- During his early childhood on his father's eastern New
York farm in the mid-1860s, Arthur Edward Stilwell was given to daydreaming
while he performed his daily chores. By the time he was thirteen, he had
acquired the ability to fall into altered states of conscious ness and
receive advice from six spirits who came to him as his ethereal teachers. Three
of the entities told young Arthur that they had been engineers during their
life experiences on Earth, two had been writers, and the sixth ghostly
guide had been a poet. If he would listen to them, they promised,
he would build a great empire and become rich far beyond a poor farm boy's
- Before Stilwell died on September 26, 1928, he had built
the Kansas City Southern Railway; the Kansas City Northern Connecting Railroad;
the Kansas City, Omaha, and Eastern; the Kansas City, Omaha, and Orient;
the Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad; and the Port Arthur Ship Canal. He
had been responsible for the laying of more than 2500 hundred miles of
double-track railroad and, including Port Arthur, Texas, founded
a total of forty towns.
- His vast empire employed more than 250,000 persons and
extended from the extensive rail road network to pecan farming, banking,
land development, and mining.
- In his spare time the millionaire wrote and published
thirty books, nineteen of which were novels, among them the well-known The
Light That Never Failed.
- On his fifteenth birthday Arthur was informed by his
advisers in the spirit circle that he would be married in four years' time
to a girl named Genevieve Wood.
- Arthur thought nineteen was pretty young to be married,
and he didn't even know any girl by such a name; but after the spirits
had finished giving him their nightly counsel and had faded back into the
night shadows, the teenager got out of bed and wrote the name of his destined
mate down in his diary.
- Four years later, just after his nineteenth birth day,
Arthur found himself dancing with a pretty girl at a church festival. Her
name was "Jenny" Wood. Within a few weeks Genevieve Wood and
Arthur Stilwell were married.
- Even the most faithful believer of Horatio Alger rags-to-riches
success stories or the most loyal fan of Frank Capra cinematic romanticism
would not be easily persuaded to place his or her bet on Arthur Stilwell
to become a millionaire. He was out of school, working
as a printer's apprentice at fifteen, he had acquired a wife while still
a teenager, and had recently gained employment as a commercial traveler
with an insurance company.
- But how many young men have the benefit of counsel from
a circle of spirit teachers?
- In the darkness they came to him. "Go
west and build a railroad," they repeated night after night.
- Young Stilwell protested. "I know nothing
of railroads and high finance."
- But still the ghostly voices beleaguered him. They
kept at him so that he had to begin sleep ing in a separate bedroom so
he would not dis turb his wife.
- In the early days of their marriage Arthur did not dare
discuss his invisible advisers with his bride for fear that she would think
he was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. He assured
Jenny that everything was fine between them. It was just his terrible allergies
that made him snore and sneeze like crazy all night long.
- As it turned out, the Stilwells slept in separate bedrooms
for the rest of their long married life.
- But as success followed success, Arthur was able to confide
in Jenny and explain the neces sity of his being able to confer with his
guides in complete solitude throughout the night.
- Yielding at last to the relentless demands of his spirit
teachers, the Stilwells moved in 1887 to Kansas City, where he managed
to find work with various brokerage firms.
- With the nightly aid of his spirit teachers, Ar thur
was able to master the finer points of finance, and as amazing as it seemed
to everyone--includ-ing himself--Stilwell built his first railroad, the
Kansas City Belt Line, before he was thirty-one.
- Stilwell found that he had no difficulty in borrowing
the money from the bankers, and upon completing the line a month ahead
of schedule, he discovered that virtually overnight he owned a railroad
- Later, when Stilwell recorded this period of his life,
he stated that such bold action required more nerve and self-confidence
than he could have mustered by himself. He freely acknowledged
that he could not have accomplished such financial feats without the advice
and aid of his spirit teachers.
- Often, when an engineering problem had him totally stumped,
Stilwell would slip into a trance and awaken the next morning to find that
the drawing board now bore the solution to his mental quagmire. The
notes and drawings, according to Stilwell, were never in his own hand writing
or drafting style.
