Friday, August 1, 2008

The Ghost Bride of 19th Street

My home town of Erie Pennsylvania is odd for many reasons. But one of the most disturbing oddities of the city is the non-paranormal fact that many train tracks run smack dab through the center of town. You literally can not go from North to South within the city limits without running into at least one track, and the trains travel at all times of the day-especially during rush hours.

Multiple tracks are on the main East-West route of Conrail and Amtrak, along the path of the long gone Erie Canal, a man made waterway used to ferry goods between major Eastern United States cities until the late mid 1800s. Being in the center of a busy city, the tracks have been the scene of many accidents some fatal. One particularly tragic accident a few years ago seems to have left something behind.

It was an exceptionally warm Saturday night in late October many years ago. Like every weekend before Halloween the local bars and taverns were filled with young people reveling in holiday costume parties, drinking until the wee hours of the morning. One private club , “The Queen’s Pawn” was always the scene of the most extravagant and popular pre-Halloween parties. With a grand prize of $100 for the best costume and a guarantee of scantily clad coeds from the local sororities trying to win that prize it was always standing room only.

Holly wasn’t one of those girls though. She was a popular, beautiful and modest twenty something who worked as a hostess at a local restaurant. Her perfect costume was a Wedding Gown, for she was engaged to be married the following year. Her fiancé accompanied her dressed as a Groom wearing a tuxedo. During the evening the couple drank and danced the night away until the early morning. Tipsy and tired Holly and her fiancé left the club with a group of 30 of her friends at about 3:15 am. The club sits very close to the train tracks on 19th street, and the group had to cross them in order to get to their cars. Just as they approached the tracks a very slow moving train came traveling through the city from the east. A few hopped on the slow moving train and her fiancé followed suit, grasping onto the rail and easily hopping on a platform. Holly was in a full length gown with high heels and intoxicated; she really didn’t feel like hopping on the slow moving train. But her fiancé extended his hand romantically and the crowd around them shouted in unity, “Jump Bride, Jump!”

So Holly jumped. She grasped the rail, and the train of her wedding dress became caught up in the wheels of the locomotive.

As the stunned crowd looked on Holly screamed in terror as she was dragged leisurely under the crushing wheels of the locomotive. Her white dress became crimson as her body was gradually entangled within the wheels itself. The crowd ran in fear, including her fiancé, as her body was dragged over 100 yards stopping only by the intervention of an on looking police officer. Her body parts were strewn across the street by the crushing power of the locomotive. I had visited the scene the day after, since my wife works a few blocks away. The evidence of the grisly death still remained at the scene in the form of the painted outlines of the severed limbs and head scattering the sides of the track for the entire 100 yard length of the accident. The accident and the situation was a true tragedy.

The train tracks have long been removed replaced with a newly paved road. The trains are now diverted to other tracks in the area, far away from the casual pedestrian. But recently acquaintances of mine who have visited the area late at night have reported strange phenomenon.

People have been witnessing a ghostly apparition in the dark hours of early morning, the figure of a woman in a wedding dress walking down the street where the train tracks once lay. She says nothing, interacts with nothing. She hovers gradually down the street and vanishes in a white mist.

Tami told me: “We were traveling down 19th to get to State Street, just past the Erie Cemetery when we saw something on the road in front of us. It was a pretty girl in a wedding dress she was just walking down the center of the road with her back to us. My friend slowed down and flashed the high beams. That’s when is told him something wasn’t right, she seemed ‘fuzzy’ like a bad picture. Then as we came real close she just vanished under a streetlight. It was like the light took her.

Tami never heard the tragic tale of Holly from years ago. When she told me of her tale she assumed that there was some spirit loose from the nearby Erie Cemetery, but Holly’s body is buried in a distant suburban graveyard far from the bustle of the city.

Erie Cemetery is one of the oldest graveyard in Erie County and has it’s collection of odd and unusual stories. Within it’s iron gated limits are aged personal mausoleums of days gone by which hold the remains of wealthy businessmen who were friends of presidents, many of the city’s founding politicians, and hordes of ordinary citizens. Its eastern border is only a few blocks away from where Holly met her untimely demise. There have been other reports of ghostly apparitions and unusual sounds at the Cemetery but the bride has only recently appeared.

