by Derek D.
A feature about the supposedly haunted railroad tracks in San Antonio, Texas.
|It is a dark and stormy night as you drive through a quiet residential neighborhood in San Antonio. But the road takes a curve, and time stands still. Suddenly you find yourself in a tunnel of dead trees and tangled underbrush, leading to a dilapidated railroad crossing. There are no warning lights. The sign seems held together by rust.
You stop your car almost instinctively. "This must be the place," you say to yourself, and you put the gearshift in neutral. For a few seconds, the car is still. Then the car begins slowly creeping forward. The speed picks up as the car nears the tracks, and within moments you have been carried across. Once again, the ghosts of San Antonio's haunted railroad crossing have done their job.
According to local myth, the railroad crossing at Shane and Villamain was the scene of a gruesome accident. Sometime in the 1930s or 1940s — the stories never name a precise date — a school bus full of kids is purported to have become stuck on the crossing, where it was then struck by a train.
Since then, the story goes, the spirits of the unfortunate youngsters have stuck around to offer a phantasmal helping hand and make sure nobody else suffers the same fate.
The Urban Legends Reference Pages say that the San Antonio legend is a “Gravity Hill tale.” These involve areas of road where optical illusions cause your car to roll on its own due to gravity, while the ground appears to be level or even uphill. Such legends, particularly that of the San Antonio railroad crossing, have been growing in popularity since the 1970s.
While there is no evidence that such an accident ever took place in San Antonio, a remarkably similar one took place in Utah. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a bus from Jordan High School in Salt Lake City was struck by a fast-moving train on Dec. 1, 1938. The accident claimed the lives of 24 Jordan High School students.
"Think about it. A semi-literate person in Texas reads the newspaper ... then the locals end up thinking it happened on the south side of San Antonio," speculates Martin Leal, a San Antonio resident and self-dubbed "ghost hunter."
Leal runs the Alamo City Paranormal Club, which investigates paranormal phenomena and offers guided tours of many of San Antonio’s haunted locales.
“I think the tracks are a great place to visit,” Leal said. “Go there on a Friday or Saturday night and there could be a line of people waiting to go over the tracks.”
“As a professional ghost hunter, I do not believe the proof of ghosts is there,” Leal added. “But the Alamo, the Driskell Hotel [in Austin], all of these are famous haunted locations, but there’s no proof. I think the tracks could still be haunted, but Shane Road is an optical illusion.”
While the City of San Antonio does not consider the railroad tracks to be an official tourist attraction, it does not discourage people from visiting them either. A visitor service representative in San Antonio’s Visitor Information Center said that the tale of the tracks has widely spread by word-of-mouth.
People tend to assume that the city is trying to keep the legend quiet, she said, but this is not at all the case “If people ask, we’ll tell them about it and how to get there.”
“We only get about one request per month,” she said. As of now, due to lack of visible public demand, there are no plans for the city of San Antonio to clean up the area or make it an advertised tourist attraction, she said.
Until this happens, the tracks will remain a curiosity at best. The people will continue to come and roll their cars down a hill, carrying out the instructions of a time-twisted urban legend. But even if there are no ghosts, the evidence of haunting is all around – in the form of empty bags of flour, beer cans, and grave-like mounds of cold cinders where hundreds of campfires have burned through countless witching hours as visitors have waited for a message from beyond.
The Urban Legends Reference Pages are located at http://www.snopes.com. For more information on the Alamo City Paranormal Club, visit http://www.webspawner.com/users/mleal/.