- Perhaps the most dramatic prophecy from his circle of
spirit mentors occurred when they advised Arthur to build a railroad line
from Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Stilwell was immediately impressed with the wisdom of
such a move. A linkage of this sort would unite the midwestern
farmers with the ocean steamships. Such a project not only would
benefit the nation but could also prove very profitable.
- Stilwell set out at once to turn the wheels of his highly
efficient organization into motion. Galveston, Texas, seemed
to be the logical terminus of this new branch line, and he completely immersed
himself in the exciting new project.
- However, for the first time in his life, he be came so
absorbed in a new undertaking that he somehow managed to block out the
regular visitations of his spirit teachers.
- Later, he would admit that he made the very human mistake
of forgetting the spirit aid which was waiting and ready. Then, as
if the faithful spirits devised a rather extreme method of forcing Arthur
to slow down a bit and listen to them. Stilwell suddenly became ill.
- With the boss in his sickbed, work on the rail road came
to a halt, but Arthur was now in a position where he once again had to
listen to his circle of spiritual advisers.
- "You must not allow the new railroad line
to go to Galveston," Stilwell was told.
- Arthur frowned feebly from his sickbed. Where
else could he possibly locate the terminus?
- "That should be no problem for a man of your considerable
wealth," he was told. "Build a new city. Name
it Port Arthur."
- Arthur later recalled that he snorted derisively and
set himself to coughing. "Port Arthur, Texas,"
he said. "People will not only say that I am vain--they will say that
I am mad."
- The spirit teachers were firm in their advice to steer
the terminus away from Galveston: Sternly they told him that
nothing his detractors could say would equal the disaster which would take
place in Galveston if he allowed his railroad to establish its terminus
in that city. Not only would his life's work be ruined, but thousands of
lives would be lost.
- Stilwell stirred uneasily in the bed where the "conference"
was being held, and he asked his spirit teachers exactly what they meant
by uttering such ominous words.
- "Look there on your bedroom wall," he was directed,
"and you will see for yourself."
- Stilwell watched in amazement as a misty picture of the
city of Galveston began to form on the bedroom wall--swirling
and wavering until it was at last focused with the clarity of a stere opticon
slide. This most miraculous living photograph depicted people
walking on the streets, going about their daily business.
- The focus suddenly shifted to the docks of the seaport. Stevedores
hustled up gangplanks with cargo; cranes dropped tons of wheat into open
- Then the brightness of the sky over the ocean became
dark and troubled. From far out to sea a powerful hurricane
began to work its way toward land, and as it made its way inexorably in
the direction of Galveston, it churned the waters so that a powerful
tidal wave arose from the depths of the ocean with the fury of a brutal,
hulking beast of prey.
- The monstrous wave gained momentum as it rolled faster
and faster toward the shore and the seaport. It flung itself
on the city of Galveston with the full fury of nature's power
gone berserk. The Texas city was crushed, and large
numbers of its populace were drowned.
- When at last the horrible vision faded from the bedroom
wall, Arthur Stilwell, damp with perspiration and totally convinced by
the demonstration that his spirit teachers had presented, lay weakly back
against the pillows.
- He would build Port Arthur.
- Stilwell returned from his sickbed completely rejuvenated. His
first official action was to order the change in the course of his new
railroad line. The boundaries of the city that would become Port
Arthur were staked out in a vacant cow pasture. The precise
location of the new municipality had been marked on a map by his spirit
- True to Stilwell's own prediction, his critics shouted
that he had gone insane when the new plans were announced.
- The business associations and citizens' groups from Galveston violently
protested the railroad baron's decision. They had been spared
the terrible vision of the tidal wave that would crush the city. The
only vision that concerned them was the one that showed them losing thousands
of dollars in revenue to a city that had not yet been built.
- But Arthur Stilwell, with the constant encour agement
of his spiritual advisers, held his ground and continued to finance both
the completion of the new railroad line and the construction of Port
- In August 1900, an official ceremony christened Port
Arthur the terminus for the Kansas City Southern Railroad. What
had once been a useless swamp had been transformed into a canal that equaled
the width and depth of the Suez. What had once been a cow
pasture was now a proud new seaport where steamships could dock while awaiting
trainloads of midwestern corn and wheat.
