Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Lincoln Ghost Train

The following undated newspaper article was found pasted in a late 1860s scrapbook:


A correspondent in the Albany (N.Y.) Evening Times relates a conversation with a superstitious night watchman on the New York Central Railroad. Said the watchman: "I believe in spirits and ghosts. I know such things exist. If you will come up in April I will convince you." He then told of the phantom train that every year comes up the road with the body of Abraham Lincoln. Regularly in the month of April, about midnight, the air on the track becomes very keen and cutting. On either side it is warm and still. Every watchman when he feels this air steps off the track and sits down to watch. Soon after the pilot engine, with long black streamers, and a band of black instruments, playing dirges, grinning skeletons sitting all about, will pass up noiselessly, and the very air grows black. If it is moonlight clouds always come over the moon, and the music seems to linger, as if frozen with horror. A few moments after and the phantom train glides by. Flags and streamers hang about. The track ahead seems covered with black carpet, and the wheels are draped with the same. The coffin of the murdered Lincoln is seen lying on the centre of the car, and all about it in the air and the train behind are vast numbers of blue-coated men, some with coffins on their backs, others leaning on them.

It seems then that all the vast armies that died during the war are escorting the phantom train of the President. The wind, if blowing, dies away at once, and all over the earth a solemn hush, almost stifling, prevails. If a train were passing, its noise would be drowned in silence and the phantom train would ride over it. Clocks and watches would always stop, and when looked at are found to be from five to eight minutes behind. Everywhere on the road, about the 27th of April, the time of watches and trains is found suddenly behind. This, said the leading watchman, was from the passage of the phantom train.

The route taken by Lincoln's funeral train, in large part, still exists -- marked by ancient railroad beds and towns. New Yorkers who commute daily from bedroom communities along the Hudson River, north of Manhattan, don't realize that they are traveling the same route as the 16th President's funeral train. So it is for thousands of unknowing railroad passengers.

[Taken from Bloody Crimes by James L. Swanson]


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