The Ghosts of New Pingjum

Ken Jones

Staff member
Most are probably not interested but I thought I would post another story, a ghost story, that I wrote many years ago — it even includes some fish and history. But perhaps too long for some.

The Ghosts of New Pingjum


I saw a man with his head bowed low.
His heart had no place to go.
I looked and I thought to myself with a sigh:
There but for you go I.
I saw a man walking by the sea,
Alone with the tide was he.
I looked and I thought as I watched him go by:
There but for you go I.
Lonely men around me, trying not to cry,
Till the day you found me, there among them was I.
I saw a man who had never known a love that was all his own.
I thought as I thanked all the stars in the sky:
There but for you, go I.​

“Tommy,” Brigadoon, Lerner & Loewe​

Peter awoke with a start and threw off the single, sweat-imbued sheet that covered his lanky body. The small clock on the motel’s bedside table read 3:20, which meant he had been asleep exactly twenty-five minutes. A short time, but it was the first and only sleep he had enjoyed during that long night. Nevertheless, the images that had flashed through his abbreviated sleep remained, the images of a huge wave following Peter as he had sprinted inland trying to outdistance its claw-like grip. He had stumbled and the wave was on him, smashing him down under its overwhelming force, flattening him against the ground while he groped for something, anything, to grab hold of. Then the wave retreated and it was like a watery twister sucking everything into its maw. He was being sucked out to sea and there was nothing he could do. That’s when he awoke.

Peter was still wide awake at 4 A.M. and hoping he could nap for just a few minutes but the task he would face later that day seemed monumental. Rare indeed is the chance to meet a ghost, or possibly even a village of ghosts, if ghosts were even the proper term. The culmination of a decade-long investigation was to take place in a few hours and though he would need all his strength, and a wide-awake intellect, the questions bombarding his brain stifled his return into the arms of Morpheus.

The previous afternoon Peter had driven north from Los Angeles and enjoyed the coastal scenes even if every visit to the region seemed more and more crowded with traffic than the time before. Hills were starting to turn green with the first arrival of rain—after seven months of uninterrupted California sunshine—dimpled clouds presented a postcard-like view of the sky, and the dark blue sea gave a reassuring contrast to the overall motif. Even the air felt clean. He had entered the hidden spot on his GPS unit and was guided to a parking spot by a gentle voice emanating from his dash, a hidden vixen buried under the leather and metal of his rental car that he named Eve. He moved the car to a slightly more private spot off the highway; what Eve didn’t know wouldn‘t hurt her. Peter exited the car armed only with his camera and the simple map that hardly revealed the effort that had taken place to identify this exact spot.

Peter began the descent that would present a background for the next days hoped for events. At worst he would have a pleasant walk near the seashore. Peter quickly spied the fence that should give a cleaner boundary to his search and his pace quickened; soon he was at the fence. Peter learned against a gnarled old fence post and wondered if this could indeed be the place. The shoreline seemed as pristine as Mother Nature had intended with its gently sloping beach and sporadic tufts of beach grass and wild flowers. The water itself was fairly calm with minimal waves from the southwest and though the afternoon sea wind was starting to pick up it had not impacted the sea as yet. In the distance he could see a flock of pelicans attacking a school of fish while closer by there seemed to be thousands of shearwaters resting on the glassy surface of the sea just out from the shore. Other than the fence that stretched off in the distance parallel to the sea there was little to show that mankind had even visited this shore. But he knew better.

Unconsciously his thoughts turned to fishing, his favorite sport. If he were fishing he would cast right there where the waves indicated there was a depression. That spot was sure to offer up some food—and fish would be in that area. But his thoughts quickly turned, he was here on a much more important mission even if the few friends who knew about his quest felt he was foolhardy. Tomorrow he would either unravel an astounding mystery or be labeled one more foolish adventurer.

