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.