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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mill Rock Ford

We spent a long weekend in Phil's hometown and stayed in a neighboring town's bed and breakfast, The Bluebird. (This was our room) We loved the proprietors and we loved the property. Our stay was beautiful and memorable. (More about that later this week)

We arrived in Gerald, MO, population around 1,500, at dusk and turned onto Highway H in search of the Bourbeuse (Bur-bus) River. That would be our marker. Two miles past the bridge, turn left onto Mill Rock Road.

We didn't find the B&B when we turned on Mill Rock Road. We found a sign that said "Bourbeuse River Public Access 2.4 miles" so we followed the dirt road. Sunlight faded, Phil was tired, and there was still no obvious sign marking the driveway of the B&B.

We came to the end of the road, so to speak. The river access, or the Mill Rock Ford. A ford is a crossing. In Missouri, fords are normally concrete pads that can be crossed in a vehicle when the river is low.

You can see that the water's only ankle-high on Zane, just a few inches deep, so crossing in a car would really be like going through a puddle. Missouri Fords are actually neat places, you can swim, fish, canoe, and wash your car.

We approached the ford (as you see in the first picture) and I didn't feel anything strange. However, when we got down a little farther, I saw this; my breath caught in my throat and my heart pounded with panic.

These pictures were taken two days later, just before we headed home. I didn't tell Phil that night that I was beside myself with fear. I thought he'd make fun of me, so I just sat there quiet and wanting to hurl as the evil of this place churned my stomach.

When we went back to take the pictures, I had the camera. Zane wanted his water shoes so he and Phil went back to the car to get them. I started walking to the left of the picture on the gravel bank. Returning in the daylight did nothing to calm that heavy feeling in my stomach. Once again, I found myself breathing hard, my pulse quickened and I was terrified.

What I found nearly did me in. I swear, finding a dead body wouldn't have had the effect on me that this did. As I said, I walked to the left of the ford intending to get a different angle on the picture of the scary rock formation--this angle:

See the rather large, flat rock in the bottom left of the photo? My chest is tight as I upload these photos and tell this story. Here's what I found on the rock:

(Take note of that yellow piece of paper, I'll come back to that)
I walked around the bank a bit more and found a still-smoldering fire.

As I was taking a picture of the fire, Phil was coming back from the car with Zane and the water shoes. He was yelling at me, with a slight panic in his voice, he couldn't see me. I yelled and all but ran back to him. We let Zane play in the water for maybe five minutes and we got out of there with an unspoken dread.

Many hours and miles from Mill Rock Ford, I couldn't stand it any longer. I asked Phil if anything had scared him. He said, "Well, I didn't tell you, but I was scared when I couldn't see you. I saw a lean-to built back in the woods and it gave my the creeps, so when I didn't see where you were, I got a little freaked out."

So I told him how I had been terrified the minute we drove up to the ford and even more so after taking the pictures in the daylight.

I'm still freaked out. That yellow piece of paper was a school supply list. I zoomed in on it, Googled the town it was from and the distance from the town (New Haven) to Mill Rock Ford is about 25 miles.

Sometimes my imagination gets away from me, I know, but this time, whatever evil I felt was so absolutely real, I cannot get over the feeling. The trinkets on the rock and the smoldering fire may fuel my imagination and may just be ironic little coincidences, but the feeling of evil was not coincidental. And so my mind imagines...


RedOakMo said...


I found your account of Mill Rock Access to be interesting. We own property a few miles from there, and have spent many a relaxing afternoon or evening along the river at that Ford. During the summer, on most weekend days & nights, you'll find all kinds of folks enjoying that spot: fishing, swimming, hunting for crawdads, building a campfire, etc. It's actually a pretty serene and enjoyable spot.