But, he had invested thousands of hours in this search and was entitled to an answer even if it proved him wrong. He had to know, and tomorrow he would know if the legend was true. He started the long walk back to his car and the short drive to the motel where, he was sure, he would have a hard time sleeping that night. He was right.


The morning presented a beautiful spectacle—what ancient Homer would have called the rhododaktulos—the rosy-fingered dawn. Awake most of the night, Peter had finally surrendered up his sleep, showered and headed over to the nearby restaurant. There an attractive young hostess welcomed him into the Danish-style coffee shop, a tribute to the Danes who had settled the valley. Danes who, as far as Peter was concerned, were only the second European group to settle in the area. Still restless, hungry, but unable to eat, he sipped a quick glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. Soon after he was speeding down the highway to the marker that led to the fields and the long path ending by the shore. By a quirk of nature this stretch of beach was invisible to the thousands of cars that passed it each day. That was an important fact to the story because its relative isolation gave possibility to a legend and story that only one person, Peter, had ever managed to decipher.

In the mid-1870s, long before railroads had made coastal travel possible—along with the growth of seaside towns—a small group of German and Dutch settlers, most from the Dutch providences of Freisland and Gronigen, had founded a small town in this area. Members of a strict, orthodox faith, they wanted the freedom that America seemed to offer as well as the unbridled opportunity that seemed to await those willing to work hard in this still unsettled land. Although one group of friends had settled in the Midwest, in Indiana, and another had traveled west to what would become North Dakota, this group was lured by the tales of the “Golden State”— California.

Land was cheap and soon they settled in a small seaside village that they named New Pingjum. Coastal schooners stopped weekly at the small wharf that had been one of the earliest projects of the founders, delivered the mail, brought whatever items were ordered for the town, and picked up products to be delivered elsewhere. Travel too was available on the schooners, as well as on land by horse or stagecoach, but few people ventured away from the small town. People who had already traveled over an ocean and a continent to reach their “promised land” were content to stay home and enjoy their life.

The sect cared neither for wealth nor fame but only for earthly security and the right to live their lives in peace; they felt their true reward would come later, in the Heavenly Kingdom. Strong families with high moral character, crime was unknown and all seemed to live in peace. A small school was established that ranked second only in importance to the church, and a small store of sorts was run communally by the village wives on a rotating schedule. Their town though small, for there were only twenty-seven families at start, would be considered a model community and great addition to any area.

Quickly they discovered that the coastal waters yielded an unbelievable bounty of fish and many could be caught right from their town wharf itself. In addition, the farmlands proved fertile and productive and quickly they were able to harvest crops that could be sent north to San Francisco on the schooners in exchange for money and the goods the town needed to survive.
The one thing unreckoned with though was the power of the sea. In 1883 an earthquake in a deep-sea canyon far off the Sumatran coast created a tidal wave that would sweep across the ocean for several thousand miles. By luck alone, the direction of the waves spared most of the beachfront towns in California. New Pingjum was not as lucky.

On November 9, at 3:47 A.M., a time when most people were fast asleep in their beds, the tidal wave hit the shore and surged over the town. Every home was destroyed by the 60-foot-high wave and every member of the tiny village was killed. Most amazing was that the receding wave seemed to sweep clean the entire area. Nothing remained to indicate that a town had ever existed or that men and women had created families, prayed, and hoped for the best that life could offer; it was in truth a tabula rasa. If Satan had ever desired revenge against those opposing his realm, the complete obliteration of New Pingjum would have made him proud.

Newspapers of the day reported that something had happened to the town, but reports were only speculation. When the schooner arrived for its regular weekly visit the wharf was gone and no trace of the town could be seen. Lighters were sent in from the ship but their returning reports were sparse—no remains to be found. A tidal wave was the natural suspect and so was reported but little inquiry was made and with its disappearance the visits by schooner stopped. Nothing more was reported until many years later when a passing ship thought it spotted a wharf and a town while passing through nearby waters. Closer inspection on a subsequent trip showed nothing in the area so the sighting was written off. Three more times over the years sightings of a wharf and town were reported but since each was from a different ship, and the reports were decades apart; little reference—or connection—was made.

