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By Emsie Ferreira
Tapioszentmarton, Hungary - Legend loves this patch of the Great Hungarian Plain where some believe Attila the Hun was buried in the fifth century.
Arguably the world's greatest race horse, a mare called Kincsem who won every race she ran, was born here in 1874 and more recently a rumour spread that the ground radiates energy that heals anything from headaches to heartbreak.
Janos Kocsi bought 1 000 hectares of land here after the fall of communism to breed race horses.
The sturdily-built eighth-generation butcher says he is good friends with God and never had faith in so-called new age teachings.
But he also says that he became aware of the strange power in the soil over lunch with his family in February 2000.
"I felt something pour out from my hand and my sister suddenly complained that her hand felt hot and heavy. I could lift her hand" without touching it, he remembers.
The next day he drove to Budapest, went to the market and worked the same trick on his friends.
"I tried 40 butchers and every one had the same experience. We felt stupid. So I called an expert on strange phenomena at the Hungarian science institute and he told me there was a very strong energy in the soil here.
"People started to tell stories that I had healing powers."
The sick and the stressed started coming, followed rapidly by the sceptics.
The Pest County tourism centre said in 2002 that 350 000 people visited Tapioszentmarton, a few streets surrounded by unfenced fields, many of them to sit on a slight hill on Kocsi's land.
They look like statues against the low winter sky. Some are wrapped in blankets, others half asleep on the benches.
"It is our third visit since last year, it helps for everything, tension, blood pressure. It makes you feel better," said a pensioner from Hamburg.
Ari Kormi, a Finnish businessman, was pacing up and down, following invisible lines.
"I had a heart attack 10 days ago. And now I come every day for an hour and a half to see if this can help. There has to be something, they say when planes fly over here some of their instruments go haywire," he said.
According to Kocsi energy fields run like "a spider's web" around the small mound Hungarians call Attila's Hill and he walked for weeks, hand outstretched, to find them. His wife and daughters thought he had gone mad.
"Three years ago an old man was brought here by his two doctor sons, he had been sick for six years. He suffered from headaches and if he turned his head to the right too quickly he would faint."
The man recovered and soon afterwards a young girl's myopia disappeared after she came here, Kocsi claims.
Though most people come simply to absorb whatever the earth has to offer, others make appointments to see him.
His hands are huge, cuffed with a gold Rolex and bracelet, and when he moves two fingers for a few minutes, visitors feel a faint shock in their hands, spreading down to their feet.
Tibor Legat, a journalist from the Hungarian weekly politics magazine, Magyar Narancs, came to uncover a hoax but he too fell under the spell.
"I thought it was very funny that people came here to recharge themselves with energy, but when he lifted up my hand I just started laughing, I felt completely euphoric," he said.
"Everybody wanted to prove that it was a joke, a bad way of stealing money from the poor," said Kocsi, who is wealthy and charges visitors 500 forint (two euros) to come onto his property, whether they come for healing or to see the horses.
Gyorgy Egerly, a Hungarian scientist, said:"It is very hard to tell what is happening here because there have been no double blind experiments. But there are places all over the world where people feel different and really get healthier."
"There are many elements missing from our textbooks. We know that rotation is totally missing from electro-dynamics theory.
"It is possible that the rotating matter under the soil is stronger here, it could be an explanation."
Kocsi will not try explain it, and has no idea whether his powers desert him when he leaves Hungary because his fear of flying keeps him from going far.
"I will die a butcher. What do I know of these other things, if I tried to tell you, I would lie, pretend." - Sapa-AFP