This stretch of railroad has a dark and tragic past. Just south of San Antonio, the lonely stretch of road that leads to the railroad tracks is said to be haunted by previous victims of terrible crashes that occurred on the railroad crossing. Legends say that these ghosts are altruistic in the afterlife and determined to keep others from suffering the same fate, appearing as ghostly apparitions that help push vehicles off the tracks. What tragedy happened here to keep children’s spirits in the afterlife?
The section of the road is known by locals to be haunted and very creepy at night, especially with the sounds of oncoming trains passing by in the night. It’s not hard to see why the location is said to be a dangerous place, with crashes having taken lives far too young. Located near the San Juan Mission on the intersection of Villamain and Shane, the ghostly stretch of tracks and the crossing are popular places for urban legends and ghost hunters seeking the eerie activity said to happen on the road.
The story goes that in the 1930s or 1940s, a bus was en route to the school when the unthinkable happened. The bus stalled on the train tracks as the sound of a train could be heard approaching the intersection. The bus driver attempted to get as many children off the bus as possible, but it was too late. The train bowled into the bus, killing 10 children and the driver as well. A horrific tragedy for the surrounding community, the bus crash took on new life as an urban legend, with reports of sightings of those children, apparitions in the night that caused panic for those crossing the railroad tracks. When they stop to make sure a child isn’t on the tracks, nothing will be there.
Another version of the tale tells of a nun driving the bus when it was cut in half by the train, killing many of the sleeping children on the bus returning from a field trip. As the nun desperately tried to restart the engine as the bus stalled out, she was too late as an oncoming train barreled towards the full bus. This legend says that the nun was thrown from the crash and was the only survivor. Inundated by the survivor guilt, she attempted to end her own life by parking on the tracks. Next thing the nun knew, her car was being pushed off the tracks by unseen hands, rolling off until it reached the nearby hill.
As illustrated in the story of the nun and the bus, the most interesting thing about this stretch of tracks, obviously, are the tales of the children lost to the train helping stalled motorists off the tracks so they can avoid the same fate.. Some say if you turn off your headlights and put your car in neutral near the location of the crash, your car will mysteriously move on its own to get away from the train tracks. Some enterprising people have even put baby powder on the rear bumper of the car, capturing the imprints of small fingerprints that pushed the car out of the path of danger.
Some people allege that the sound of children laughing and playing can be heard on the tracks, again causing panicked drivers to search frantically for any child in the dangerous location, but again no children would be found on investigation. Other locals say they can hear the sounds of a ghostly train and its horn, the next sound being the crunching metal that ended the lives of 10 children on the tracks, but no train is oncoming or even in the vicinity to be heard. More stories include a woman who picked up a young hitchhiker on the road, a small girl with a teddy bear, and offered to drive her home. However, upon reaching the address the girl had provided, suddenly the girl was gone, with the seatbelt still attached. The girl with the teddy bear was also captured on film with an apparition near the tracks as an interested ghost hunter surveyed the area.
The stories of this stretch of railroad are numerous and haunting. Locals still tell the urban legends of the bus tragedy that happened nearly 90 years prior, and many avoid the railroad crossing all together. Others seek the thrill of being saved by small ghostly hands and the evidence of their influence in the fingerprints left on the cars. Either way, the ghostly crossing has plenty of stories to tell and numerous ears ready to listen.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.