There the matter remained until the invention of computers and an inquiring young man named Peter Nannenga. Peter was a historian by degree although his specialty was ekistics, the science of human settlement, and his training demanded almost as much study in architecture as in history itself. Son of an avid genealogist, he too was absorbed with family history and could only be torn away from these subjects by his third passion—fishing.

Rare indeed were the times when all three subjects intertwined on one project but such was the case with New Pingjum and that was the major reason why it had become not a mere historical inquiry but an obsession with Peter. His goal was to decipher the mystery surrounding the town.

Initially, it was a simple historical study looking at the impact that the early-day- wharves had on the development of coastal towns and regions. The large wharves and piers were easy to trace but a number of smaller wharves had been built in small, out-of-the-way places and many of these had existed and contributed to growth for only a few, short years. Wharves such as those at Amesport, Point Sal, Point Arguello and Lompoc were examples of such wharves. Generally their brief lives were attributable to the winter storms that can savage the California coast, especially during the El Niño years.

The wharf at New Pingjum was in many ways a similar story but it presented a larger puzzle. Initial checks at the county courthouse yielded little information about the wharf, or the town, and of course no town records were available. However, Peter had seen the wharf listed on the schedule of the fleet of coastal schooners and set out to find out what had happened. Tracing back the records of the schooners he was able to find the story of the last visit to the site and the fact that nothing had seemed to remain. Follow-up searches of the old newspapers using the newly found date revealed several stories and considerable speculation. There was a lack of conclusive proof as to the cause of the calamity or why “everything” was gone. Still, there was little doubt that the town had ceased to exist in the early weeks of November 1883.

There the story probably would have stopped except that Peter was both an exceptionally thorough investigator and a dogged individual who refused to give up once he detected even the merest hint of a mystery. He decided to see what else he could find from the various logbooks of the coastal schooners. His search was rewarded with numerous stories and incidents that he could use in his history but most startling, and intriguing, were a manifest containing a passenger list, and four sightings that had been reported of the wharf and town—years after the initial disappearance of New Pingjum.

The passenger list was the first item that piqued the interest of Peter. It listed the family names of the people that founded the town of New Pingjum. Astounding was the fact that the names were so familiar. The list could have been copied from the family names found at the Holland Cemetery in his hometown in Indiana, names he had also seen on gravestones at Twyzell in the Netherlands—Nannenga, Belstra, DeKapp, DeKoon, Hulshoff, Sipkema. Were these people his relatives? Excitedly he knew they must be related but what had happened to them? He must find out!

Luckily times and technology had changed. At the time of the alleged sightings, two by passenger ships and two by steamers, little connection had been made as to what they had seen. However, the records had been entered into a university database at Santa Barbara and Peter was quick to notice the dates of the sightings and their similarities. Each of the recorded observances had taken place on November 9, but over a number of different years—1893, 1903, 1933 and 1953. Peter knew that November 9 was the approximate date of the town’s destruction and that fact, as much as anything made him question what had happened (or what was happening?). Although a fan of science fiction and an avid follower of both Twilight Zone and X-Files, Peter was grounded in scientific study. He readily accepted the fact that something strange was taking place; he just didn’t know how to explain it.

Then, during a history conference in Munich, Germany, he heard the sad and disturbing story of Germelshausen, a tiny Alpine village once found in an isolated valley along the Bavarian border with Austria. In the mid-1600s, during a winter of exceptional and repeated storms, the village had disappeared. It was natural to assume that an avalanche had buried the town and a search was begun once the storms abated. But no trace of the village was found—no homes, no school, and no town hall, not even the small but beautiful church that was the pride of the local craftsmen. Nothing was found then—or later. It was as though some evil force had simply erased the town and wanted no memory to remain.

