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Bostian's Bridge, North Carolina
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950 Buffalo Shoals Rd, Statesville, NC 28677, USA (
Bostian's Bridge, Statesville, NC
The Bostian's Bridge (also frequently referred to as Bostian Bridge) is a railroad bridge constructed of brick and granite that spans North Carolina's Third Creek. The bridge was built in 1857 and stands slightly more than sixty feet from the ground at its tallest point. The bridge was the scene of a horrific train accident 33 years later. It is said that the tragic incident caused the bridge to become a paranormal hot spot, particularly on the anniversary of the train crash. The ghostly tales have drawn onlookers and paranormal enthusiasts to gather at the site on the anniversaries of the accident. This practice led to further tragedy when a ghost hunter was killed while investigating the bridge in 2010.
Bostian Train Wreck
Between the hours of 2:00 am and 3:00 am on August 27, 1891, Engine Number 9, a passenger train on the Richmond and Danville Railroad, derailed while heading Westward from Salisbury, North Carolina on its way to Asheville, North Carolina. The derailing occurred not long after the train had stopped in Statesville to pick up more passengers. Slightly behind schedule, Engine No. 9 was picking up speed as it left Statesville on its way to the next stop. It would never reach that destination.
As it neared the middle of Bostian's Bridge, the train slipped off the tracks, sending the engine and all six rail cars plunging over the side and into the darkness below.
The engine struck the ground first, killing engineer William "
" West and fireman Warren E. Fry upon impact. The six rail cars that trailed behind the engine were the baggage, tender, sleeper, first class, second class and a private car nicknamed "
," belonging to railroad superintendent Robert R. Bridgers. Mr. Bridgers, was not traveling on the train at the time. "
" landed on top of the sleeper car and the first class car crashed onto the second class one.
Portions of the train landed in the creek itself, damming the water. The victims who survived the crash in those sections, found themselves in peril once again as the water rose. Louella Poole, a passenger trapped in the wreckage of the sleeper car, desperately tried to keep her unconscious mother's head above water. Louella's strength gradually gave out and her mother drowned. Some survivors ran back to Statesville to gather help for the rescue effort. Others stayed and attempted to free those trapped in the wreckage and swiftly rising waters.
Statesville to the Rescue
Unaware of what had caused the horrific noise they had heard to the East, the residents of Statesville learned of the crash when bloodied victims began showing up on the porches of the nearest homes. Colonel Bennehan Cameron, who had been a passenger on the train, rescued a few of the trapped passengers himself before running to town for assistance. The Colonel borrowed a horse and buggy from local resident Gilbert Caldwell. After reportedly downing a glass of Caldwell's whiskey, Colonel Cameron rode into town, raising the alarm and gathering together volunteers to return to the wreckage site.
While Statesville had five doctors residing in the area, it did not have a hospital. The injured and dying victims were cared for in the homes of Statesville residents. The bodies of the dead were gathered and lain upon the floor of a tobacco warehouse to await identification. Both Col. Cameron and the citizens of Statesville were hailed as heroes for their response to what had been the worst rail accident in North Carolina's history.
Besides the train's engineer and fireman, the crash also took the lives of the train's baggage master Hugh K. Leinster and a porter identified in the newspapers alternately as Doc Wells and Dock Welles. The papers also identified baggage master Leinster under the name Linster, this misspelling continues to be used in folklore and stories about the incident. Besides the four railway employees, eighteen passengers died as a result of the derailment for a total of twenty two dead. Some initial news reports erroneously placed the number of dead higher. The reports of the number of survivors suffering notable injury vary between seventeen to thirty.
The derailment was determined to have possibly been caused by a number of factors, including the engineer running the train too fast to make up for being behind schedule, badly aging railroad ties and deliberate sabotage. A few stories claim that all of the rails had been removed from the bridge by vandals prior to the accident, but another train had passed over the bridge less than an hour prior without incident. It is possible that the sections of rail missing from the bridge had simply gone over the side of the bridge along with the train and became meshed with the wreckage. Nobody was convicted in the incident.
Hugh K. Leinster
A focal point of the folklore surrounding the bridge is Engine No. 9's baggage master, Hugh K. Leinster. In folklore he is named as H.K. Linster due to newspapers of the time misprinting his name. In the tales he is also an older man who received a gold watch for thirty years of service to the rail company shortly before the accident.
In truth, Hugh Leinster was a young man of 24 when the life was crushed out of him by a falling trunk during the crash. If he had been celebrating anything at the time, it was his recent engagement to a young lady of good standing in Salisbury, North Carolina. One possible reason for Hugh being stongly linked with the tales of ghostly activity may stem from the baggage master having been a local boy; Hugh Leinster had grown up in Statesville. Hugh had come home for the last time.
He was buried in Statesville only a day after the accident on August 28, 1891.
The ghostly tales surrounding Bostian's Bridge stem from an incident that reportedly happened on the night of August 27, 1941, the 50-year anniversary of the Bostian crash. The story goes that the Hayes family of Columbia, South Carolina were traveling through Statesville in the early morning hours when their car got a flat tire along Buffalo Shoals Road, within view of Bostian's Bridge. Finding himself without the tools needed to replace the tire, Larry Hayes left his wife Pat and their children in the car while he went for help.
