Tag Archives: Train Tracks

Haunted Train Tracks, San Antonio

Context: My informant (M) grew up in a small town in Texas about an hour outside of San Antonio. This was a local legend she heard growing up about haunted train tracks. She told me every kid in her town knew about the tracks, and it was a common outing for high schoolers to go see the tracks. She told me that if you visit the tracks now, there are police cars and signs telling people not to stop on the tracks because it creates too much traffic. San Antonio plays into the legend and features the train tracks in museums and historical tours.

Main Text:

M: There’s a place in San Antonio where a bus filled with children got stalled out on a railroad track. They weren’t able to move the bus so the train came and it killed all the kids inside. So the legend is that the kids now haunt the train tracks. So if you drive on the train tracks at around midnight-and you can put like baby powder on your bumper or something- but if you stop on the tracks and put your car into neutral, supposedly the kids will push your car just enough for it to get off the tracks. Then, if you get out and look at your bumper, you’ll see little handprints on it from where the ghost kids pushed your car. I guess they do this so you don’t have to experience the tragedy that they did.

Me: Did you ever do it?

M: No I wasn’t allowed to drive to San Antonio at midnight (laughs). But in high school, a lot of kids would do it and then come back to school and say ‘oh you know we did it and it totally worked I saw the handprints and everything.’ And there were all of these “first-hand accounts” that made it really believable at 15, 16 years old.

My thoughts: It seems like a common story around the United States to have a haunted site where kids died and now they push your car. I did some research and I found a similar story from Los Angeles about the ghosts of Gravity Hill, I linked it below. I also included a link to the San Antonio ghost tours website that tells this story with more historical information. 

Los Angeles Gravity Hill: https://www.ranker.com/list/gravity-hill-haunting/erin-mccann

San Antonio’s Ghost Tours Site: https://ghostcitytours.com/san-antonio/haunted-places/haunted-railroad-tracks/

San Antonio Haunted Train Tracks

Context: 

The informant–ZG– is an 18 year old male born and raised in San Antonio Texas. The train tracks to which the informant is referring are located near the San Juan Mission and have become a popular tourist destination for self proclaimed ghost hunters.

Piece:

A story that I heard growing up and I actually did witness was south of San Antonio. There’s these railroad tracks, and supposedly in the eighteen hundreds a train was coming by and it killed all these small children. I don’t know what they were doing playing on train tracks. That was their fault. But if you go at night and you set your car in the middle of the train tracks–the train tracks are no longer in use–the ghost children will push your car across the train tracks. My mom and I went back in 2014 or 2013. We had this huge pickup truck. And we went over and, we parked on top of the train tracks and it’s actually like a line of people. And what do you know we put our car in neutral and… Wow! Our car was pushed across the train tracks from the little children. It was incredible.

Analysis:

Despite the popularity of the San Antonio train tracks said to be haunted by ghosts of children killed in an accident, there is no proof that such an accident ever happened at those specific tracks or in San Antonio. The legend could be a cautionary tale warning children about the dangers of playing around the train tracks or an explanation for the phenomenon that occurs when a car is put in neutral when stopped over the tracks.

Lifting Your Legs Over Train Tracks for Good Luck

Context: The informant and I were driving in the car when we passed over train tracks and she told me the piece. The piece was collected in its natural performance setting.

Background: The informant is my mother, who is a third generation Irish immigrant. She learned the piece as a child from her parents who would say it when passing over train tracks.  

Piece:

“Lift your legs for good luck!” 

Analysis: I grew up hearing this piece from my mom every time we drove over train tracks. Neither one of us knows why it is good luck, but I believe it is an exercise in controlling something tangible to control the intangible. Train tracks can be dangerous places. By lifting our legs, perhaps we are attempting to subvert this danger. Some variants of this practice involve lifting one’s legs in order to prevent them from being chopped off by the train tracks while other variants threaten that if one does not lift their legs, they will die young.

For another variant of this practice visit:

Edelen, John. “Lifting Feet Over Train Tracks.” USC Digital Folklore Archives. University of Southern California, May 13, 2019. http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=47643.

Haunted Train Tracks

The informant used to live in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.

