In Steuben County NY on August 30, 1943, the Lackawanna Limited passenger train drove at 70 miles per hour into a freight engine that hadn’t cleared the track. The wreckage was brutal; published estimates vary, but around 110 people were injured and 28 died. But most gruesome was their manner of death—only one passenger, one Frank Meincke, was crushed in wreckage. The rest were trapped in a coach that landed atop the freight engine, which emptied itself of steam into the coach. The victims were basically cooked alive. From The Troopers Are Coming: New York State Troopers, 1917-1943:
The Lackawanna Limited struck the left side of a freight engine, tearing up three hundred feet of track and leaving a twisted mass of wreckage scattered along the right of way. A steam jacket torn from the freight engine allowed escaping steam to enter some of the passenger coaches, causing agony and death. Twenty-eight passengers and crewmembers were killed and 117 passengers were injured.
Images via the Painted Hills Genealogy Society
But though it entombed over two dozen people, the passenger car itself was unharmed, and this grim piece of transportation history remains not just intact, but restored in the disused B&O roundhouse that now serves as a museum and restoration workplace for the Midwest Railway Preservation Society. Due to that key event in the car’s past, it’s acquired a reputation as a haunting site, and is referred to as “The Death Car.” According to Seeks Ghosts, a web site for paranormal enthusiasts,
While this old passenger car was at this yard being renovated many people connected to this society began to believe it was haunted. In fact, the volunteers at this yard dubbed this car—the ”Death Car.”
One volunteer, Charlie Sedgley who works for the society restoring cars believes he encountered at least 17 separate ghosts in the 1943 wrecked passenger car.
The society gives tours of the old train cars they restore. A trustee of the society, Steve Karpos was leading one of these tours when he led his group into the Death Car.
As he spoke a female member of his tour group interrupted him to ask why he didn’t let the other man behind him speak. Karpos didn’t know what she was talking about. She then asked about the “man dressed in the funny suit.”
Karpos recalls that, “Everyone else was saying there was a ghost in the car.” When the tour exited the Death Car several members saw, “a ghost sitting on the roof with his feet hanging over.”
That article goes on to say that the MRPS no longer owns the car, but it is indeed still there, and Sweet Apple have used it as the setting for “World I’m Gonna Leave You,” the first of four videos from their new LP Sing the Night in Sorrow. Sweet Apple is made up of members of Dinosaur Jr, Witch, and Cobra Verde, and the song includes vocal contributions from Mark Lanegan and Bob Pollard. The video is far cheekier than the train car’s grim history would suggest—the band’s namesake bassist Dave Sweetapple enters the haunted car and is bedeviled by—well, the Devil played by singer John Petkovic in a cheap mask. Drummer J Mascis and guitarist Tim Parnin also appear, as do eleven other passengers and, evidently, at least 17 separate ghosts.
Bonus! If you’re into this sort of thing, here’s a substantive documentary on the train car, the crash, and the alleged haunting.