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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ghost or Gravity?

While on a recent mini getaway to San Antonio I was told of a ghost story/urban legend in the area. I was intrigued and wanted to get photos of the area. Above are photos of the railroad tracks where supposedly a train hit a bus full of children killing them. Also, the surrounding neighborhood was supposedly named after the deceased children.

When we first arrived at this rather rural area we were the only ones there, but, quickly that changed. During the 10 minutes or so that we were there 4 more vehicles full of curious people arrived. Many got out and wandered around, some stopped on the tracks themselves and we saw nothing out of the ordinary. We quickly did a little search on the internet (thank goodness for phones with internet), and found that you were supposed to stop your vehicle approximately 15 feet from the tracks, turn off your engine, put car in neutral, and wait for your vehicle to move over the tracks. The road appears to be going slightly uphill, but, we did as we read (there were no other vehicles in the area at the time). Within a minute or so the truck did begin to move and we rolled over the tracks and around the slight curve in the road on the other side. It was a slightly eerie feeling, but.....being a total skeptic I knew there had to be a logical answer other than 'ghosts' pushing us. The following is what I found....

The story takes place anywhere from 1930-1949 depending on what you read. This popular urban legend is about a school bus which stalled on a railroad track. Before the bus could be evacuated the train hit the bus, killing everyone on the bus. The legend then goes on to say that the streets surrounding the area were named for the children who were killed. A couple of weeks after the accident some high school students were out for a drive when their car stalled on the tracks at the exact same spot. The driver put the car in neutral and as they were getting ready to push it the car rocked and then it rolled over the tracks and out of harms way. It was as if it was being pushed, but they didn't see anyone else around. The story spread quickly and it was believed that the ghosts of the children had pushed the vehicle to safety. It did not take long before people started going to the tracks and seeing for themselves just what would happen to them if they did the same thing. Those that tried it, said that their vehicle was pushed across the tracks by some unseen force.

While this is a great story, it is not true. Well, some of it is true, but the facts are a little off. The story of the accident appeared in the December 12, 1938 issue of TIME magazine. The story reported that 23 children and the bus driver lost their lives in a train accident. The accident, did not take place in San Antonio. It happened on a snowy, foggy morning in Midvale, Utah on December 1, 1938. The bus did not stall on the tracks but was moving over the tracks, after the driver had came to a complete stop and looked for trains. Not seeing a train (most likely due to fog and snow) he proceeded across the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train.

How do we explain all the people that have experienced being pushed over the tracks? It is an optical illusion; while the road appears to go uphill it is actually a downhill grade. This is very similar to what is known as a gravity hill and there are several located around the world.

Even though there have been reports of people using powder on the back of their cars to capture the hand prints of the ghost children, this is also something that can be explained. Our hands contain oils and even after a hand print has faded the oils remain. A regular car wash will not remove the oil. When you put powder on the back of your car the oil from our hands will bleed through the powder making it look like invisible hands were pushing the car.

This is a great example of an urban legend that was based on actual events, but like most urban legends the details and location change depending on where you are.

Photos were taken with a Nikon D5000 18-55mm lens.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading the background info. You do a nice job of introducing folks to the area through your pics, and "history lessons". Keep up the good work. :)