A New Jersey Ghost Story
For days, a ragged old man had hung around the Newark Central Station. The stationmaster kept running him off, but night after night he would return. He kept accosting people, shouting: "It’s coming for me! It’s coming!" Whenever anyone asked him what was coming for him, he would just clutch his head and cry: "I done wrong! I killed a man that cheated me at cards, and now I’m going to pay!"
The stationmaster finally took the man aside and threatened to call the police if he did not cease and desist. The old man rolled his eyes and replied: "The Express Train for Hell is coming for my soul! You’ve got to help me." He broke away from the stationmaster and ran for the door. The time was two minutes to midnight. At that moment, new sound introduced itself. A long whistle blew, once, twice. The stationmaster was startled. The next train wasn’t due until 12:05.
The old tramp started screaming when he heard the whistle. The stationmaster could hear the roar and chug of a steam train, approaching fast. Approaching too fast to stop at the station. The old man was standing at the edge of the platform, staring down the tracks in frozen terror. The stationmaster ran forward and grabbed hold of the old tramp to pull him out of harm’s way.
The train whistle sounded again. A warm rush of air blew against everyone near the platform and the stationmaster heard the roar of an invisible train passing directly in front of him. He heard the hiss of the steam and the screech of flanges against iron rails; he felt the wind whipping our hair and faces, but he saw nothing.
Beneath his grip, the old tramp gave a terrible wail. Then he vanished, leaving the stationmaster empty-handed. The roar of the invisible train faded into the distance and then ceased. The stationmaster glanced at the station clock. It was midnight.
The stationmaster stared blankly at the tracks. Around him, the waiting passengers and other bystanders were gasping and murmuring in fright. "Good lord, he was right," the stationmaster murmured to himself. "It did come for him." He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweating, bald head with it.
A trembling man standing nearby approached the stationmaster: "Sir, what was that?" he asked. "Son, I believe that was the Express Train to Hell," said the stationmaster. He shook his head and that seemed to bring him to his senses. "Why don’t you go back into the station and pour yourself a drink?" he suggested to the trembling man.
He pushed the man through the station door and then turned to address the dazed and frightened passengers. "Nothing to worry about folks," he said. "It was just an express train passing through. The next train will be here in five minutes." The stationmaster’s reassuring manner calmed everyone. People turned away from the empty tracks and settled back into their seats, whispering to each other about the strange events that had just taken place.
Then the stationmaster went into his office, closed the door, and poured himself a stiff drink to calm his nerves. "Well, that’s one for the books," he muttered aloud. "I wonder if I should put it on the schedule; 12 am-Express Train to Hell."
Shaking his head, he fortified himself with one more brandy and then went back to work.
Read more New Jersey folklore in Spooky New Jersey by S.E. Schlosser.