However, the story of Germelshausen was far from over. Several times over the intervening centuries reports were made of sightings of the lost town. All were made during the winter anniversaries of the loss and all were lacking in detail but made by reputable people stating that they had seen a small village in the area. The sightings also contained an odd anomaly; they were always roughly a decade or two apart, it was as though the town only appeared certain years.

Over time the story became a legend and with time the village became the “haunted” city of Germelshausen. Although occasionally a group would volunteer to search out the city, local authorities strictly forbid the attempt. At first there was the sense of danger since the anniversary typically paralleled the worst weather of the winter. In time though the authorities discovered the legend was good for tourism to the area and they feared a fuller revelation might harm the legend. A law was finally passed forbidding travel into the area.

No one could explain the legend but Peter was intrigued by the unusual coincidence in which the town had been seen only at ten-year anniversary dates. What did it mean and was it possible that the story of Germelshausen somehow paralleled that of New Pingjum in California?

His pertinacious addiction to answer that question came to dominate his life and when he was not teaching he continued to research information on the town—although often with little success. The main facts were known but details were hard to find—although not impossible. He was finally able to pinpoint, or so he hoped, where exactly the town had existed. The land, now held in private hands, had long been used for grazing and he had little trouble receiving permission to study the site (though he made sure to never mention the true question that gave impetus to his search).

Peter did not know what he would find but on the morning of November 9, 2007, and the rosy-fingered dawn, he began the walk that would take him through the fields and down to the shore. If his assumptions (and hope) were right, he would find a wharf and a small town, if wrong he would find the undisturbed waters and shoreline that he had seen the afternoon before. But if a town and people did appear what would be their appearance? Would they have an ethereal nature, one that lacked substance, or would they appear more normal? Would his camera be able to record the scene? And most import, would he in some way be able to interact with the denizens of a dream come true?

Antje (Anna) was the first to spot the young man who walked down the path from outside the town. Antje’s job that morning was to take the cows back to the field after their morning milking. She did not expect to see another person, especially one dressed in such unusual clothing. Luckily for Peter, Antje spoke English and as he approached she broached a greeting.

“Welcome stranger, are you looking for a particular family?” Peter was at a loss for words. In front of him stood a pretty young girl in Nineteenth Century dress. “Is this New Pingjum?” “Yes, but how did you get here, I don’t see a horse, nor a carriage?” “That’s a long story but could I enter your town?” “Of course, my name is Antje and I will take you to my father, he is the elder for our village.” Antje offered her hand in friendship while Peter struggled to remain calm; Antje seemed as real as any person he had ever met. Could she really be a ghost?

As Peter followed her into the town he noticed the hand-cut lumber and well-constructed homes. European in design, they had been given a new-world touch that made them distinctive and what would be called touristy-cute in the Twentieth Century. But what century was he in? He had left his modern car out near the highway yet here, only a mile or so distant, set a Nineteenth-Century-village complete with Nineteenth-Century-people. Logically this town could not exist but unless he had gone certifiably mad, here it set

Peter noticed they were headed down to a wharf that extended out several hundred feet into the ocean waters. A group of people were stacking crates of vegetables near the end of the wharf while another group, mostly youngsters, were fishing off the side of the wharf.

As Peter traversed the short street leading to the wharf, people turned and stared and, quite honestly, Peter would have done the same. All were dressed in frontier garb—or in older European fashion—while Peter presented what would be called informal attire in the 1990s. A couple of men began to talk to Peter but Antje waved them off and said they were headed out to see her father. Life seemed normal even if in an antique sort of way.

