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Charles Ashmore's Trail

Scary Books: Present At A Hanging

The family of Christian Ashmore consisted of his wife, his mother,

two grown daughters, and a son of sixteen years. They lived in

Troy, New York, were well-to-do, respectable persons, and had many

friends, some of whom, reading these lines, will doubtless learn for

the first time the extraordinary fate of the young man. From Troy

the Ashmores moved in 1871 or 1872 to Richmond, Indiana, and a year

or two later to the
icinity of Quincy, Illinois, where Mr. Ashmore

bought a farm and lived on it. At some little distance from the

farmhouse was a spring with a constant flow of clear, cold water,

whence the family derived its supply for domestic use at all


On the evening of the 9th of November in 1878, at about nine

o'clock, young Charles Ashmore left the family circle about the

hearth, took a tin bucket and started toward the spring. As he did

not return, the family became uneasy, and going to the door by which

he had left the house, his father called without receiving an

answer. He then lighted a lantern and with the eldest daughter,

Martha, who insisted on accompanying him, went in search. A light

snow had fallen, obliterating the path, but making the young man's

trail conspicuous; each footprint was plainly defined. After going

a little more than half-way--perhaps seventy-five yards--the father,

who was in advance, halted, and elevating his lantern stood peering

intently into the darkness ahead.

"What is the matter, father?" the girl asked.

This was the matter: the trail of the young man had abruptly ended,

and all beyond was smooth, unbroken snow. The last footprints were

as conspicuous as any in the line; the very nail-marks were

distinctly visible. Mr. Ashmore looked upward, shading his eyes

with his hat held between them and the lantern. The stars were

shining; there was not a cloud in the sky; he was denied the

explanation which had suggested itself, doubtful as it would have

been--a new snowfall with a limit so plainly defined. Taking a wide

circuit round the ultimate tracks, so as to leave them undisturbed

for further examination, the man proceeded to the spring, the girl

following, weak and terrified. Neither had spoken a word of what

both had observed. The spring was covered with ice, hours old.

Returning to the house they noted the appearance of the snow on both

sides of the trail its entire length. No tracks led away from it.

The morning light showed nothing more. Smooth, spotless, unbroken,

the shallow snow lay everywhere.

Four days later the grief-stricken mother herself went to the spring

for water. She came back and related that in passing the spot where

the footprints had ended she had heard the voice of her son and had

been eagerly calling to him, wandering about the place, as she had

fancied the voice to be now in one direction, now in another, until

she was exhausted with fatigue and emotion.

Questioned as to what the voice had said, she was unable to tell,

yet averred that the words were perfectly distinct. In a moment the

entire family was at the place, but nothing was heard, and the voice

was believed to be an hallucination caused by the mother's great

anxiety and her disordered nerves. But for months afterward, at

irregular intervals of a few days, the voice was heard by the

several members of the family, and by others. All declared it

unmistakably the voice of Charles Ashmore; all agreed that it seemed

to come from a great distance, faintly, yet with entire distinctness

of articulation; yet none could determine its direction, nor repeat

its words. The intervals of silence grew longer and longer, the

voice fainter and farther, and by midsummer it was heard no more.

If anybody knows the fate of Charles Ashmore it is probably his

mother. She is dead.