I inquired at the local police station if anyone had reported to them about any ghosts on 19th street. He just shook his head and smiled sarcastically, “We get all kinds of weird calls. The graveyard always spooks people.” After I clarified myself to him that I was curious about any sightings of a ‘ghost bride’ around the area of “The Queens Pawn” where the old tracks used to run he gave me a curious look. With a somber voice he said, “I really don’t want to talk about it, we had a few guys at the scene that night and they saw a lot of stuff they had a tough time with.” He then gave me an odd stare, “They still see things.” He said as he stood up to walk away and put a stop to the conversation.

Late at night, does Holly once again don her wedding veil to relive her hopes of a marriage that never was?

Or does she walk the streets of 19th street looking for the groom and her friends that abandoned her at the moment of her death thinking they will still come to rescue her?

Whatever this is, I hope that Holly finds peace.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Note: Names of people and places were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


cryptidsrus said...

That has got one of the most tragic sotries I've ever heard of, Pastor. I also hope Holly finds peace. Could it be that what people are seeing is not a "ghost" but simply a "psychic impression" due to trauma?

One of the reasons she may be showing herself to people may be to prove to non-believers the existence of life after death.

That reminds me of the time I visited Savannah about three years ago. Of course Savannah is considered by many to be the "most haunted city in America." Well, anyway, I took the obligatory "ghost tour" and set it up for for around 5:00 pm. To my surprise, I was the only the person there so the tour became more leisurely and included sights not usually seen in the faster, more attended tour. The guide was very surprised at the fact I was there so early and made the comment: "You must not be afraid. Most folk show up at night so there can be other people around them if something happens during the tour." Apparently very few people ever showed up during the day. Not "atmospheric" or "scary" enough.

My guide (a nice young woman dressed in 19th century costume and carrying a lantern) turned out to be very friendly and informative. Our conversatiion wandered into "are they real or not" territory and when I told her I wished I could see some ghosts, she replied, "Oh, you won't see spirits. You believe in them. They only show themselves to people who don't believe. So you won't see them."

Could be these people who see Holly do not believe in ghosts. So that may be what's going on. It does not always happen like that, but it might be an explanation. Apparently they exist partly because we "allow" them to exist. So I guess I'll never see one. :)
As usual, great story, Swope.

Julie said...

If real, this sounds like a residual haunting, like the psychic impression mentioned by cryptidsrus. Residual hauntings are said to occur when a violent, sudden death takes place.

I cannot imagine the horror of watching someone being run over by a train. A good friend of mine lost a boyfriend that way a few years ago. Several friends were going to the river and had to cross the tracks to get there. The boyfriend went ahead of the group, tripped and fell on the tracks, knocking himself unconscious. The train happened to come by shortly thereafter, and the group of friends made the grisly discovery as they walked to the river for a day of fun. My friend was never the same after that.

I'm glad to hear they moved the tracks in Erie after that incident. It just seems common sense to not have trains moving through areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic, whether those pedestrians are intoxicated or not.

Pastor Swope said...

Thank you Crytidsrus and Julie,

I think you are both right about it being a psychic impression or residual haunting.

Interesting theory on ghostly apparitions there cryptidsrus, never thought of it like that!

Sad tale of your friend Julie, I had a brother in-law that had a similar experience.

Mojo Mom said...

If the stories are THIS good in August, I can't wait to see what's in store for Halloween!!!
Reading your blog has become my favorite weekend activity!

Catherine said...

This was such a tragedy. I was able to find online memorials for this girl posted by her mother and it is clear her family is understandably having trouble moving on. She seemed liked such a beautiful girl and kind spirit. Her mom still posts anniversary pages for her. I hate to think her soul can't find peace. One of the saddest stories I've read in a long time.

Pastor Swope said...


You must be a very good surfer. Her case was all over the news years ago. Sad tale. This was actually one of the first original stories I had from Erie but sat on it for a long time just because of the nature of the incident. That changed when I had an actual witness write me, so it was no longer just a rumor. I changed the names but the incident itself is hard to miss if you know where to look.

I am not sure if her family knows of these sightings. The sightings may comfort them or disturb them. I did not contact them about the story, I decided for privacy. Their web memorial is beautiful. She was loved by a lot of people, and was a great person by ALL accounts. If this would have happened to my son, I do not know what I would do.

We can't be positively sure it is her, but the coincidences are remarkable. At least she is sighted as a glowing pristine image of a lovely bride.

Pastor Swope said...

Thanks Mojo Mom!

I do have some Halloween stuff, I hope I do not disappoint!