THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ASHLEY
By Eduard Joseph
Published by Eduard Joseph
Copyright 2015 Eduard Joseph
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are
not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. Any resemblance to any person or
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All Rights Reserved
The right of the writer to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him under the South African Copyright Act of 1978 (as amended).
I received a call from the executor of my grandmother’s estate in July of this year informing me that she left me a house which he was unable to locate. At first I thought it was quite odd that he was unable to locate fixed property and after visiting his office I learned that the house was in a town called Ashley – a place that seemingly didn’t exist.
Being a fan of mystery novels I was intrigued by the idea of a house which was apparently untraceable, so I started doing some detective work of my own.
The Title-Deed of the house indicated that the property was situated at number 231 Garry Street, Ashley, but after long queues and countless queries at the Deeds-office I came up empty handed; there seemed to be no record of my grandmother’s house or the town of Ashley.
An internet search for what I was looking for seemed futile until I stumbled upon something during the second hour of my search; police records dating back to 1952, but the strange thing was that there seemed to be nothing after this year – as if the town simply vanished.
I started sifting through all the police records hoping to find something that could tell me where I could find the town and my inheritance.
The more of the old police records I sifted through the faster it became apparent that these records were leaked on purpose – almost as if someone wanted the world to stumble upon it… and there was something very peculiar about the records.
What I could gather from the little information I had, the town of Ashley had a population of about 700 people and no police station, which meant that all law enforcement problems had to be reported to the police station of the neighbouring town of Haysville about fifteen minutes’ drive to the east.
For precisely seven days from August 8th, 1952 the complaints from Ashley started escalating from the peculiar to the outright bizarre.
At 18h00 on August 8th, 1952, Mrs Agatha Knight, residing at 43 Killian Street called the police station of Haysville with a complaint about a stranger lingering underneath a tree in her front yard. According to the police report, the stranger vanished while the police officer was on the phone with the complainant and the file was closed.
At 19h15 that same evening, Jonathan Gabriels called the Haysville police station claiming that he spotted a darkened figure standing on the roof of his garage, but when he went out to investigate, the figure had disappeared. He did, however, note something far more startling – a black sphere of about a foot in diameter hovering sixty feet above his driveway.
The police officer who dealt with the complaint, Officer Alex Marcus, dismissed the complaint as the ramblings of an old drunk, but within less than half an hour the office was inundated by phone calls from residents of Ashley claiming to have seen the same phenomenon.
Officer Marcus left the station at 20h30 according to the records, but never investigated the complaints of a ‘growing black spherical hole’ over Ashley.
In a sworn affidavit, Officer Marcus wrote;
I, Alex Marcus, state the following under oath:
I am an adult male aged 39 and am employed as a police officer stationed at Haysville Police station.
On the evening of August 8th, 1952 I received a complaint from the neighbouring town of Ashley about an unidentified black object hovering above the property of Jonathan Gabriels (property address 45 Killan Street, Ashley). The complainant was rambling and incoherent – unable to give a clear description of what he witnessed.
More complaints from nearby residents were received stating that they all witnessed the same thing – a growing black abyss hovering in the sky.
At about 20h30 that evening I was dispatched to the town to investigate the claims of the unidentified black object, but was unable to reach the town of Ashley as I somehow got lost. I drove along route 214 which connects Haysville with Ashley and despite the road never curving or bending in any direction, I somehow ended up back in Haysville.
Officer Andrews accompanied me on my second attempt to get to Ashley, but the road led us back to Haysville.
His claims were corroborated by a sworn affidavit by Officer Jim Andrews;
I, Jim Andrews, state the following under oath:
I am an adult male aged 50 and am employed as a police officer stationed at Haysville Police station.
On the evening of August 8th, 1952 at 21h00 Officer Marcus asked me to accompany him on a trip to the neighbouring town of Ashley to investigate complaints about a mysterious object in the sky.
His request came about in that he claimed to have already driven to the town of Ashley, but was unable to reach it and that he was questioning his sanity.
