According to a WBTV report, on August 27th around 2:30 AM, a group of about a dozen people went legend tripping on a train trestle near Buffalo Shoals Road in Statesville, North Carolina. The group were looking for a ghost train that is said to pass through every August 27th. The legend is based on a real event: On August 27, 1891 around 2:00 AM, a train accident left twenty people dead after the train derailed off the bridge and fell to the creek below. For years people have reported that the train accident replays itself on the anniversary. Each year legend trippers make a pilgrimage to the site in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the ghost train, this year one legend tripper paid with his life.
According to the WBTV report, 29 year-old Christopher Kaiser was killed when he was struck by a real train that passed through around 2:30 AM. The dozen witnesses were on the trestle when they heard the train. All but Kaiser were able to get out of the way in time. According to the local Sherriff, the group believed the train they heard coming to be the ghost train and not a real one.
This is a tragic event, of course. We would hope that anyone would bring their common sense to any legend tripping outing. Precautions like checking train schedules or staying clear of the tracks would have saved a life on August 27, 2010. But the most interesting aspect of this story is that the death will not diminish this legend, nor deter future legend trippers from coming to this site. In fact, if anything this death will expand this legend and make it more popular.
WBTV called me for a comment on this legend the afternoon after the accident. In any legend tripping outing the legend tripper becomes part of the story. Just by being in the location we write ourselves into the narrative. But Christopher Kaiser has now become a permanent part of the legend. Passenger train No. 9 from 1891 has just claimed another victim more than a century after the accident. Next year I would anticipate legend trippers will be showing up in greater numbers to try and catch a glimpse of the ghost train, and perhaps the ghost of its latest victim.
Decades from now through the natural folklore process, perhaps the legend will evolve further. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day people claim a man was actually killed by the ghost train on the anniversary of the accident and not the Norfolk-Southern Railroad freighter that actually did take Kaiser’s life. Legends grow and evolve, but at their root is always a nugget of truth.
The element of danger, the supernatural connection, and the thrill of the trip will keep us hooked on legend tripping. This event is tragic, our condolences go out to Kaiser’s friends and families. He died legend tripping. And the Ghost Train of Statesville will keep rolling on.