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The Haunted Railroad Crossing

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The haunted railroad tracks in San Antonio, Texas.

The haunted railroad tracks in San Antonio, Texas.

Andy and Debi Chesney

Just south of San Antonio, Texas, in an unremarkable neighborhood not far from the San Juan Mission is an intersection of roadway and railroad track that has become somewhat famous in the catalog of American ghost lore. The intersection, so the story goes, was the site of a tragic accident in which several school-aged children were killed - but their ghosts linger at the spot. And the curious from all over the country come to this section of railroad track to witness firsthand the paranormal phenomena they've heard takes place there.

The story - at least 20 years old - is the stuff of urban legend and its details vary from telling to telling, but this is essentially it:

Back in the 1930s or 1940s, a school bus full of children was making its way down the road and toward the intersection when it stalled on the railroad tracks. A speeding train smashed into the bus, killing 10 of the children and the bus driver. Since that dreadful accident many years ago, any car stopped near the railroad tracks will be pushed by unseen hands across the tracks to safety. It is the spirits of the children, they say, who push the cars across the tracks to prevent a tragedy and fate like their own.

Even today, cars line up at the haunted intersection to see if the legend is true. The driver stops the cars some 20 to 30 yards from the tracks and puts the car in neutral gear. Some even turn off their engines. And sure enough, even though it appears that the road is on an upward grade, the car begins to roll. It rolls slowly first, then steadily gaining speed - seemingly of its own accord and against gravity - up and over the tracks. This has been tested time and time again, and cars really do roll up and over the tracks - every time.

But that's not all. The second half of this legend is that if a light powder - like talcum or baby powder - is sprinkled over the car's trunk and rear bumper, tiny fingerprints and handprints will appear - the prints of the ghost children pushing the car. Many who have tried it swear that indeed they can see the evidence of small children's handprints in the powder.

FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE

Fact or fantasy? A true unexplained phenomenon or an urban legend fueled by eager participants with heightened imaginations?

One person who tested the legend with favorable results was Brenda Pacheco, the fan club president of Wayanay Inka, a musical group from Peru. "I put my car in neutral, took my foot off the pedals and the car moved!" she writes at mysa.com (for my San Antonio - a website jointly sponsored by KENS 5 television station and the San Antonio Express-News). "It moved quickly toward the tracks, up over the bump and down the other side, well out of harm's way!"

Pacheco also succeeded with the powder test, having dusted the back of her black station wagon with talcum. "I was so excited, I got out to check the back of my car and there were the tiny handprints! Plain and clear, and so, so tiny! The prints were so perfect, you could see the lines of the palms, and the swirls of the fingerprints!"

She was so thrilled with the results that Pacheco repeated the experiment, with even more startling results: "Up and over the hill again," she says. "I got out, and there were several little handprints, not only on the back of the car, but down the sides toward the back doors! And there was one big handprint on the side! (The sides had also been wiped down.) Could this be a handprint from the bus driver? That's what we think..."

Next page: The Facts of the Case, and More Weird Events

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