I accompanied him on his second journey to Ashley and despite not taking any detours or turnoffs during our fifteen minute commute, we found ourselves back in Haysville – entering the town from the west.
We decided to attempt a third trip, but the conclusion was the same – we ended up back in Haysville. The only road leading to Ashley has somehow stopped leading to Ashley.
Officer Marcus’s next shift started the following day, August 9th, 1952 at 09h00 and he was informed that more and more calls were coming in from Ashley about strange occurrences and despite six vehicles being sent out, none of them reached Ashley – all of the drivers reported to have somehow ended up back in Haysville.
With the calls increasing and Haysville police unable to reach Ashley, residents were urged to stay indoors upon calling the police station. The calls were all the same; the black abyss above the town was growing in size despite none of the residents from Haysville reported seeing any strange objects towards the direction of Ashley.
One of the calls stood out to Officer Marcus and the transcripts of that call formed part of the evidence leaked onto the internet;
Yes, ma’am? What seems to be the problem?
The black hole…
Please stay in your house and keep clear from any windows.
I think it swallowed my neighbours.
I think the hole swallowed them.
What do you mean, ma’am?
(inaudible) outside and they said they were going to leave town before (inaudible). I tried to stop them and told them that the police said (inaudible) and stay indoors, but they didn’t (inaudible).
Peter was packing the car while (inaudible) grabbed the baby from the house. I only looked away for a second or two, but when I looked back they were gone. (Inaudible) baby was on the lawn crying.
Ma’am, I need you to calm down and stay in our home.
(Inaudible) can’t get out! We can’t get out! Why won’t you do something?
According to the transcripts Officer Marcus tried to calm down the unidentified caller, but she finally disconnected the call stating that she knew help would never arrive.
Things seemed to take a turn for the more bizarre from August 10th, 1952. According to the police reports the first of a string of bizarre phone calls was placed at 07h45 by Mr Patrick Felix;
Police report by Officer Marcus
August 10, 1952
Complainant: Patrick Felix
Nature of complaint: Unknown
At 07h45 the complainant called the Haysville Police Station claiming that the town of Ashley was in total darkness. According to the complainant he and his wife, Martha, got up at 07h00 as usual to find that the town was still in total darkness.
Based on the geological setting of both Ashley and Haysville, both towns should experience sunrise at 06h40, but according to complainant the sun has never risen.
It is safe to say that whatever the residents of Ashley are experiencing is unique to the town as Haysville is experiencing daytime like normal and it could be contributed to mass hysteria that is spreading through the town.
Inaccessibility of Ashley makes it near to impossible to assess the situation.
By 10AM that same day it became apparent that Mr Felix’s complaint of total darkness had some truth to it as more and more Ashley residents phoned Haysville Police Station claiming that the sun was nowhere to behold and that the sky was pitch black and that unfamiliar constellations were clearly visible.
At 11h55, at the request of Haysville Police Station, a helicopter from Lutzville air force base about fifty miles to the north, flew over the region of Haysville and Ashley, but the result of the aerial inspection was inconclusive. According to the report compiled by the pilot, Peter MacDonald, the town of Ashley was never visible.
At 14h00 on August 10th, 1952 all calls from Ashley ceased.
At 12h43 on August 11th, 1952 Haysville Police Station received another alarming call from a resident in Ashley. The transcripts of that call formed part of the evidence leaked onto the internet;
Haysville Police Station
You need to help me. I’ve been trying to call since yesterday, but your line stays engaged.
Ma’am, can you identify yourself, please?
Jessica… Jessica Daniels. You have to help me.
What seems to be the problem, ma’am?
It’s my daughter…
What about your daughter? Is she injured?
She’s claiming to talk to her father – he died three years ago in a car crash.
I’m not sure I’m following. Could you repeat—
She’s talking to my dead husband. She said she saw him (inaudible) under the tree.
She insists (inaudible due to sobbing) go outside and join him in the darkness.