As Pat sat in the car, watching over the children and waiting for her husband to return, she witnessed a train approaching the railroad bridge to the North. To her horror, the train's headlamp suddenly pointed outward from the track and then dipped as the train flew off the bridge. Hearing the cacophony of smashing metal and glass and the screams of terrified passengers, Pat Hayes left her children behind in the car and ran to the scene of the accident. Along the way she encountered a man in an old-fashioned railway uniform. The man was holding a gold watch and asked her what time it was. She told him it was a few minutes after 3:00 am. The stranger with the watch and the train wreck both vanished as Pat's husband returned with help for their stranded car.
According to the tale, Pat Hayes insisted that they pay a visit to the train station in Statesville once the car's tire had been changed. Once there, she spoke with an old railroad employee who told her about the trainwreck that had happened on the bridge 50 years before that very night. The phantom man with the gold watch was determined to be dead baggage master Hugh Leinster.
Later folklore would state that sightings of the ghost train actually began a year after the crash, with a spectral Engine No. 9 plummeting from the bridge like clockwork every anniversary at the hour of the crash.
An Annual Event
Over the years, the anniversary of the Bostian crash has drawn curious spectators and ghost hunters with hopes of witnessing the ghost train. On August 27, 1991, on the one hundredth anniversary of the accident, an estimated crowd of 400 people gathered in a field near the bridge. They spent the night, sitting in lawn furniture and on blankets, waiting for a ghost train that never arrived. The anniversary has continued to draw groups of varying sizes to Bostian's Bridge on August 27 each year. This practice eventually led to a new tragedy in 2010.
The Death of Christopher Joseph Kaiser
A new accident occurred on Bostian's Bridge at nearly 3:00 am on August 27, 2010, the 119th anniversary of the train crash in 1891. A group of amateur ghost hunters were gathered at the bridge in an attempt to find evidence of paranormal activity at the crash site. Roughly a dozen people were near the halfway point on the bridge when an actual train approached from the West, heading towards Statesville. The train engineer spotted the ghost hunters as the train rounded a bend close to the bridge. He blew the train's horn in warning to the people gathered on the bridge, but was unable to stop the train in time. According to a news report from WBTV in Charlotte, the ghost hunters were initially slow to respond to the threat because they mistook the actual train bearing down on them for the ghost train they had been hoping to witness. Upon realizing a real train was heading their way the ghost hunters scrambled to get off the bridge on the East side. All but two made it.
29-year-old Christopher "
" Kaiser of Charlotte, North Carolina was struck by the approaching train and killed, his body thrown into the ravine. According to witnesses, Kaiser's final act was to save the other person who wasn't able to reach the Eastern end of the bridge, his girlfriend, who he shoved off the bridge at the last moment. The woman suffered severe injuries from the nearly 40-foot fall from the bridge into the ravine, but survived.
Another ghost hunter suffered minor injuries that were treated at the scene by paramedics and did not require hospitalization. The woman who fell into the ravine was taken to the Iredell Hospital in Statesville by ambulance and then airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Some of the ghost hunters fled the scene before police and rescue workers arrived.
Visiting the Bostian Bridge
Visitors can view the bridge from nearby Buffalo Shoals Road. The address listed above is the vantage point from which Pat Hayes allegedly was able to witness the ghost train crash from in 1941 (the bridge can be seen on the satellite map slightly to the North). It is advisable that any visitors observe posted No Trespassing signs and other warning signs. The rail road track is still active and walking onto the bridge is dangerous.
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USGW Archives: Bostian Train Wreck
New article about the 1891 train wreck at Bostian's Bridge.
American Folklore: Bostian's Bridge Ghost Train
The story of the 1941 ghost train sighting at Bostian's Bridge.
Creepy North Carolina: Bostian Bridge Ghost Train
Entry on Bostian's Bridge ghost train.
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Available from Amazon.com
Disasters and Heroic Rescues of North Carolina: True Stories of Tragedy and Survival (Disasters Series)
Ghost Train: American Railroad Ghost Legends
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The wreckage of Engine No. 9 at Bostian's Bridge in August 1891.
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The above content is for informational purposes only. Before making any travel arrangements, it is highly recommended that you contact those in charge of the property to check for updated availability and hours of operation. While we do our best to keep this information updated, we cannot guarantee that it is completely valid and up to date. Any destination marked "
Closed to the Public
" is marked that for a reason and we discourage any visits or attempts to gain access to that facility. Similarly, take note of any "
" that may be associated with a destination. Finally, treat any location and its local residents with respect. Any vandalism and/or unruly behavior is completely despicable and only ruins the experience for future visitors.
There are 3 comments in the database.
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Feb 20 2012, 05:00 PM UTC
ok he was 24. i think someone made up Pat's story.
Jan 26 2012, 06:42 PM UTC
where is Leinster's burial site? he is buried at the oakwood cemetery in statesville.
Edited on: Feb 20 2012, 04:58 PM UTC
Jan 26 2012, 04:42 AM UTC
ok so if Leinster was a 24 y/o man then whos the man with the pocket watch that Pat saw? did someone get lost or confused in the story? im working on writing a book about this wreck and im very curious about this.
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