The Case of the Boxcar and the Indian Chief

Several posts ago, I posted a two-part story on the house I grew up in, and the factory behind that house, and the fact that not only were the two connected in their respective histories, but also that the house, at least, appears to have been haunted. (Pretty much any person who has ever lived there since our family has either strongly suspected this, or has just gone off the deep end themselves mentally).

There are at least four spirits in the house that were encountered by different members of my family at different times throughout the years, and I suspect there may be more than this.

These spirits would seem to include: the spirit of Jerome Feller, the “dark haired woman” we almost all encountered at one time or another, another who appeared a couple of times to my sister in pioneer / covered wagon days garb, and a definite malevolent force that everyone strongly sensed – this was the spirit that seemed to emanate mostly from the downstairs well room, as much of a cliché as that may be.

In talking about this one afternoon a few years ago on the phone with my brother, we started wondering if a place that haunted might not attract other spirits. Certainly, there are plenty of anecdotal paranormal ghost stories about various hauntings around the country to suggest that this might be the case. But of course, as is very often the case with such things, there is little to proof of this one way or the other. The nature of this sort of thing tends to be mostly, if not entirely, anecdotal. (Aside from the occasional “ghost photographs,” which are very difficult to prove the authenticity of.)

This conversation with my brother led to a distinct shared memory that he and I had never really bothered to take apart and analyze before. We both remember it vividly, especially because it took place more than once. But upon objective analysis, the memory makes little logical sense. If someone told me this story, I would be skeptical at best, and as such, I can’t really expect you to believe it. But, both my brother and I experienced this on multiple occasions, and all I can tell you is that every word of what I am about to tell you is the absolute truth.

What happened was this:  As we were growing up, my brother and I developed a fascination with watching the trains go by – recall our “weed forts” that we had built between five and ten feet away from the tracks to huddle in and (quite dangerously, one might add) watch the trains go by up close and personal. (See the post entitled, “Train, Train, Goin’ So Fast.”)

One day – I was about 8 and my brother 11 – a train went by, headed north away from town as they always did, and about three quarters down the length of the train as it passed by, here’s this American Indian sitting on top of the damned boxcar, his legs folded in front of him in traditional style. Very often, he would wave to us. And by American Indian, I mean in full, native ceremonial dress, including a large elaborate headdress, something you rarely see even in Wyoming outside of regional cultural events such as the Cheyenne “Pow Wow” events.

Now, mind you, Wyoming is a state with several large Indian reservations, and in the late 1970s hobos on the freight trains were not yet a thing of the past. Indeed, my brother and I often saw men “riding the rails” in those days – sometimes sitting on the edge of the open freight door of a boxcar, their legs dangling precariously out into space, and more often just curled up asleep inside the boxcar, visible through the open freight door. So outwardly at first glance, this story doesn’t seem impossible.
But they were never on top of the boxcar – with the swaying of the train, the jostling, the slowing down and speeding up, such a thing would be foolhardy. Not that it’s impossible – indeed boxcars do have a service ladder to the roof on one end, but a person who rode on top of a boxcar at 60 mph just wouldn’t last very long, in all likelihood. Life isn’t like the movies, and being on top of a moving train going that fast is in reality not going to end well for the person on top of the train.

And this is where the logic of this thing just falls completely apart. Not only would such a thing be extremely dangerous, so much so as to be almost suicidal, but how was it that his headdress stayed on, not even disturbed at all by moving nearly 60 mph?

And even if by some incredible feat of balance and a seriously starched headdress, all of the above were just barely possible, which it really isn’t, then why in the name of all that is good did we see this Indian Chief, sitting on the edge atop a fast moving train, multiple times – at least a dozen times during the late 70s and early 80s – and always going the same direction (the trains almost always ran from south to north, coming from town and past our house)? Was he on some sort of never –ending circuit? No, hobos were almost always on their way to somewhere, usually looking for work, they didn’t travel in circles and keep up popping up in the same place, it just didn’t work that way.

Something isn’t adding up here. This doesn’t make sense, and could not have happened.

Except that it did. At least a dozen times over the course of the ten year period from 1975 – 1984, my brother and I saw this Indian Chief sitting on top of the train. By 1984, we saw him very seldom, and after my brother left home in 1984, I never saw him again.

He couldn’t have been a statue – he was very obviously a person – moving with the train and often, but not always, waving to us. And always, every time, facing us.

After really analyzing this over the phone for an hour with my brother – we came to one inescapable conclusion. Since we had both seen this together on multiple occasions, it seems exceedingly unlikely that it was mutual hysteria or a shared hallucination. (And no, we never smoked or drank anything that might induce such hallucinations, either).

So, we reasoned, there was really only one explanation – we had both seen a ghost in broad daylight on multiple occasions. As extraordinary as such a statement obviously is, I can’t think of a single other explanation.

Do ghosts exist?  From my experience, it’s a given that they do. Does like attract like, even on the other side of the veil? That is, if a place is haunted by multiple spirits, can it become a kind of “magnet” for other spirits?

I don’t know.  I can only tell you the things I remember, from growing up in and around a real haunted house.

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