The Maco Light, Ghost Trains and Spectral Stories of Legendary Locomotives
Stories of phantom locomotives and a phenomenon known as the, “Maco Light” are among the most primitive as it pertains to the history of haunted trains. Legends of this unusual genre are abundant in North Carolina, suggesting that this state may be the supernatural train station of the south. Typically, accidents and violent deaths are associated with these tales and train accident reports from North Carolina date back to as early as 1884 and as recent as 1943.
In 1867, just a few miles West of Wilmington. There was a tragedy that led to the birth of a phenomenon known as the, “Maco Light”. A cargo train, carrying a signalman named Joe Baldwin, was headed down the tracks when it started to shake violently. The caboose, which Joe was riding in, unlocked itself from the car in front of it. He woke during the commotion and grabbed his lantern to attempt to signal the other train he knew would be traveling the same route that night. But it was too late, while Joe bravely swung his lantern back and forth from the back of the caboose, only a flicker of the pale yellow candle could be seen against the blackness of the North Carolina night sky. The passenger train approached quickly but did not see the signal in enough time stop.
The train and the caboose collided in a fiery and devastating crash and Joe was killed instantly when he was decapitated, his head flung into the surrounded creek. This violent crash happened in the town of Maco, North Carolina and ever since has been the source of the local legend associated with the crash and death of Joe Baldwin. Those who have seen the, “Maco Light” believe the spirit of Joe Baldwin still trying to signal the oncoming passenger train that killed him. Generations of people have witnessed the phenomenon and even president Grover Cleveland reported a sighting while on his Whistle Stop Tour in 1889.
Some speculate that the light anomaly is somehow associated with a natural phenomenon known as, “earth quake lights”. Earth quake lights were not scientifically proven to exist until 1965 when the seismology community acknowledged them. However, the Maco Light disappeared for a few years after a 7.3 earthquake rattled the eastern coastline of North and South Carolina in 1886. This has led many to believe that the Maco Light is ghostly in nature and even since the removal of the tracks in 1977, sightings are still happening.
Phantom trains are another supernatural occurrence associated with locations in North Carolina. The train accident of 1891, near Statesville, was the worst train accident in North Carolina history. This accident is also associated with the story of another legend that happens every year on the Bostian Bridge that crosses over the Third Creek. On August 27, 1891, a passenger train from Salisbury was in route to Asheville. At 3 AM, a car carrying several passengers came loose and derailed from the tracks on the Bostian Bridge. The car plunged violently off the bridge, several hundred feet below until impact. The screams of the passengers were short lived and twenty two people were killed instantly.
|The 1891 Train Accident near Statesville, North Carolina was the worst train accident in North Carolina history.|
Sightings of the train wreck are still happening today. Countless reports all summarize the same events and at the same time every year. On the anniversary of the 1891 train wreck, the eerie whistle of the train can be heard. Those who have witnessed the spectral locomotive say; it speeds toward them, derails from the tracks and the terrible screams of those inside echo from within the steel beast as it plummets to the ground. Those who have been brave enough to look over the Bostian Bridge at the wreckage, find that nothing is disturbed and no train or wreckage can be found what so ever.
These residual and unpredictable sightings of spirit trains are not limited to North Carolina and legends of this sort stem from all over the United States and abroad. Many violent train wrecks and disasters are the catalyst for ghost stories but the ones that are still being told from years of sightings and paranormal research, will continue to live on throughout history. The mystery of why this ghostly phenomenon exists may never be known to the living but for the dead, it seems to be an endless purgatory of peril.