The darkness, ma’am? It’s the middle of the day—
The sun still hasn’t come up. My daughter… she (inaudible) go outside into the dark.
She said my dead husband is calling to her.
Ma’am, I need you to stay calm and stay indoors. Keep your daughter indoors.
According to the police reports the Haysville Police Station received an influx of similar claims from 12h00 that day by concerned parents who stated that their children were having conversations with departed family members who wanted them to join them in the darkness outside.
The following morning of August 12th, 1952 the situation became dire; according to complaints that inundated the Haysville Police Station all 217 children of the town of Ashley disappeared without a trace during the night.
Unable to be of any useful assistance, the officers attending to the phone calls told the concerned parents to stay indoors and not set out in search of the missing children.
Police report by Officer Jenkins
August 12, 1952
Complainant: Various residents of Ashley
Nature of complaint: Missing children
Numerous complaints have been pouring in about missing children. Parents of the children all claim that their children had conversations with deceased relatives the night before and believe their children have gone into the dark that still plagues the town.
Search teams consisting of Haysville Police and residents of Haysville came up empty as they were unable to locate the town of Ashley.
At 15h00, another helicopter was dispatched from the Lutzville air force base, but aerial search proved to be impossible as only Haysville was visible from the air.
At 16h50 all Haysville Police officers were instructed to inform callers from Ashley to stay indoors and refrain from searching for their missing children.
At 17h59 all calls from Ashley ceased until 17h00 the next day, August 13th, 1952. Scott Lewis was the first to report a growing distant fire to the north which was lighting up the pitch-black sky and the flames were extending towards a vacuum in one of the constellations visible in the dark sky above Ashley.
Throughout the rest of the day more calls came in from Ashley by residents claiming that massive fire which seemed to move towards the town of Haysville also seemed to come out of the vacuum in the dark sky spiralling down towards the cornfields to the south.
No fires were ever witnessed by any of the neighbouring communities or the police in Haysville.
The peculiar calls continued until 2AM on the morning of August 14th, 1952 when the last call placed by Benjamin Smith ended abruptly; putting a stop to all other calls. During his call he claimed that the fire in the sky had grown so intense that it began to appear as daylight over the town.
The transcripts of the last call for that day formed part of the evidence leaked onto the internet;
Haysville Police Station
It’s everywhere now, but the flames aren’t burning anything.
Can you identify yourself, sir?
What did you say about the fire, sir?
It’s everywhere – burning bright (inaudible) almost like daylight. I have to shield my eyes
if I (inaudible) towards the south or at the vacuum.
Yeah, the vacuum in the sky. (Inaudible) sucking up flames and spiralling them back down.
I’m not sure I follow…
…just hold on… wait… I see something…
I… I see something. It’s to the south; by the cornfields… It looks like—
[End of phone call]
No phone calls came from Ashley for the next twenty four hours until Mrs April Foster placed the last call to ever come out of Ashley. The transcripts of the final call formed part of the evidence leaked onto the internet;
Haysville Police Station
Ma’am, who am I speaking to?
April… My name is April Foster. (coughs) Please sir, you need to help me. I’m the only one now. (coughs)
What is happening, ma’am?
Last night they came back.
Ma’am. I’m gonna need you to—
LAST NIGHT THEY CAME BACK! (crying)
Ma’am, I’m gonna need you to calm down and speak clearly.
What happened? You say they came back? Who came back?
They all came back in the fire (sniffs).
What do you mean, ma’am?
My son… I saw my son. He was walking down the street dressed in darkness.
He was burning. Jesus Christ! He was BURNING! (cries)
(interrupts) He died last year. I told him to watch out for cars while driving his bicycle, but
he didn’t listen (cries).
Ma’am, you’re not making sense.
ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? EVERYONE CAME BACK! (sniffs and sobs)
Everyone who died or went missing came back last night from inside the fire.
They’re back and looking for us. They found most of us. (inaudible) only me left.
