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'Ghost train' hunter killed by train in North Carolina

By Phil Gast, CNN
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'Ghost train' hunter killed by train
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Ghost train" hunter killed by train near Statesville, North Carolina
  • Group was on Bostian Bridge, site of 1891 tragedy
  • Legends sprang up after 30 people killed in wreck
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Read more about this story from CNN affiliates WSOC and WCNC.

(CNN) -- The facts: On August 27, 1891, a passenger train jumped the tracks on a tall bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, sending seven rail cars below and about 30 people to their deaths.

The legend: On the wreck's anniversary, the sounds of screeching wheels, screaming passengers and a horrific crash might still be heard. You might also see a uniformed man with a gold watch.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Friday, on the 119th anniversary of the Bostian Bridge train tragedy and at about the same time, between 10 and 12 ghost hunters were on that approximately 300-foot long span.

They were hoping to hear the sounds of the crash, and perhaps see something.

Instead, a real Norfolk-Southern train -- three engines and one car -- turned the corner as it headed east to Statesville, about 35 miles north of Charlotte, authorities said.

The terrified "amateur ghost watchers" ran away, back toward Statesville, trying to cover the nearly 150 feet to safety, said Iredell County Sheriff's Office Capt. Darren Campbell.

All but two made it.

Christopher Kaiser, 29, of Charlotte, was struck and killed, said Campbell.

A woman who witnesses say Kaiser pushed to safety fell about 30 to 40 feet from the trestle and was injured. Her name and condition were not known Friday night. She was being treated at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

"There was no way out, said Campbell. "They almost made it."

The engineer of the train, which was traveling at its customary 35 to 40 mph, hit the horn and "stopped as fast as he could," Campbell said.

Campbell, 38, is from the area and has heard all the stories, although he said he knows of no one who has ever seen or heard the "ghost train."

On the 50th anniversary of the Bostian Bridge incident, a woman said she witnessed it all again. In 1991, hawkers sold T-shirts and other memorabilia, and there were an estimated 150 people waiting for the train, according to the Charlotte Observer.

There are occasional reports of railroad crossing arms dropping without cause, Campbell said.

The ghost trip on the anniversary has become an annual tradition of sorts.

A woman who did not want to be identified, but who was part of the group of onlookers, told CNN affiliate WCNC, "We were there looking for what people say happened. You hear the train wreck or hear people screaming. We were just watching."

Kaiser's mother said the family was too distraught to talk about the incident, WCNC said.

Campbell said most of the ghost hunters, who were from out of town, have been interviewed. Many fled because they were trespassing on railroad property, he said. Campbell said there were no patrols near the bridge early Friday.

Although the investigation is continuing, Campbell said the incident appears to be an accident.

At least two blogs that cover the phenomena, N.C. Ghost Guide and CreepyNC.com, detail the 1891 wreck's legend. While accounts vary somewhat, the man with the gold watch reportedly was first seen on the first anniversary.

According to CreepyNC.com, Hugh K. Linster was a baggage master for the Asheville-bound train that crashed into Third Creek that August of 1891.

"Hugh Linster never made it to retirement," the blog reads. "His body was found in the wreck having been killed immediately upon impact with a broken neck."

One year later, a group of people at the bridge said they saw a man in a railroad uniform, holding a watch.

He vanished before their eyes, legend has it.

 
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