The story of Rip van Winkle takes a turn for the supernatural when the title character encounters strange men, dressed in antiquated traditional Dutch attire, playing nine-pins in a secluded area in the mountains. The men, who remind Rip of "the figures in an old Flemish painting," are mysterious and completely out of place, and maintain a grim silence even as they amuse themselves by bowling:
...[T]hey maintained the gravest faces, the most mysterious silence; and they were, withal, the most melancholy party of pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rolling peals of thunder.
It is after witnessing this surreal scene that Rip takes a drink of the men's liquor, whichobviously has some sort of magical properties, as it puts Rip to sleep for twenty years. This magical event serves as the turning point of the entire story, as Rip awakes to find that everything in his world has changed.