In the 1800s, construction crews cut through mountains, soared over rivers, twisted around bends, and drove straight into towns and cities to build railroad lines that swept across the land like an iron and steel wildfire. On May 10, 1869, a seminal moment in railroad history, a golden spike was pounded into the final tie to officially commemorate the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
Railroads would connect states and nations, forever tying people and business together. Something else swept along with this marvel of construction and transportation, however, something that remains embedded in our collective psyche: railroad ghosts.
Haunted railroad lore runs the full line of weird paranormal activity, from spooky, but well-documented, levitating light—or orbs—phenomena to apparitions of people appearing in train engines and cars. It includes tales of the wandering souls of long-dead railroad engineers and even accounts that trains, the machines themselves, have rolled down the tracks of mortality and into the spirit world.
This article will take us to some of these haunted railroad destinations. Arriving at our first stop on the itinerary through the five weirdest tales in haunted rail history is the tale of an assassinated president destined to live among the immortals—and his funeral train that took him there.
1. Abraham Lincoln's Funeral Train
2. The Dangers of Working Overtime at a Railroad Museum
Later, the director noticed a railroad worker in a picture on display in the museum who looked similar—one might say hauntingly similar—to the man who shared his elevator ride into haunted railroad weirdness. He assumed this was the ghost of the man that he bumped into on his elevator ride into spooky railroad history.
3. Stamp of Spooky Approval
The stamp celebrates a ghostly railroad tale that's been creeping out of the small, quaint village of St. Louis, Saskatchewan for decades. Witness say that eerie lights often dance along a stretch of railroad tracks outside of town. Some say that there is a white light and a red light; they believe that the white light represents the headlamp of a train, while the red light looks like a light that used to flash from the back of a caboose. Believers say that the lights are either from a ghost train that was part of a deadly train robbery, or the ghost of a conductor who died in a horrible work accident along that section of track. Debunkers have other reasons for the phenomenon; mainly, they say that the phenomenon is nothing more than a combination of automobile headlights and over-active imaginations.
But, the sightings continue, and continue to be vexing and spooky enough to be immortalized in stamp collections across Canada—and stamped in the time-space continuum that surrounds the village of St. Louis, Saskatchewan.
4. Ghost Trains: Nonfiction, Fiction, or Science Fiction?
Years before, the railroad had ceased functioning in that area. However, Dick's account did match up with a local ghost story that told of an angry engineer who haunted the old railroad line that once criss-crossed through Point Reyes Station. It is said the engineer once drove his train through the night trying to find the man who wronged his daughter. The wail of his whistle woke the sleepy community. Townsfolk said that the train's whistle still pierces the night during the engineer's vengeful run. Many witnesses have stepped forward to say that they have heard and seen the ghost train and, it just so happens, we might count one of the world's most lauded science fiction writers as one of these lucky, or—depending on either your lack of sleep, or fear of the unknown—unlucky witnesses.
5. Murder, the Spirits Wrote
Thanks for sharing this ride through the five weirdest railroad stories with me. Feel free to share your own haunted railroad stories with me, too!
Matthew L. Swayne (State College, PA) is a journalist who currently works as a research writer at Penn State. He has also worked on writing projects with Paranormal State's Eilfie Music. Matthew is the author of five books, ...