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The Farm Boy Who Built An
Empire By Listening To
His Spirit Teachers

By Brad Steiger
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 wildest dreams.
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 worth millions.
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 holds.
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 teachers.
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 Arthur.
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 times over.
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 teachers.
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.

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