I honestly don’t know what got me thinking about these types of stories recently. But I found a moment where my thoughts went back to some of the whispered stories we told to each other growing up. You know the ones I mean. We all heard them and knew the same stories but not a one of us could actually point to concrete evidence of any of it happening for true.
The classic of course, is the story of Hook Hand. It’s that one where the young couple is out getting freaky in the woods and something spooks them. So they take off and come to find out later that there is a hook still stuck on their car (which changes based on the generation telling the story). The hook had been the hand of some criminal mental patient that ripped people apart with it before he had been caught. We all know this story. It just popped up in our conversations growing up and somehow it spread through communities even without actual communication between story tellers.
The one that always scared me, and when the moment is right, it still scares me is the story of the railway worker. I grew up fairly close to the train tracks that ran from Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois. Aside from the Amtrack commuter line that ran regularly through here, Conrail trains had regular runs for the auto industry. Whether they carried cars or parts for building more cars, they made regular runs through our town. I mean these trains could get as long as hundreds of cars.
When the trains raced by, they would shake our house. That’s how close we were to the tracks. I mean, yeah, you get used to such things overtime. We could sleep through the disturbances and more often than not you never really noticed the trains or their passing. But I am pretty sure this close proximity to the tracks and the proliferation of trains when I was growing up, that cemented this particular story into my psyche.
I don’t know, maybe this one isn’t a story that made it into your legends but it sure was a big one for me. It goes like this. See, there was a guy who worked for the railway. For a little while he had been having dreams of someone dying on the train tracks. He had known it was a dream all along because of the time the accident happened. In every dream the train had come at the wrong time. The guy knew the schedule and trains didn’t travel through his town at midnight. It never fit the time tables for where he lived.
Every night of the dream he heard the whistle and after the train passed through town there would be blood on the tracks. He saw it as a premonition that someone was going to die but it couldn’t happen the way of his dream because of the time tables.
Until the night he heard the train whistle around midnight. The guy wanted to make sure that no one would be hurt, was terrified he wouldn’t be able to stop the coming accident. He had gone down to the tracks with a lantern and waved it at the train to get it to stop before someone was hurt. You know where this is going right? Yeah, the guy had seen his own death as the train smeared him across the tracks.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much of a story. But for me it was the proximity to the tracks. Growing up and sometimes even now, when I am near the train tracks at night and a train is barreling down the way, I get that prickly feeling. Chills assault my body as I look for the guy, the guy with the lantern. I watch for that railway worker who was hit by the train. His blood fed the rocks in the past. And sometimes if you listen in the night, the mournful wail of the train reminds us of those who tried to stop the behemoth and failed.
Sometimes it’s a bit funny, the things that stick with us from our youth.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.