The rock formation you noted does look precarious, as if it's not supported by much. However, I've never thought of it as sinister looking. There's actually a path on the backside up to the top, and you can walk around the front to the shelter cave on the right where many folks have signed & written all kinds of stuff. If anything, it's a fairly historical spot. So, I guess I'm sort of puzzled as to what you found to be so frightening about it all. Can you elaborate?

-- the p0ssum

~michelle pendergrass said...

Wow, I'm rather surprised, after all this time, someone has commented!

So many things were downright uncomfortable about this place. I remember it like it was yesterday and I'm still get that heavy feeling in my chest thinking about it.

I never mentioned the cave but that was one of the extra creepy points of being there, though I didn't know it was there until daylight.

Other things? The trinkets
and the embers still warm on the fire.

My husband seeing the lean-to
and being totally creeped out.

I guess it all seems like randomness and big imagination, but really, what bothered me the most was the feeling I got when I was there both times and the feeling that stays with me and resurfaces when I look at the pictures or talk about being there.

I don't know if you've ever been afraid, but the sense of dread and the weight of fear is what was and still is upon me.

Carrington said...

Wow, I have definitely had that feeling of dread before- and the fact that you HAD it, and then found those items. WOW. I'm glad you guys left shortly after that, because it may have been like that for JUST that day, but whatever it was- I'm glad you trusted yourself, because there was some bad energy there- and it probably wasn't safe. Creepy. I love the way you write, and tell the story.

TMowers said...

Hi Michelle,

I found your blog while looking for photos of my old favorite swimming hole, so I thought I would post something here to maybe relieve some of that bad feeling you had.

I grew up in Gerald, which you said you went through on your way to Mill Rock. As a kid in the 1980s, my brother would take me and some of our other friends to Mill Rock all the time.

We would swim in the river and eat lunch on the gravel bar and basically have a good time.

There used to be a sweet rope swing tied to a big tree that hung out over the river. It would launch you about 10 feet into the air and deposit you in a nice deep hole. You had to be careful though, because this river is always muddy and it can be hard to see submerged logs, etc.

The big rock in your photo (Mill Rock) was one of my favorite parts of the place. Like the other person here said, the rock has a path on the back side that you can take to the top. The views from up there are pretty nice. Then you can scramble down into the cave. Unfortunately, the cave has been defaced and painted up over the years, but I don't find it unsettling at all. I like to imagine how cool that cave might have been to native peoples in the area way back in the day. It could at least provide shelter from rain or snow. It's actually quite an impressive formation that brings back fond childhood memories.

The trinkets that you found on the rock are also not surprising at all. On any given day in the summer or whenever it's warm, you might find half a dozen people swimming or lounging on the gravel bar. There are often times little kids and babies running about. These are country people who do not fear allowing their kids to swim and climb all around this area.

The burning log you found is very normal. Like I said, people use this area all the time and build camp fires and shelters. There is no official "campgrounds" in this area, so a lean-to or some such other structure would also be a common sight.

The note you found from New Haven is also not that odd. Mill Rock is known as a good swimming hole all around the area. All the people from the little surrounding towns know each other and know about the features in each town.

I will say this about your feeling of dread...This is a very remote spot in the woods. That alone can be unnerving to someone that is not used to rugged country. My wife grew up in St. Louis and I've taken her to some wooly country and she is always a little freaked. I think you probably had a bit of claustrophobia.

If you had come on a day when people were there swimming and laughing and playing music, you might have had a different feeling.

Every year on the fourth of July, a bunch of people show up here and shoot off fireworks. I actually don't care for this because of the trash and paper they leave behind, but there are always a lot of kids and families on that day.

One final note...I don't know of any bad things that have ever happened here. No drownings, no murders, no child abductions. The nearby Meramec River is much more known for drownings and rowdiness. The Bourbeuse River is just a slow meandering, muddy river that many country folks enjoy for fishing, swimming and floating. Large rock formations like the one at Mill Rock are also not uncommon along Missouri waterways. It points to a looooong geologic history, which I find really cool and interesting. Hopefully my words here give you some comfort.