The Vanishing of Orion Williamson

The deep south is home to a passel of legends, folklore, and ghost stories. There are dozens told by my ancestors alone, some of which they purported to have witnessed. Others are passed down from family to family or neighbor to neighbor.

The following is a story I recall one of my Alabama relatives talking about years ago. This is, without a doubt, one of the strangest and most perplexing stories I’ve ever heard.


Orion Williamson was a farmer who lived in Selma, Alabama. On a July afternoon in 1854, he sat on his front porch with his wife and son. Mr. Williamson got up in order to move his horses to the shade.

At the same time, a neighbor, Armour Wren, and his son James passed by. Orion stopped to pick up a small stick, then continued to walk in ankle-deep grass. He waved to his neighbors, took another step, and vanished into thin air.

A young colt in a field, perhaps much like the one where Orion Williamson took his last step. (Image courtesy of Pixabay.)

The Williamsons and the Wrens rushed to the place where Orion disappeared to search for any sign of him. They found nothing. It’s reported most of the grass in that spot was gone as well. After searching in vain, the family called for help. A search party of approximately three hundred men combed every inch of the field. Bloodhounds joined the search, which continued into the night. Still, there was no sign of Orion Williamson.

As the news spread, more volunteers and a team of geologists came to the scene. They dug up the field to determine if the ground was unstable or if there was anything unusual. They found solid rock a few feet below the surface. There were no holes and no evidence of a cave-in.

No one could explain the strange event. Mrs. Williamson claimed she and her son could hear Orion’s voice calling for help several weeks afterward. They would rush into the field but found nothing. The voice grew fainter and fainter, faded into a whisper, and then was no more.

After all the searches proved futile, a judge declared Orion Williamson dead.

The German scientist, Maximillian Hern believed Mr. Williamson walked into a spot of “universal ether.” Hern believed these places lasted only a few seconds but could destroy all matter within them.

Another scientist theorized Orion walked into a magnetic field that disintegrated his atomic structure, sending him into another dimension.

Williamson’s story drew the attention of the writer, Ambrose Bierce. Bierce interviewed individuals who were involved in the search. He later wrote “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field,” which was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888. His account varies slightly, but with the same outcome. Williamson waved to his neighbor, took a step, then vanished. Ironically, Bierce disappeared in Mexico in 1914 but he didn’t evaporate into thin air.

Today, there is still no logical explanation for Williamson’s disappearance. Needless to say, this is one of the strangest stories I’ve ever heard.


I wrote and scheduled this post several months ago. Shortly afterward, I read Marlena Smith’s post on her Lore and Curiosities blog. If you’re interested in reading it, click this link.

35 thoughts on “The Vanishing of Orion Williamson

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  1. Yes, very strange, fallen into a time lapse? We can’t explain it, but the story itself may explain other disappearances where nobody is around to witness someone disappearing into thin air. When I was a child we used to get a colourful children’s magazine with all sorts of real life stories. I have never forgotten one item about people never seen again. One man walked around to the other side of a horse and carriage in a busy street and was never seen again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! With people around to witness the disappearance, one certainly has to wonder. Did he walk through an invisible portal into another dimension? Did a spaceship beam him up? Who knows? Great share, Joan!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember reading about this on Marlena’s blog. It was the first time I’d ever heard the story, and it’s every bit as chilling and puzzling reading it again here. Especially knowing his wife and son could hear his voice for weeks afterward.

    Truly, a bizarre mystery!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, this is quite the story. A first for me. It makes me wonder if there’s some truth to time travel or parallel lives. Thank you for sharing it. 🍁

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for linking to my post, Joan. I’m so glad you shared about this story too. The theories you’ve mentioned are interesting! The idea of there being a universal ether is terrifying yet fascinating. With stories like Orion’s, you can’t help but wonder if there’s so much more to the universe that we simply don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a lot of things that can’t be explained, Mar. I had written this post several months ago, so it was interesting to read your account as well. I thought it was a legend, but until I researched it, didn’t know it was true.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As I was reading this, I was thinking about quantum shifts. There are stories in Europe (London, primarily, I believe) where people are walking and disappear into thin air, but then sometimes people see a kind of window into another time for a moment, like the same street, but with horses and carriages instead of cars. There is also “proof” of this “fact,” as there are photos that seem to show people in modern clothes attempting to talk on cell phones in the midst of a Victorian crowd. It’s a fascinating tale. Thanks for sharing. I’m off to read Mar’s post.

    Liked by 2 people

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