Antje took Peter out to the end of the wharf before stopping in front of a man who was the obvious leader of the group. All conversation had ceased upon Peter’s approach, and even the kid’s who were fishing were watching to see what would happen. “Papa, papa, a stranger has come to our town!” The older man was tall, strongly built and keeping tab of the produce scheduled for shipment the next day. But he too stopped his work. He looked at Peter for a few seconds and finally extended his hand in greeting. “Welcome to our small village. My name is Andrew Belstra and I am the elder here, how can I help you?” He spoke English but with a very strong Dutch or German accent, Peter couldn’t tell. Peter really didn’t know where to start. How do you ask if your village is real? How do you ask people that should have died over a hundred years ago what they are doing in this location. Everything looked so real but it was impossible.

Peter did not know how to proceed other than to honestly reveal why he was visiting the spot and his interest in the town’s history. But how do you ask someone if they died in a tidal wave? And, did they know? “Mr. Belstra, the reason I am here is because I am a historian, and a possible relative, and I am researching your town. Could we talk somewhere a little more in private?” Belstra gave a somewhat strange look at Peter then said, “follow me.” They headed back to the center of town and soon were at one of the nicest houses.

They entered a simple but clean and well constructed room, one utilitarian in nature, containing sparse furniture but probably all the things needed for daily life; Peter thought that the room reflected the mind set and religion of these people. Antje had followed Peter and her father home and soon brought a pitcher filled with cool water. Her father asked her if she would leave them alone and though obviously disappointed she agreed and left the house.

Belstra finally spoke, “tell me what you know?” Peter answered the best he could telling the story of New Pingjum as revealed by his research. The story of a settlement, of a small town, a terrible tidal wave, the disappearance of the town, and of a number of infrequent sightings over the years. He even mentioned Germelshausen and its apparent similarities. Throughout the discussion Belstra sat quietly with his hands folded and said not a word. When Peter was finished Belstra rose and silently looked out the window toward the wharf.

Finally Belstra turned and asked in a simple manner, “what do you intend to do with the information that you learn?” Peter had always approached the issue from the eyes of a historian who would, of course, report on his findings, but the tears in Belstra’s eyes gave Peter pause to wonder if his academic approach was correct. He answered, “I am not sure.”

Belstra motioned Peter to join him for a walk around the village and as they walked he told the story—as best he himself knew it. The people in the town had come from the northwest part of Germany and the northern part of the Netherlands—Freisland and Groningen, areas noted for their religious fervor. Unhappy, and persecuted by the local church officials, they had decided to sail to America for a new life. Arriving in New York they had experienced the usual taunts given new refugees but had been enraptured by a settler who had returned to New York to bring the rest of his family to California. If America was the land of opportunity, California was the land of greatest opportunity. Practically free land, a wonderful climate, rich soil, and the ability to form a new town and worship as they pleased. It seemed almost too good but proved true even if it demanded hard work and everyone, including women and children, had to pitch in during the early years of the town.

Houses were built, fields were tilled, English was learned, and a community based on shared values took shape. Most amazing was the rich bounty from the sea. Belstra talked of the boatloads of fish but was nearly as effusive in his remarks when concerning the wharf. That small wharf seemed to yield up fish even when the boats were limited and everyone, girls included, learned at an early date how to catch, clean and preserve the fish. The names used by Belstra were strange but it was obvious that he was describing a cornucopia of species—both northern and southern California varieties—being caught from the wharf. Belstra said it was the fish that provided food until crops could be cultivated and it was salted fish that began to bring in the money from the schooners that visited the wharf. Just as Jesus and Peter were fishermen, so too the people of New Pingjum became fishermen—and prospered.

By this point Belstra and Peter were nearly at the wharf so they walked out to where a group of boys were fishing with long cane poles. On the surface of the pier were several huge white seabass, two varieties of salmon, a black seabass that weighed at least ninety pounds, and an impressive catch of large croakers, halibut and bass. Jack could barely believe such fish could be caught from the small pier by such simple tackle. But Belstra assured Peter that this was just an average day’s catch. They had caught black sea bass that weighed over two hundred pounds and halibut as big as barn doors. Peter could barely disguise his envy.

