Stories of ghostly lights on railroad tracks may be found all around the United States, and Davenport is no different.
In January 1876, the Davenport Daily Gazette covered the adventures of our own ghostly railroad specter. It may have been short-lived, but by the newspaper’s account was frightening enough to cause great excitement among west end residents.
According to the article published on January 15, 1876 the “wondrously strange spectacle” had started right before Christmas along the C. R. I. & P. Railroad tracks west of Fillmore Street. Around midnight, a ghostly light.described as brighter than a railroad worker’s oil lamp, would appear. The light would follow the tracks until it reached the yard of St. Mary’s Church (located at Fillmore and 6th Streets, and at that point would mysteriously disappear.
The Gazette told of the terror felt by the hundred or so citizens who had seen the spooky light. Locals guessed at the source; one thought was the spirit of a victim of the three card monte men who had jumped from a train at that spot. a group of about ten men set out one night to capture the light, but fled in terror upon seeing it.
Interestingly, the newspaper noted that the light only appeared when the moon was bright.
The Gazette reported on January 17th that a group of fifty men went to the spot on Fillmore where the light was known to start to “interview the flaming ghost” on Saturday night. The men broke into groups along the track for a length of three miles and stayed from about midnight until 2:00 a.m. No flaming light appeared.
A few nights later, the mystery was solved.
Gazette reported on January 18th that a railroad worker had waited until midnight and caught three young boys at the tracks on Sunday night. In their possession were long tubes filled with oil and homemade rags made into wicks. Also long poles painted black had been fastened to the tubes.
The boys would walk along the lower edge of the track which kept them hidden from view. They would raise or lower the lights as they wanted then disappear with them into the area filled with trees near the church yard.
That, needless to say, was the end of the west side railroad spook light.
Does anyone know any other railroad ghost light stories around Davenport? We would love to hear about them!
(posted by Amy D.)