The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

It seems like nonsense to write a chapter on this subject. However I will pen down what others have told me and the reader can draw his own conclusions. Though while I refuse to believe the common tales about ghosts and other ludicrous stories as told by some people, yet strange things are occasionally seen that cannot be accounted for but would be if there was an explanation following it. This chapter may explain to some extent the cause of some of these peculiar sights. Webster defines hallucinations as a delusion of the imagination or something to that effect. Cases of this kind have received considerable attention from medical authorities. A defective mind through the eye observes objects to form that the mind continually rests on. Those who are suffering with a mild form of this complaint are sometimes called cranks. In a number of cases when the mind is allowed to dwell on sin of whatever type the desire is to commit that kind of sin, and unless they reform and quit in time, they will grow from bad to worse until they commit acts of the lowest degree. They spurn divine as well as the civil laws of the land and disregard everything controlled by common sense. Some of these individuals want to murder officials in high authority and claim that the killing of these officials is proper. As a matter of truth no rational man or woman and a well wisher of their country and humanity would offer to commit such crimes nor approve of such dark and dastardly work. There is no question but that in many cases of murder and other black crimes are brought about through the teaching of immoral characters such as anarchy and other fanatical societies. In many instances the foulest of murders or other awful dark deeds are done by those who have been led to do this by the worst examples set by others and their teaching. These contend that their way of thinking and doing is the only right course to pursue and they look on the class of people who are respectful and obedient to the laws governing the people wrong and that all laws are bad and therefore their hearts desire is to destroy the lives of all the executive officers of the land. This class are found all over the world and the law abiding people of all nations should unite on a plan to eradicate the teachers that bring this evil about and finally these evil doers would diminish in numbers. But we have somewhat digressed from our subject for we had started out to tell something about hallucinations caused by a detective mind when it did not reach to the extent of being harmful. Great remorse of mind after a terrible wrong is perpetrated will occasionally bring about an abnormal condition of the brain and the mind of that individual has become so impaired that seemingly real objects form before the eyes. One case I will relate here.

In Keesee Township, Marion County, Ark. the main wagon road leading from the Keesee Ford of White River at the mouth of Trimbles Creek crosses Big Buck Creek just above its mouth. On the bank of the creek on the west side and at the side of the road is a cedar tree where Almas Clark, Tom Yocum and Floyed Blalock made a mark on this cedar denoting the highest stage of back water from the river at this point on the 6th of May 1898. A short distance above this cedar and on the same side of the creek is an old waste field or small clearing at the upper end of which once stood a log house that was built for the use of Mrs. Dovey Keesee widow of Billy Keesee who was killed in Civil War times. "Thresher" Bill Yocum also lived here a few years. His wife Mrs. Reitta Yocum died here September 16, 1875 and is buried in the grave yard opposite the Panther Bottom. Tom Jones also lived here a year or more. In 1879 a man of the name of John Williams rented land of Elias Keesee and lived in this same house. On the 18th of August Williams was attacked with violent sickness. At that time the writer lived in the same town ship in the same hollow where Jim Ridinger lives now. I was practicing medicine then and when Mr. Williams took sick he sent for me, and when I entered the house, I made a minute examination of his case and found that his condition was such that there was no hope of his recovery. The man had a wife but no children. Knowing that he could not survive but a few days I begged him to allow me to send for another doctor for council and assistance in treating his case but he refused all medical aid except what I and the neighbors did for him. On the first day I visited him he informed me that as his time was nearly up he wanted to tell me a secret of his life which he said he had never divulged to no one except his wife and she had promised to keep her lips sealed and he wanted me to know his story from his own lips and that I was at liberty to tell it after his death—not before. I tried to encourage him but he shook his head and said it was no use for his time was nearing to an end. I gave him the desired promise and he went on to say that during the great war between the people of the north and south a certain man did him a great wrong and he wanted revenge and he set a resolution to kill him "But" said he "I thought too much of my honor to take his life in an unfair way and determined to face him while I did the work. It is not necessary for me to give you the name of the man and the dishonorable way he treated me and the locality where he lived except that it was in Northwest Arkansas. I kept up a vigilant watch for him for several days but failed to meet him. In a week or more after this I was told that he was seen riding over a certain road on a visit to a certain man’s house. This was early in the forenoon and my informant said that the man intended to return back over the same road in the afternoon. The man I learned this from just happened to tell me this for he knew nothing of my intention to slay the man and I was glad he told me and without the least hint to him that I was going to kill the man he was telling me about but I rejoiced in my heart that I had an oppertunity to put my resolutions into effect and as soon as the man left our house I armed myself with my big double barreled shot gun which was heavily charged with buck and ball and went across to the road where my enemy was reported to have passed over and stood in the middle of the road and waited. I intended to kill him openly that is I refused to waylay him by concealing myself behind a tree or in a clump of bushes. I stood there until late in the afternoon. That part of the road was an out of the way place and I stood and watched for the man’s appearance. It was a warm day. My legs grew weary by standing on my feet so long and become very thirsty for water but I would not desert my post until I thought I got my man, and sure enough as I supposed I saw him coming. He rode on toward me. I was ready for bloody work. Was he ready too? would he get the drop on me? He acted strange for he did not pretend to recognize me and made no motion as if to draw a weapon. I was not able to account for this. I had no other thought but that he was the man I had been waiting for. I stood and watched his approaching me and when he had rode up in close range of my shot gun I took quick aim at him and discharged the contents of both barrels of my gun into his body. The man threw his hands up and with a deep moaning cry of pain reeled out of the saddle and fell and lay dying at the roadside. The riderless horse ran a few yards from the road, stopped a and began to graze. I walked up to the prostrate and nearly lifeless form to exult over the death of my enemy but was horrified to find that I had killed the wrong man. He was a stranger to me and carried no arms but he greatly resembled the one I had sought to slay. There was no mistake. I had shot an innocent man. Oh that I could call back what I had done. What could I do? I was powerless to do anything toward saving his life for he was beyond all medical or surgical aid. I had committed a foul deed. My sin was deep dark and unbearable. I was a single man then and quite young and as I stood over my victim I felt that I could not remain there any longer and while the murdered man was gasping out his last moments here on earth I turned and fled from the bloody scene and as I ran through the woods I dashed my shot gun to the ground and did not halt until many miles lay between me and that bleeding body. From that day to the present time I have never visited that spot again. I do not know the man’s name nor where he lived but from the moment I fled from the presence of that dying man to this minute I see his form as he lay in the throes of death at the side of the road as plain as I did when I looked down on him as he lay in his death struggles. His bloody form remains before me continually. It matters not in which direction I cast my eyes this same vision is seen at all times. It matters not whether I am awake or asleep the form of the murdered man haunts me. I have traveled hundreds of miles away from Arkansas to rid myself of this awful apparition. But it is impossible for me to do so for wherever I go it remains before me and in the course of time I come back to Arkansas and here I will die. But no ways near the scene where I killed that man through mistake. Now I have told you all. You can tell it after I am dead." This was on Monday and on the following Sunday night grim death entered the house and called Williams away to the great beyond where the sorrows and troubles of this world cannot reach. His body was given burial in the grave yard opposite the Panther Bottom. His case was sad and pathetic. His remorse was so great that his mind had become deranged on account of killing the wrong man and imagination got the better of him. Hallucinations were so strong before his eyes that he believed that it was the real form of his victim.

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