The land proved to be rich once the settlers learned how to obtain water and the bounty from the sea was amazing. The town had prospered but sometimes prosperity brings trouble. A recent émigré from Germany, one who was not of their sect, but who had heard of their town, had brought new political ideas and tried to stir up the younger members to change the way the town was run. But, much to his chagrin, the people of the town were happy with their lives and refused to listen to his admonishments. When he persisted with his views the town finally decided to call a meeting and though he spoke his piece he was banished from the town. Bitter in the extreme, he swore a curse on the town. Few paid the curse any mind with the exception of a few of the older women who had come from an area that believed in such things.

Belstra looked at Peter and said “I have long suspected that something was wrong with our town and even speculated about its destruction. I wasn’t sure how it happened, but deep down I knew. I was awake on the night you mention for a cow was giving birth. I heard a terrific roar toward the front of the barn, started to turn, and then something unbelievably powerful slammed me flat against the ground where I blacked out. When I awoke it was morning, I was in bed, and the town seemed normal. But how, I asked myself, had I gotten from the barn back to bed? I asked my daughter but she just laughed and said I must be dreaming. But strange as you may find our town, its very sameness is what gave me alarm.”

Peter started to talk but Belstra waved him off. “You see, day after day things just seem to be the same. People do not seem to age nor do the seasons seem the same. It’s as though we have slowed and with the slowness no one notices the change. And how do you tell the people? Look outside, our town looks normal and our people look the same as always. If I were to tell the people that we are somehow mere apparitions, spectral in nature rather than human beings in God’s given bodies, they would laugh and quickly send me to bed for rest. They would also probably elect a new elder.”

Admission on Belstra’s part meant that the town was indeed a ghost town—of some type. Yet Belstra was right, these ghosts looked and sounded as real as anyone he had ever seen. But were they always here or did they just “appear” on certain dates? Belsta couldn’t answer the question but said there was no interruption to their life. The main problem seemed to be the lack of change; sooner or later the other town members would have to notice. Then what would happen to the town? And his daughter? What would happen to his daughter if she knew she would never have a family? What would happen to the youngsters when they failed to grow into adulthood?

Belstra sighed, bowed his head, and short sobs were heard. Then a large handkerchief was produced, the somewhat bulbous nose was swabbed, and Belstra stood up. “Enough of this, I am the leader of the village and must stay strong.” He walked outside with Peter following in his steps. “You know Peter, in many ways we in our little town have a small Heaven on Earth. We are close knit, we love one another, and the Sea and land provide whatever we need. We are able to worship our God and now show little change from day to day (even if the time period was unknown). Most people would treasure such an existence! The problem though is that while we may have a Heaven of sorts here in New Pingjum, we may no longer be able to reach the real Heaven.”

Peter wondered if the German’s curse had led to the town’s predicament but something like that could never be answered. Peter decided he would stay during the day and learn as much about the town as possible before leaving. He asked Belstra if his visit would upset the people of the town and Belstra laughed, “Peter you are the only new thing we have seen for years, maybe decades, you’ll be welcomed most heartedly. And for your visit I will lend you the hand of my Antje. She is my only daughter and my pride and joy. She is pretty but more important she has a beautiful and nurturing heart to go with her wonderful mind. It has always been a question of which man would be good enough for her and for one day you will see what I mean.”

With that Belstra called in Antje and instructed her to show Peter the town and teach him as much about its people and their history as he could learn in one day. Antje of course was delighted to show around the handsome new visitor and took him from one end of the town to the other all the while discussing the life as she remembered it in the Netherlands as well as life in New Pingjum. They discussed the families that had journeyed from the Netherlands and it was quickly apparent that these people were related to his ancestors, and though he himself was not directly related to Antje, there were people in his home town who undoubtedly were

Finally, because Peter seemed tired she asked him if he would like to visit the wharf, watch the fishermen and maybe catch a fish? “Of course,” replied Peter, so they headed down to the wharf where some young men and women were pulling up fish.

