes: As previously noted, reports of subject are said to have begun circulating at least by 2003, or possibly as early as the late 1990s, although precise documentation of these reports has not been found to be extant online.

The paper trail begins in August of 2013, when French-language Swiss new outlet Le Matin published what it purported to be the first — and, to this date, only — known photograph of subject.

Unfortunately, the original piece does not currently seem to be available to view; however, Le Matin published several follow-up pieces in the weeks after, the first of which was published on Aug. 30, 2013. In this piece, which also includes the photograph, the outlet states, "Nous révélions mardi une photo de l’individu de dos" — in English, "We revealed on Tuesday a photograph of the individual from behind." Given that Aug. 30, 2013 was a Friday, we may surmise that Le Matin first published the photograph on Aug. 27, 2013.

Note: Some sources erroneously state that the photograph was published by Le Matin in September. While the photograph did make its way to English-speaking outlets in September, the Aug. 30 piece from Le Matin is incontrovertible evidence that the photograph was made public slightly earlier.

Most of the known witness accounts of subject originate in this Aug. 30 Le Matin piece. (Note: All quotes have been translated here into English from the original French.) In it, we hear from the person who actually took the photograph, who said that they had seen subject the Sunday before Le Matin published the picture; "He frightened my children," the photographer said.

We also hear from several residents of Maules, Sâles, and the surrounding area, who recall seeing subject the previous year. "He came out of the undergrowth in his military clothes. You can't see his face or his eyes behind his big, dark gas mask. It was frightening, and I know women who no longer venture into the forest alone," said one witness.

"I saw the strange character nicknamed Le Loyon in July 2012," said another. "One very hot Sunday morning, there were three of us near the picnic spot and suddenly he came out of the forest fully dressed in white chemical protection coveralls and wearing his gas mask. The child who was with us was scared."

Reported Marianne Descloux, a resident of Maules and the only named witness referenced in the piece, "It was a rainy Sunday. He had on a hood, a dark cape, and his gas mask. What could be going through his head? I don't know, but it was impressive and unpleasant. I hope I never run into him again."

Lastly, one witness who was driving in his car with his family in June of 2012 noted, "We stopped to see him pass. He had a kind of diving suit, a gas mask, and a bouquet of flowers in his hand! Not reassured, we quickly got back on the road for fear that he would be aggressive."

Note: Subject has not been known to display any aggressive tendencies during his walks through the woods.

In a follow-up piece dated Sept. 4, 2013, Le Matin reported on the many faux Loyons that had popped up in the days since their earlier reports, displaying a number of photographs readers had created purporting to show Le Loyon and sent into the paper for fun. The headline for this piece read, "False Loyons Abound," with the dek noting that "the existence of the strange individual in the gas mask who sometimes wanders in the forest of Maules amuses some readers. They are having a field day."

A little over a week later, on Sept. 13, 2013, Le Matin reported that the story of Le Loyon had since spread internationally. Indeed, several pieces regarding subject had by that time appeared in English-language outlets (ex. here and here, both Australian), as well as in outlets in Poland, Sweden, and Hong Kong.

Le Matin is careful to note in this report that although many of these international stories painted subject fantastically — descriptions ranged from "the Swiss Batman" to comparisons to the Loch Ness monster — there is nothing to suggest that subject is supernatural in nature; he is simply a person who likes to take walks in the woods dressed somewhat unconventionally. Le Matin does, however, also refute claims that subject is a hoax: "So let's repeat it, it's not [a hoax]: Le Loyon exists," writes the paper.   

But although subject seems to have enjoyed approximately 10 years of uninterrupted walking, followed by a brief period of notoriety, subject has not been seen since shortly after the September 2013 coverage of his existence. On Nov. 26, 2013, Le Matin published what would be up being its final piece on Le Loyon (CW: Brief mention of suicide), reporting that back in September, subject's signature outfit had been found by several hikers in the woods with a letter left nearby. The letter was titled, "l’acte de décès et testament du Fantôme de Maules" — in English, "the death certificate and will of the Ghost of Maules."

The letter blamed Le Matin as the reason subject found it necessary to give up his Sunday walks. "You murdered a very harmless being, who found, in his walks, a real therapy for happiness, a cerebral rejuvenation allowing him to face the responsibilities and the vicissitudes of his normal life," subject wrote. The attention he received following the publication of the photograph and the public's hyperfocus on his activities made it impossible for him to enjoy them as he once did, he claimed; as such, he wrote, "The Ghost disappears, the risk of a beast hunt too great." He did, however, also note, "He will come back to haunt the narrow minds of your kind, for ultimately, a ghost never dies."

The letter may be viewed in full here, although note that it is written in French and will require either knowledge of the language or a translation tool to be read.

Subject has not been observed since.

This, however, does not mean that subject is gone, although some have interpreted his last letter as something a bit more final than it might on the surface appear to be.

It is possible, though, that subject is still here.

It is possible that subject may simply have found another way to… fly under the radar, so to speak.

It is possible that he has been able to resume his activities without the rest of us knowing.

And if that's the case…

Recommendation: …Then perhaps we’d best leave him alone this time.

We all deserve to unwind from time to time, after all — even if for some of us, that means dressing up in a gas mask while wandering the woods.


"Five Obscure Urban Legends That Turned Out To Be True-ish" at Vice.

"Le Loyon Does Not Make Anyone Laugh" at Le Matin. (In French; includes photograph of Le Loyon.)

"False Loyons Abound" at Le Matin. (In French.)

"Le Loyon Intrigues The Whole Planet" at Le Matin. (In French.)

"Mysterious Figure Photographed Roaming In Woodland" at Yahoo News Australia.

"Mystery Figure Haunting The Swiss Woods For Over A Decade" at

Le Matin's final report on Le Loyon. (In French. CW: Brief mention of suicide.)

The death certificate and will of the Ghost of Maules. (In French.)


Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And don't forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!

[Photos via cozmicphotos, photosforyou, Jakub314/Pixabay]

Filed Under: Encyclopaedia Tagged With: Encyclopaedia of the Impossible, Le Loyon, PE

Type: Period/location of origin: Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now! Appearance: Modus operandi: Containment: Additional notes: CW: Recommendation: Resources: CW: