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The Mysterious Railroad Light

By Elton Camp
Off and on for more than 100 years, an unexplained light has periodically been seen at
night, bobbing up and down along the railroad tracks near Carpenters Station, Alabama.
Roscoe Billings, a local historian, reports having investigated the phenomenon. I admit
to being among the skeptics, but decided to check for myself. On a clear, moonless night
in 1958, I made my way through the woods to where the abandoned tracks passed near a
bog a few hundred yards off the main highway. After turning off my flashlight, I sat on a
fallen log and waited. The night sounds of summer made the place seem eerie, but I
spotted nothing out of the ordinary as I waited for over an hour. Mosquitoes and the
chance of running up on a snake in the dense undergrowth convinced me Id had
enough.
When Roscoe rose to leave, it saw it! A distinct light slowly moved parallel to the tracks.
Startled, but determined to get a closer look, the man crept soundlessly toward the
manifestation.
As soon as I got close, Roscoes report continues, the light began to move away from
me. If I retreated, it seemed to follow, but always staying within a few yards of the
railroad bed. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rising and felt a chill going down my
spine.
Mustering up courage, he shouted, Who goes there? Identify yourself!
A hoarse voice responded, Ive got to find it. Ive been looking for so long.
Although suspecting that it was a practical joke from neighbors who knew he was going
there that night, Roscoe beat a hasty retreat without further incident. A check of the old
newspaper files caused him to become ashen-faced.
In 1913, a railroad worker, James Baldwin, had died on that stretch of the rail line.
Asleep in the caboose, James was abruptly roused into consciousness by a violent jerk.
From his years of experience, he knew at once that the caboose had detached from the
rest of the train. In those days, there was no means of communication with the engineer
of the departing train, nor of the passenger train James knew was moving east only a few
miles behind. The stalled caboose was certain to cause a horrendous wreck with the loss
of many lives.
The only hope was to signal the oncoming train to stop, but the best chance of
being seen in time was for James to stand with his light on the platform at the back of the
caboose. He was faced with an agonizing choice since it was unlikely the engineer could
overcome the momentum of his train soon enough to avoid collision with the caboose. If

he could slow enough, a complete disaster could be avoided. James had little chance of
survival, but made the courageous choice to save as many as possible.
Seizing his lantern, he took his post as the sound of the oncoming passenger train
rumbled closer. Frantically waving his light, he caught the attention of the engineer in
time for him to throw on the brakes. The momentum of tons of rushing steel kept the
train moving and into crashed into the caboose. A more serious collision had been
avoided, but James was decapitated. His head was thrown into the murky swamp that
surrounded the track and never found. James was buried with heros honors a week later,
but without his head. Believers in the paranormal insist that the ghost of the man is still
searching for his missing head!
Disbelievers are equally adamant that the mysterious light is nothing more than swamp
gas--the well-known Will o the Wisp that has long been seen in boggy areas with
methane gas. What do you think?