Peter and Antje set on the edge of the wharf and Peter was amazed at the number of fish being caught. He wanted to tell Antje of his skill in angling, his beautiful rods and reels, and his passion for angling but she would not understand. Here a mere cane pole yielded up superlative fish almost by the minute and it seemed oh so easy. Finally he asked if he could try the fishing and she grabbed both of them poles and some bait. Soon the hooks were in the water and soon after Peter pulled in a good sized bass. Antje followed with a flounder. For an hour they caught fish, laughed, and enjoyed themselves. What was most amazing was that Peter seemed to put aside the very reason for his visit and was engrossed in a flirtatious exchange completely and utterly out of character for him. It was as though he himself was the victim of a dream and he totally enjoyed the attention.

Finally Antje announced that it was time for her to begin preparing the dinner meal. Would he like to watch? Would he be staying for dinner? Peter had to think for a moment but finally answered that he could probably stay. Still, in his mind, he knew that he would need to be headed back to he car before it got too late; there were no lights along the path leading back to the highway.

Peter helped Antje cut the vegetables and meat while Belstra laughed and said Peter was doing women’s work. But they talked and enjoyed themselves all through the preparation and dinner. Peter knew he would truly miss these newfound friends and wondered what would happen to them the next day. Peter would be safely back at the university while this town would once again seem non-existent. Would their new day be the same, but not visible to the regular world, or would they be suspended in time until a decade had come and gone? Peter had accepted the fact that somehow these people were ghosts but he had a hard time accepting how quickly they had become his friends, if not a new family for him. And though he yearned to tell the townspeople of his connections with them, he knew they would not understand.

Finally, as the sun started to set into the sea, he said he had to go. Antje was visibly sad, in fact tearful, but Belstra simply shook Peter’s hand and walked him to the edge of the village. “Peter I still do not know how to explain what is happening to our village but I am thankful you visited. Perhaps I can figure out a way to explain this to my friends so that they are not scared. We will continue to pray and perhaps the Good Lord will hear our prayers and take us up into his majestic realm. But until then we will work hard and lead a religious life. So goodbye my new friend and tell New Pingjum’s story as best you can. Still I think it will be as hard for your people to believe you as it will be for my friends to believe me.”

Peter started up the hill with mixed emotions. He had solved the riddle of New Pingjum, at least in part, but who would believe his ghost story? And while he longed to get home he reflected on the simple and good life these people led. Life devoid of crime and the hustle and bustle that more and more defined daily life.

And though he hated to admit it, he had never met anyone quite like Antje; she would make someone the perfect wife. His thoughts seemed crazy given that he had only known Antje for one day but though Peter had dated many girls they seemed to pale in comparison to this Antje. There was a spark and goodness about her that simply overwhelmed him. If only she could return with him to his life. All of these thoughts crossed Peter’s mind as he trekked up the hill.

Unbeknownst to Peter his time to return to his normal existence had passed. By making the decision to visit the city of the dead he had unknowingly agreed to become a member of that group. He would not find a highway or rental car at the end of the trail; only more trail and empty land. And though he would cry out and plea for help he would eventually return to New Pingjun, his friends the Belstras—and Antje. He would, shortly thereafter, settle into an existence that most people would admire. His life would include a marriage to Antje and her love would salve any regret that might occasionally make an appearance.

Only Peter would know and understand the difference between that simpler nineteenth century life and the one he had enjoyed a hundred years later. It would be a tradeoff that not everyone could handle but Peter’s love of Antje, his love of history, and even his love of fishing brought him a peace of mind that he had never experienced before.

As for his friends and colleagues, his rental car was found as well as his notes. Police were baffled but finally judged his disappearance an accidental death. They assumed he had been lost to the sea. None were ready to admit that Peter had somehow entered a hundred-year-old village and failed to come back, especially a ghost village that reappears only once a decade and then for a single day.
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