Roy Exum / September 5, 2010

Ghosts Will Get You

I have long held the notion that nothing good comes from messing with ghosts. I’d like to say I don’t believe in them, but then there is the “Holy Ghost.” I was taught in Sunday school about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and I can go along with that. But the paranormal, and séances where you conjure up dead people so you can talk to them, makes me awfully nervous.

I have long held the notion that nothing good comes from messing with ghosts. I’d like to say I don’t believe in them, but then there is the “Holy Ghost.” I was taught in Sunday school about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and I can go along with that. But the paranormal, and séances where you conjure up dead people so you can talk to them, makes me awfully nervous.

That is why it didn’t come as much of a surprise on Friday last week when word came from Statesville, N.C., a guy had just gotten himself killed hunting for a ghost named Hugh K. Linster. It seems that back in 1891 Mr. Linster, or H.K. as he was better known, was the baggage master for the railroad, and he decided to take a train from Statesville to Asheville.

It was particularly hot, we are told, in late August 119 years ago, and H.K. had just been awarded a gold pocket watch for 30 years of service to the railroad. So on a whim he decided to board the train to Asheville where he could enjoy the cool mountain air a day or two before hitching a ride back to the valley.

According to the legend, Mr. Linster had just looked at his watch, which said it was 9:30 p.m. Well, W.H. suspected it was later than that. He asked a passenger the time, was told it was 3 a.m. on what was now early in the morning of August 27, and that is when all hell broke loose on the Bostian Bridge span, which is located about two miles southwest of Statesville off Buffalo Shoals Road.

The train jumped the track that fateful night and nine passenger cars fell from the trestle into the Third Creek, some 100 feet below. Mr. Linster was among about 30 people who perished. But one year after the fatal crash, several different people around Third Creek claimed to have heard “a ghost train,” its whistle blending eerily with the screaming passengers as they plummeted to their death.

In the years that would follow, others have said that every August 27 a man in a blue uniform, holding a gold pocket watch, can be seen walking the 300-foot long bridge, asking for the correct time. In short, it is one of the most colorful ghost stories in North Carolina, according to a website called “creepyNC.com” and every year paranormals gather to try to hear the train or tell the ghost of Mr. Hugh K. Linster what time it is.

Apparently about 15 “amateur ghost watchers” – that’s what the sheriff called them – were on the Bostian Bridge in the wee hours Friday morning last week when they felt the tracks begin to tremble and heard the long pull of the whistle in the darkness. But their elation quickly turned to terror when “the ghost train” turned out to be three Norfolk-Southern engines “running hot” and going east towards Statesville.

Remember, the 1891 “ghost train” was going west so instead of making a short dash off the trestle, the ghost hunters had to scramble the longer distance of about 150-feet to the eastern side for safety. And when the Norfolk-Southern engines came screaming out of a hidden, unwatched turn, it was traveling about 40 miles an hour and train people will tell a train engine needs about a mile of track to come to a complete halt.

Anybody who has ever been on a railroad trestle, especially in the dark, knows a railroad bridge is hardly made for walking – much less running – and two of the those caught in the glare of oncoming train’s headlight didn’t make it. The report is somewhat sketchy because most of the “amateur ghost hunters” fled rather than be arrested for trespassing on railroad property.

But an unidentified witness told Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Dept. that a 29-year-old named Christopher Kaiser pushed a woman to safety before he was fatally clobbered by the train. The woman was hurt, falling some 30 or 40 feet, and had to be rushed to a Charlotte hospital. “There was no way out,” said Campbell. “They almost made it.”

Some figure Kaiser’s untimely demise will only add to the legend, his ghost wandering around asking if anybody has seen Hugh K. Linster or knows the whereabouts of the girlfriend he pushed. But the better fact is the newest fatality will bring even more notoriety to the legend.

Tony Reevy, who once wrote a book on the “Ghost Train,,” once told the Charlotte Observer, “People have always loved tales of the supernatural,” he said. “We all face death in our lives. I think there is at heart a wish to think that things go on, after death.”

Whew! Not for me, brother, and if you are smart you’ll also leave ghosts and other “haints’” alone. I’ve now got new and irrefutable evidence the things can get you “kilt.”

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