Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lincoln’s Phantom Train

Engine that pulled funeral train.
The most famous ghost train in America is the one that took President Abraham Lincoln home after he was assassinated in 1865.

The Journey

Against his wife’s wishes it was decided that Lincoln’s body would be displayed on a funeral train that would stop at various towns through the northern part of the United States on its way to Springfield, Illinois.

The body was not embalmed, so a couple of funeral employees were enlisted to travel with the deceased president in order to keep his body looking good.

They used fresh flowers to mask the smell, which meant the train had to make frequent stops to collect fresh flowers.

This train traveled in a zigzag pattern so that it could stop in all the major cities in the area as well as several smaller communities so people could pay their respects to this beloved president.

At many of the stops 1000’s of people filed passed the presidents coffin. The demand was so great that extra stops were added during the journey.

Crowd in Buffalo, NY
By May 2nd, the body had become so discolored that the crowds were becoming upset at the sight.

On May 3rd, President Lincoln arrived in Springfield for the last time.

Phantom Sightings

Even before the first anniversary of Lincoln’s death reports of the Ghost Train began to trickle in. The original stories were reported in the Hudson River Valley.

Every year since, at the end of April during the anniversary of the first funeral trip, people along the train’s original route report seeing a strange sight--an eerie spectral train passing silently along the tracks--sometimes on existing tracks and sometimes on a route where tracks once were.

While descriptions vary--there are numerous ones--most state what the following favorite 1st person account notes.

An Unexpected Sight

It was late at night and very dark. I was stopped in my car near my hometown’s depot. Being late the area was deserted except for two railroad employees who stood on the train platform smoking and talking.

I was about to cross the tracks when the crossing guards dropped down. I then heard an odd train whistle. Within moments I saw an old-fashioned steam engine puffing smoke from its flared funnel. It was pulling several antique cars all draped in black crepe.

As it came closer I noticed it moved in complete silence.

A strange blue glow surrounded the train as it slowed and stopped at the depot platform. The whistle blew once more.

Funeral Coach
One train car that stopped directly in front of me was decked out even more ornately. I saw through its large windows a coffin. It dawned on me that this must be a funeral coach.

An honor guard of soldiers watched over the casket inside. When I looked closer I was taken aback for these soldiers appeared to be skeletons.

To the side of this car a band of soldiers played slowly what I assumed was a dirge. They too were skeletons dressed in midnight blue uniforms. I realized that I heard no music.

I glanced over at the two employees on the platform, I noted they did not comprehend any better than I what we were seeing for they stood very still as if in a trance.

I heard the train whistle once more and the train moved on and disappeared into the dark night traveling westward.

My legs shaking, I got out of my car and walked to where the other two men stood. When I questioned them they told me that no train was scheduled to travel through town that night.

They seemed to be in shock and were having trouble focusing.

Later, I heard that all the clocks in town had stopped for exactly 20 minutes--the length of time the strange train had stayed at the depot.


Route funeral train traveled.

Afterwards, I realized that what I saw that night was Lincoln’s Phantom Train. Over the years, I had heard many stories about sightings of this train in New York, Ohio and Indiana but I had always felt they were just fantasy or folklore.

I now wonder if this traumatic and tragic event has somehow left an imprint--becoming etched into the fabric of time and space.

In another post entitled Ghost Trains I share more information about this funeral train as well as other stories about ghostly trains from around the world.

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