Summons from a Ghost Town
By Kelly L. Stone
Kelly L. Stone is a mental health professional and author who's recent publications include an essay in Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul: Inspirational Stories about Sisters and Their Changing Relationships and the upcoming Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters: Stories that Celebrate a Very Special Bond.
In September 2001, shortly after the terrorists' attack on the USA, I became ill with food poisoning. Because I had never had food poisoning before, I initially thought it was the flu, and because I thought it was the flu, I did not replace the liquid that I kept throwing up for 24 hours. After two days of no fluids I was seriously dehydrated and began to be disoriented. I would fall asleep for what I thought was ten minutes only to find upon awakening that four hours had passed.
On the fourth day of my illness, my disorientation and weakness increasing exponentially as time passed, I had a vision. Three entities appeared beside my bed, all of them dressed in long white robes. There were two women and one man. They held before me a map of the state of Texas. The man reached around the side of the map and pointed to the area near Austin. He said, "You must go to Chadwick, Texas." As they faded out of sight, I fell back into my dehydration-induced state of semi-consciousness.
After I recovered, I remembered the vision but dismissed it as an hallucination brought on by my illness. Frequently in childhood I had had hallucinations while sick, and so I filed this experience away as the same thing. But it haunted me. This "hallucination" was so specific, so clear in my mind, and it was the first time I had ever been given a direct order. I decided to do some research and see if the town of Chadwick, Texas existed.
I checked Texas maps, US maps, and did county and city searches on the Internet. Nowhere could I find a reference to Chadwick, Texas. I chalked my vision up to illness and did not give it another thought.
Until a week later when I meditated. As I sat on my cushion in my bedroom, trying to follow the chaotic chain of thoughts that tralloped through my head, the entities startled me by appearing before me again in my mind's eye. This time they were emphatic; they held the Texas map before me, and the male entity jabbed at the Central Texas area forcefully; "You must go to Chadwick, Texas," he repeated. When I got up from my meditation, I was convinced that this was not a fluke. Somehow, I had to find this place.
Much to my astonishment, I did. About a week later, casually cruising the Internet, I ran across an obscure reference to Chadwick, Texas on The Handbook of Texas Online :
Chadwick was located in the late 1800's northwest of Lometa, Texas in Lampasas County. Henry A. Chadwick built a dam there on the Colorado River in 1879 in addition to a sawmill, flour mill, and cotton gin. The Chadwick Mills were soon in high demand, and wagons came from as far as San Antonio to use them. By 1900 the town had become a popular scenic resort, with a small hotel and outdoor dance platform near the mills. In the summer of 1915 the west bank of the Colorado River was washed out by heavy rains and the river's course shifted so drastically that it bypassed the dam of Chadwick Mills. Attempts to restore the operations failed, and the mills were abandoned. The railway station and post office were closed by January, 1941. All that is left of the once popular resort is a historical marker and a cemetery. (The Texas State Historical Association, excerpt from article on Chadwick, Texas by Alice J. Rhoades).
I decided to travel to Lometa, the town closet to the once-popular Chadwick. My boyfriend and I flew to Austin, rented a car, and checked into a hotel. The next day, the search for the long-lost city of Chadwick began.
We drove for hours through miles of endless ranch and cattle country, broken down farmhouses, and towns with buildings dating back to the 1800's. But no Chadwick. We went to a local library to do research. The librarian, an elderly woman who was at least 80 years old and stated that she had lived in the area all of her life, said she had never heard of Chadwick. There was one reference to Chadwick on an audio tape that had been made in the 1960's by an old-timer who had been one of the first students at the Chadwick school. There was one 1915 newspaper article on microfiche referring to the flood that washed out the dam. Besides that, nothing. It was as if the town had been there one day and vanished the next.
We continued to drive around the area and on the next to last day, discouraged, we had turned around to go back to the hotel. Suddenly a sign flashed by that we had missed the first time around. It read, simply, "Chadwick Cem." Excited, we turned the car down a bumpy dirt road. After what seemed miles, we ran across a small, hand painted sign on a piece of bark nailed crookedly to a tree; it read "cemetery", and there was an arrow pointing up a small dirt road, bumpier than the one we were already on.
We drove for a long time in the direction of the arrow. Finally we saw, on top of a hill, overlooking the Colorado river in the distance, a very old wrought-iron arch and gate that led into a quaint, well-cared-for cemetery. At the top of the arch were letters that spelled out "Chadwick". My heart started to pound as we got out of the car; here was proof of the town that I had been summoned to by three entities, but for what purpose I had yet to find out.
There were graves dating back to as early as 1871, and some as late as 1976. The cemetery was clean and obviously used. We looked around for awhile, admired the serenity of the cemetery on it's hilltop, and then left, urged on by this discovery.
We drove deeper into the woods, down the dirt road. I felt like I was going back in time, the way all signs of civilization dropped away and we were left alone in this lush, primitive world with thick woods that scraped the sides of the car. We decided to head in the direction of the River, since that's where the mill had been. Logic dictated that if the cemetery were still here, then the mill would be too.
But as we approached the river our hearts plummeted. NO TRESPASSING signs suddenly sprang up in all directions, barring our journey any further. We stopped the car and got out, and could hear the sound of the river rushing downstream in the distance. But there were too many trees to see anything.
As we journeyed back in the direction of the cemetery, something else caught our attention. A distant throbbing sensation was coming from the bottom of the car, or rather, into the car from the ground. We stopped again and got out, both of us staring at each other in wonder.
It sounded like the heartbeat of the earth.
Thump-thump, thump-thump. The feeling came up through our feet and into our ears. We both heard it and described the exact same thing to each other. We were standing in the middle of nowhere, with the Colorado river only miles away. It was utterly quiet, unnaturally quiet, except for that steady beating that was both felt and heard, like when you lay your head on someone's chest. The air around us felt charged and heavy. I felt like I was on the verge of discovering something fantastic and profound, but it never quite made it to my consciousness. But it was, and is to this day, just on the tip of my tongue.
The next day we found a main road that led to the Colorado river, but miles from where the mill would have been. Beside a bridge we found a small gold plaque commemorating Mr. Chadwick and the town he had built from nothing. Beside the plaque stood the cement grindstone that had been used at one time in the mill of Chadwick, Texas.
I have never fully understood why I was supposed to go to Chadwick. Was I supposed to find the earth's heartbeat? Because if I was, I did. Or was this experience simply to teach me to trust in my own psychic powers, something I have, from time to time, had difficulty doing?
In either case, it was a successful trip because I accomplished both. And I paid my respects to the people of Chadwick, Texas, the ghost town that summoned me.