- Only four days after the ceremonies which signaled the
twin births of a railroad line and a seaport had been concluded, a powerfully
destructive hurricane and tidal wave roared over the Gulf Coast,
nearly demolishing the city of Galveston and killing more than
6,000 of its citizens. The awful disaster had occurred just
as it had been revealed years before to Arthur Stilwell by his spirit teachers. The
massive tidal wave that smashed into Galveston was responsible
for one of the greatest catastrophes in United States history,
but by the time it reached Port Arthur across Sabine Lake,
it was as mild as a ripple in a pond.
- Once again the spirit circle had provided Stilwell with
impressive proof of its existence and its unerring accuracy.
- Because Stilwell had heeded the advice of his spirit
teachers, Port Arthur was able to serve as a relief center for
the stricken populace of its neighbor city. If he had followed
his original plan and built his railroad terminal in Galveston, his
empire would have been destroyed. Because he had listened to
the counsel of his ethereal advisers, his personal fortune increased many
- Those who had once mocked him as a fool for erecting
a city in the middle of a swampy cow pasture when an established seaport
stood nearby eagerly awaiting the commerce of his railroad line were now
hailing him as a genius, a visionary, and the luckiest man in the world.
- Stilwell was always quick to point out that he had more
than luck on his side.
- As Arthur Stilwell became internationally known as one
of North America's greatest empire builders, more and more people
began to question him about his spirit teachers. Interestingly,
he was never one to theorize about his advisors. He felt no
compulsion to attempt to explain how it was that he had the ability to
interact with the spirit world. Stilwell never made a single
effort to answer the whys and the hows of the skeptical.
- In a very straightforward manner Stilwell stated that
he was but an instrument for his spirit teachers, and they had been responsible
for every financial investment and decision that he had ever made.
- His case was not all that unusual, he often pointed out
to those who seemed to meet his claims with incredulity. Socrates,
greatest of the Greek phi losophers, used to give credit to his spirit
guardian. Joan of Arc changed history by listening to her spirit
- To those argumentative types who persisted in their skepticism,
the multimillionaire smiply stated that in his opinion the vast empire
that he had built with the guidance of his spirit teachers of fered the
best kind of evidence of their existence.
- Stilwell did, however, disclose to sincerely in terested
parties how he was able to contact the members of the spirit circle:
- He would lie down in bed alone in a dark room. He
would next focus his mind on his immediate problem and allow himself to
drift off into a sort of half sleep. He offered no resistance
to any outside influence. Even though he was nearly unconscious,
every plan, every diagram, chart, or map which was revealed to him during
those moments was indelibly etched in his memory.
- Stilwell went on to explain that his spirit tutors did
not express themselves in a linear time sense. Past, present,
and future were all one to them. They seemed to have access to all
knowl edge which issued from the Absolute, and they dictated their suggestions
to him with utmost authority.
- The vigorous millionaire was not an advocate of Spiritualism. In
fact, shortly before his death Stilwell said that he had attended only
one seance in his entire life and had been "bored to tears by it."
- Neither did Stilwell have any association with any psychic
research organizations or publicly endorse any of their theories. To
Stilwell, the relationship that he shared with his spirit teachers was
a highly personal one, and other than offer sincere testimony of the essential
role that they had played in his life, he never identified them beyond
stating that the spirit circle was made up of three engineers, a poet,
and two writers. His interaction with his companions from the
world of the supernatural was as real and as vital to him as was his association
with his earthly circle of friends, which included the likes of Henry Ford,
George Westinghouse, and Charles Schwab.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes
and an indefatigable investigator of psychic phenomena, once said that
Arthur Stilwell "had greater and more important psychic experiences
than any man of his generation."
- Arthur Stilwell lived to be sixty-nine and entertained
himself in his twilight years by writing novels, articles, and motion-picture
scenarios on an eight-hour-a-day schedule. According to the
ambitious financier, this still left him plenty of time to manage his sprawling
railroad empire and his numerous commercial interests.
- Arthur Edward Stilwell died clutching his wife's hand,
confidently telling Jenny that he himself would soon be a member in good
standing in the spirit circle.