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Ghost Train about True Train Wreck
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In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, The Bostian Bridge train wreck occurred on August 27, 1891, just west of Statesville. The accident took the lives of 24 people, making it one of the worst railroad disasters in North Carolina history. Richmond & Danville (R&D) engine number 9 left Statesville at approximately 2:30 a.m., bound for the resort mountain town of Asheville, pulling six passenger cars: a baggage car, a second-class car, two first-class coaches, a Pullman sleeper, and the private passenger car of the Richmond & Danville's superintendent. According to station agents, engineer William West was 34 minutes late and left Statesville in a hurry, obviously intending to make up lost time.
Less than five minutes after leaving Statesville, the train plunged off Bostian Bridge, a 70-foot-high, five-span brick tower bridge crossing Third Creek. Because of its speed-later estimated at 40 to 45 miles per hour by the coroner's jury-the train, according to survivors, was literally airborne when it derailed. The sleeping car hit the ground 157 feet from where it left the bridge.
Several battered survivors walked back to Statesville to announce the disaster, and all normal activity ceased that day as the town immersed itself in the rescue effort. The injured were transported to Statesville, which had no hospital, and placed in private homes. The dead were taken to a tobacco warehouse to be viewed for identification.
Once the rescue effort ended, the wreck site became a magnet for the curious. Thousands of people arrived to stare off the bridge at the wreck or to prowl among the debris looking for valuables of the passengers. Photographers William Stimson of Statesville and a Mr. VanNess of Charlotte took pictures and, according to the Statesville paper the Landmark, sold hundreds in the coming weeks. A story of the wreck with a VanNess photograph appeared in, Frank Leslie's a Weekly illustrated newspaper. The Police Gazette of Boston carried a story illustrated with what the Landmark called "one of its loud imaginary pictures."
Four days after the accident, a coroner's inquest concluded that it was caused by unknown persons removing spikes from the rails, though some blamed the track's neglected condition. Inasmuch as the Richmond & Danville was experiencing financial troubles, officials, fearing huge damage suits, worked feverishly to find the alleged train wreckers. For months, railroad detectives swarmed over the area. Several people were detained and questioned but eventually released. In 1897 two men already in the state penitentiary in Raleigh were convicted of causing the tragedy on the strength of their supposed confessions to other inmates.
Fifty years later, very early in the morning of August 27, 1941, a woman was waiting along the road that ran beside the railroad tracks near Statesville. Her husband had gone to get help after their car had a flat tire.
The woman heard a train whistle in the distance. A headlight appeared down the tracks, sweeping through the trees as the engine approached. The woman noticed the huge bridge in front of the train. As the engine began to cross it, she heard a horrible crash. She saw the train plunge off the bridge, its old-fashioned wooden passenger cars splintering into pieces. They piled into a jagged mound below.
The woman could hear the screams and groans of wounded people. She ran across the road and through a field to the side of the creek. Up close, the sight was even more terrible. The steam locomotive, it's tender (the car attached to the engine carrying its water and coal), and passenger cars formed a twisted mass of wreckage being flooded by the waters of Third Creek.
Hearing a car pull up on the road behind her, the woman ran back across the field, screaming that a terrible train wreck had just happened. Her husband was in the car with a stranger, the man who owned the country store just down the road. The three of them headed back across the field and looked down into the quiet waters of Third Creek. No wreck was there.
Of course, the men thought that the woman had fallen asleep and dreamed up the whole thing. But when they continued their trip, she made her husband stop by the Statesville train station to find out if there had been a wreck. When the couple asked at the ticket window, the station agent looked up from his work. "Funny you should ask," he said. "There was no wreck on the railroad last night. But, fifty years ago today, there was a horrible wreck out there at Bostian's Bridge." As he said this, the woman screamed and fainted. She knew that she had seen a ghost train.
A sad ending to this story:
On August 27, 2010, a group of twelve individuals who considered themselves amateur ghost hunters gathered at Bostian's Bridge hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost train. Unfortunately, a real train came down the tracks about 2:45 a.m., the same time they anticipated a sighting of the ghost train. The group did not immediately run from it, initially believing it was, in fact, the ghost train. Christopher Kaiser, 29, who had ventured onto the bridge itself, died at the scene after he was struck by the locomotive, and two others were injured and airlifted to a local trauma center. The train engineer tried to stop the train and warn the people on the bridge before they were forced to jump from the bridge.
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