SC: I did once hear the obligatory “haunted train tracks” legend in my town back in Texas. Some kids were joyriding along the tracks and got killed dead. LEGENDS SAY that if you park your car on the tracks and cover your windows with powder, you can see their handprints form as they try to push the car off.

There’s a lot of train tracks in the area and a few crossings in town don’t have warning lights or bars, so it’s not too hard to believe someone was acting stupid and got into an accident.

The legend actually caused some people to park their cars across the rails in hopes of meeting the ghost kids, but the inherent danger in doing that and obscuring vision to catch the ghosts in the act made the traintracks even more unsafe. Since then, fences and crossings have been built across more of the railroad crossings in the area.

Moorpark’s Gravity Hill

The story teller was a USC student from the city of Moorpark, about an hour north of LA. She grew up in Moorpark, and is from a Japanese American background. This ghost story was collected late at night, walking on a dimly lit street through campus.

 

Me: First of all, where did you hear this ghost story?

K: Uhm I mean, someone told me, it was just a casual thing, someone told me at someone’s house, it wasn’t a dark scary night or anything. But everyone hears this story at one point or another living there.  So, there is this place in Moorpark, called Gravity hill and its back in…people don’t live back there. Its like farm land, getting into the orange trees and everything, I don’t know anyone who lives back there. I’ve only been back there for this place. So basically, there is this place where supposedly there used to be train tracks and a bus full of kids stalled in front of these train tracks, a long time ago, no one ever told me when. And they couldn’t get the bus off the train tracks, and it was full of kids, and a train started coming and hit the bus and everyone in the bus died. All the kids died. So they say this place is haunted by these little kids, and that if you put your car….if you go to this place and you go to this certain spot and put your car in neutral, and let it sit there, the kids will come, and think you’re stuck there, and they will push your car up hill to try and save you, you go up gravity hill. So we tried it this one time, homecoming night, freshman year, went there before the dance. So we went to this place, and it was my friend’s older sister who was driving the car, and so she had to find the right spot. So she put her car in neutral, and we’re sitting there, and then all of the sudden the car started moving forward. And, I mean, its not that big of a slope, its like a little tiny bit of a slope, and your car starts rolling up hill. Its like, the creepiest thing ever. I heard that some people like to put flour on the back of their car and they check it when they get up the hill, and check for handprints later. Which, I mean, there are rumors about people finding handprints in the flour but I don’t really believe them, but people say that they do.

 

Me: At the time did you believe any of it?

 K: Uhhhh, I don’t know. I don’t really believe in ghosts. I honestly don’t, I mean, I would have to actually look up the history to see if there were actually train tracks there to believe it. If I found out that there were actually train tracks and this did actually happen, I might believe it a little.

Me: Do you think there is any other explanation other than some sort of other worldly spirit?

K: (Laughs) Uhh, I mean, maybe putting your car in neutral doesn’t really put your car all the way in neutral and maybe you have a little gas putting you up the hill? I don’t know, the hill is really small.  So it’s not like….maybe people don’t realize at the very end of where you put your car at there is a little down slope first, you know? I don’t know. You do roll a significant amount forward though, I don’t know. It ‘s kind of creepy. I got goose bumps there, and I was freaked out. I locked my doors.

 

After I heard this story, I was quite speculative myself. Being an engineering that trusts in the good laws of science, I knew this was physically impossible, and that a car could not roll uphill. I did some research using the keyword “gravity hill”. I found an interesting article covering an in depth investigation of how this happens, at it is reported as a common phenomena at various places around the world. The conclusion that they came to was that the car does not actually roll uphill, but rather downhill, and the upward slope that people see is actually an optical illusion caused by the surrounding landscape and curvature of the road. What I find fascinating about this ghost story is that it has an interesting legend, complete with spirits of children, and people are able to go and see it for themselves. Due to the variety of places that have reported this occurring, there is great potential for a variety of different ghost stories to explain why this occurs. These ghost stories could vary by location or culture, and have unique stories, different than the children pushing the car.

 

Source:

 

Richards, David. “IIG | Gravity Hill Investigation.” IIG | The Independent Investigations Group. Independent Investigations Group, 07 Jan. 2006. Web. 05 Nov. 2011. <http://www.iigwest.com/investigations/2006/20060107_gravityhill.html>.