Cover Story: Legend of Bostian's Bridge

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

IREDELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The legend of the Bostian's Bridge ghost train.  It's a spine tingling tale, more than 100 years old.

Now more death on those tracks.  A man was killed by a real train while waiting for a ghost to appear.

One man is dead, a woman in the hospital after they were struck by what they thought was a ghost train.

It happened Friday morning at the Bostian's Bridge railroad trestle, west of Statesville.

A group of amateur ghost hunters were on the trestle when they were surprised by a Norfolk-Southern freight train.

29 year old Christopher Kaiser of Charlotte was hit by the train and plunged to his death in the ravine below.  An unidentified woman who also fell is now at Carolinas Medical Center.

"This was in the middle of the night, they didn't hear it, it was able to cover the tracks and hit one of the individuals causing his death just by being on the tracks," says Capt. Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office.

The group was checking out a legend that ghosts from an 1891 train wreck appear each year on the anniversary of the accident.

There is growing interest in ghost hunting - what with the proliferation of TV shows on cable and with the internet.

What is the legend of the Bostian's Bridge train disaster in 1891?  And how to people who take this seriously investigate?

Tina McSwain heads a group known as the Charlotte Area Paranormal Society.  And her license plate leaves no doubt what she does.  She's a ghost hunter.

"We research and investigate reports of paranormal activity," she said.

The group's been around for 5 years, and during that time they say they've assisted more than 80 homes and businesses try to explain what can't be explained.

What is our fascination in the subject?

"It goes back to the question of life after death. Is there life after death? Can you prove it. Are ghosts proof of life after death?" says McSwain.

The story of Bostian's Bridge goes back to 1891.

Early morning hours of August 27th westbound number 9 passenger train hit the bridge and plunged into Third Creek.  Twenty-two people were killed, scores were injured.

It was on the 50th anniversary in 1941 when the ghost stories started coming out of the woodwork.  A Columbia, South Carolina woman claimed to have seen an identical train wreck.

Historian Larry Neal says no evidence was found but that didn't matter.  The legend was born.  He says, "Maybe it's just trying to be a connection to the past to where you're trying to relieve or experience something that happened in the past because of when you were born you would never be able to experience yourself."

Dozens of people flock to the bridge every year like they did Friday morning to see the train that's supposed to appear on the anniversary.

Now with a man's death on the tracks today the story takes on a new life according to Jeff Belanger, author of the book "Picture Yourself Legend Tripping."

He said, "This person becomes part of the story. This person is now intertwined with that legend forever. People will be going there I imagine now in great numbers."

Those who call themselves professionals haven't been able to detect anything.  Although Tina McSwain did experience something unusual with candles on one anniversary.

"It was a very humid night," she said. "No wind was moving. And exactly 4 AM the candles blew out. A big gust of wind acted like it came down the track. That's the extent of what we discovered."

Bostian's Bridge is on a Norfolk-Southern Railroad line that runs west of Statesville toward Asheville.  It's on a busy corridor.

There's a bend in the tracks near the site of the bridge and it caught today's amateur ghost hunters by surprise.

It's being ruled accidental by the Iredell sheriff's office.  The individuals were on the tracks and shouldn't have been.

Professional ghost hunters wisely point out to us that they do not trespass and act responsible and professional at all time.

Copyright 2010 WBTV. All rights reserved.