What do you mean? Where’s everybody else—
(interrupts) He said, “Mommy, I’m okay now… See… I can walk now. The fire made
me walk again. I want to see you again…” (sobs and whispers) but he’s not my son.
I know my son and that burning thing is NOT my son.
Ma’am, where are you? Are you safe?
(sobbing) When are you sending help? We’re dying.
We’re doing our best to get to you. I need you to stay on the line with me.
Are you in a safe place?
I’m hiding. Like the others that were left. We saw them coming from the cornfields.
They were on fire, but the corn weren’t burning. Some people opened their doors for the
dead… oh God. The screaming. I can still hear it (Inaudible due to sobbing).
I don’t know what happened to the others (inaudible), but think I’m the last one.
I’m hiding in the closet now and— (abrupt silence)
Ma’am? Is everything alright? Talk to me.
(sound of glass breaking)
(whispering) Oh God…
Ma’am? What’s happening?
Something just came in… (muffled cries)
Ma’am, stay as quiet as you can. Try not to make a sound.
(muffled sounds on the side of the caller: “Mommy… Mommy?”)
(sobbing) It came inside the room.
Stay absolutely still, ma’am. Don’t try to leave. Stay on the line with me.
(Sounds of muffled footsteps on the side of the caller)
(Muffled on the side of the caller: “Mommy? Where are you hiding?”)
(Heavy footsteps on the side of the caller. Laughter of a child.)
(Muffled on the side of the caller: “Mommy… I found you.”)
(Indiscernible screaming, crying and noises)
Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you alright?
[Call ended at 21h43]
That was it. There was nothing more amongst the documentation I found on the internet. These documents seemed to be the last surviving proof that the town of Ashley ever existed.
The last police report was dated August 15th, 1952 and indicated that police officials were finally able to reach the town of Ashley, but the town was gone. The road that led to Ashley stopped abruptly at the edge of an immense fissure in the ground which gave off intense heat.
I had nothing more to go on, except that I now knew that the town my house was situated in was a few miles from Haysville somewhere along route 214. So, equipped with my GPS and a friend, we set out to find the town which apparently disappeared into thin air just like all records that the town and their people ever existed.
We were unable to locate the town or the massive fissure as described in the police report. Route 214 simply ends abruptly and gives way to a massive pan of dirt which stretched on for miles.
Enquiries to the Haysville Police Station hit a brick wall as the officers were either reluctant to assist or didn’t know anything. One of the police officer’s demeanour suggested that he might know something and when I approached him all he said was; ‘What I knew I set loose on the internet.’
He got in his car and drove off without saying another word.
I was a bit bummed out that I inherited a house which no longer seemed to exist, but I was bummed out even more due to the fact that the documents I found on Ashley created more questions than it answered.
Throughout the centuries hundreds of people have disappeared never to be heard from again, but this was the first I ever heard of an entire town disappearing; people, buildings and all.
What happened to the town folk of Ashley? What happened to the buildings, cars and animals? What did the residents see in the sky? Was it a gateway to another dimension or was it simply mass hysteria? If it were the latter, there wouldn’t be a plausible explanation as to what happened to everyone. One thing was for sure; whatever happened to the people of Ashley was real and only happened to their town.
Was it a government experiment gone wrong? We all know about the race to put a man on the moon, but was it possible that this was an experiment gone wrong – an experiment by our government to find a gateway to another dimension before its rivals did?
So many questions and no answers in sight. The only thing I can say with certainly is that on August 14th, 1952 the town of Ashley and all its 700 residents simply ceased to exist.
ABOUT THIS SHORT STORY
I was busy doing some research for a novel I’ve been working on and stumbled upon an article about an entire town that seemed to have disappeared into thin air. I thought it would make for a great short story, so I sat down and started writing.
I kept the name of the town Ashley and the events depicted in the article in the same chronological order, but changed the names of the callers and officers to protect their identity.
Though inspired by the real-life disappearances of the Ashley residents, some of the incidents depicted have been fictionalized.