Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Ghostly Children of San Antonio, Texas

The Ghostly Children of San Antonio, Texas
The Most Famous Bus Crash That Never Happened

After eighteen or so months of researching and writing and proofreading, and rewriting schoolbus-train crash posts I've decided that it's finally almost time to put them to rest...but I can't quite do so just yet because, ya see, there's one more bus-train crash story to tell.  And this won't be just any post about just any accident, either. See, this one has it's very own ghost. Ten of 'em, in fact. And these aren't just any ol' ghosts either. This ghostly crew's story has become what's arguably the most famous ghost story in Texas.
We're heading for the south-central part of The Lone Star State for this one, and our destination's a quaint little burg that's home to around 1.4 million people, some of the best Mexican food anywhere north of the border, and a building all of you may have heard of known as 'The Alamo'.  I'm talking, of course, about the lovely and historic city of San Antonio, Texas.

We're going to ignore San Antonio's better known historic sites, as well as...very reluctantly...it's multitude of awesome Mexican restaurants as we bypass the city's more populated areas and head for a 90 degree curve on a back road in the more sparsely settled far south-eastern corner of the city. The curve in question is the one where Villamain Road, which runs parallel to a still active spur of the Union Pacific Railroad for a half mile or so, heaves itself around 90 degrees to the left to become Shane Road, crossing the U.P.tracks while it's at it...the very crossing where what would become Texas' most famous ghost story took root.

If you've read the rest of my Bus-Train crash posts, the gist of the story's a familiar one. A school bus with ten Catholic elementary school kids aboard was on Shane Road sometime after sun-down, heading towards Villamain Road enroute home from a field trip, when the bus engine decided to die at the very instant that they rolled onto the crossing. According to the story, all of the kids, exhausted from their day-long field trip, were asleep. The nun who was driving the bus, figuring that the engine would fire right back up, decided to let the kids sleep as she tried to start the bus. I mean, it'd probably start right back up, right?

Of course, as the story goes, it didn't. She'd cranked it a couple of times without success when the headlight of an approaching train suddenly appeared from around a curve. She tried desperately to crank the bus one more time as the engineer of the train spotted the bus sitting across the tracks and went sweaty-pale and wide-eyed as he yanked his brakes into emergency and laid down on the whistle, sending it's mournful wail across the countryside as steel wheels screed against steel rails.

The locomotive slammed into the bus broadside, ripping it in two and sending the front half of the bus spinning off of the tracks while dragging the rear half for a couple of hundred yards before tossing it aside, on the opposite side of the tracks, as the train slid to a stop. All ten of the children who were aboard the bus are supposed to have lost their lives in the accident.

The driver was uninjured, but devastated by the deaths, holding herself entirely responsible. As time passed she became more and more despondent until she finally decided to take her own life. And she wasn't going to do so using just any method...she decided to drive her personal car to the very crossing where the accident occurred, and park across the tracks, waiting for a train to happen by and end it all...

...So, on a dark, moonless night several months after the accident she tried to do just that. She parked near the crossing, waited until she heard a train coming, then pulled forward, across the tracks, and composed herself, awaiting her fate...and that's when things got more than a little strange.

She felt her car start rocking, then heard little kid voices encouraging each other, and then the car started to move, rolling uphill towards Villamain Road. The nun looked behind her, out of the car's rear window, but saw nothing but the empty, dark roadway behind her. The headlight of the train hove into view...just as it had on the night of the bus crash....and the engineer laid down on the whistle as the car slowly bumped across the rails, then rolled clear of the crossing, coming to a stop a few feet away from the tracks as the train thundered past. The nun sat there in shock for several minutes...long enough for the train to clear the crossing...then got out and looked around, likely more than half expecting to see the children who she'd heard talking standing around on the side of the road, but she saw no one. She walked around behind the car, still looking for the kids, but, of course, they weren't there. 

She did find something, though. The rear most part of the trunk lid, as well as the back bumper, was covered with hand prints...small, child sized hand prints. She counted, and came up with twenty hands...meaning ten children. The same number who'd been aboard her ill-fated bus. Obviously ten little angels had been dispatched to save her. She immediately decided that she had been saved for a reason, and told this story widely in the weeks afterwards.

True believers in The Ghostly Children will tell you...enthusiastically...that several of the people she told of this amazing occurrence rode out to the crossing to check it out for themselves and also noted the exact same phenomenon.  If they stopped on or just short of the tracks, they'd first feel their car rock gently and start moving, then hear the voices of the children, then, once they were clear of the crossing, see the hand prints on the trunk. More then one person noted that Shane Road actually...and we're gonna say apparently...climbed a very gentle hill as it approached the tracks. Just a very very subtle upgrade, but, we have to assume, enough of one to keep a car from rolling across the tracks on its own. (Keep this point in mind!)

And thus, a ghost story was born! And lets be honest here...there are very few better settings for a railroad-crossing-based ghost story than Shane and Villamain Rds. The area immediately surrounding the crossing is about as desolate as you can get and still be within the boundaries of a major city. OK, never mind the fact that, today, I-410 is under a quarter mile north of the crossing and a drive of a half mile or so in any direction will land you smack dab in the middle of modern suburban life...the crossing itself is surrounded by woods. It looks pretty desolate at noon on a bright, sunny day, so at, say, midnight on, say, Halloween night, it'd be a ghost-hunters dream come true.

A few tens of thousands of people have apparently agreed with that assessment over the last few decades. Over the several decades, the story...however it may have come to be... spread  first throughout the state, then throughout the country, until taking a trip to San Antonio to check out The Story of the Ghostly Children very much became a 'Thing'. The coming of The Internet only threw even more fuel on the ghost-child flames, spreading the story nationally and internationally to the point that at certain times of the year...I'm looking at you, Halloween...there were very literal traffic jams on narrow Shane Road as hundreds of travelers...from car loads of high school and college kids, to families, to professional ghost hunters...showed up to check out the Ghostly Children.

Whether they showed up singly or in groups, they all used the same basic procedure to check for the presence or absence of Ghost Children, almost as if it had been written down in an S.O.P. manual. First, they'd look up Shane Road towards the crossing, and note that the road did indeed appear to run subtly uphill towards the tracks. Then, if they were really prepared, they'd liberally sprinkle baby powder or talcum powder over the trunk and bumper...the better to reveal any ghostly hand prints that our tiny poltergeist might leave behind. Then they'd climb back in their ride, drive to the crossing (Again, depending on the time of year and possibly the weather, often having to wait in line), park either on or just short of the crossing, pop the transmission into neutral, and wait. And, sure 'nuff, the car would ultimately start moving, rolling towards the curve where Shane Road became Villamain Road, tires bumping subtly as they hit the rail-heads, until the car was safely clear of the tracks.

Then everyone would get back out of the vehicle, walk around to the rear, and gaze at the trunk and back bumper as if they were paying solemn respect to some unnamed idol. More often than not, eyes and mouths would both go wide in wonder and astonishment as they spotted hand prints and finger prints on the metal.

Hand prints supposedly left by 'The Ghostly Children'. I don't count but seven sets of hand prints...three of the Ghost-Kids must've been supervising on this one. 

Now, I don't know if anyone counted hand-prints and came up with the twenty hands that would mean all ten ghost-kids were pushing, or if they just 'oohed and aahed' at the very existence of said hand prints, but the hand prints were, in most cases, indeed there.

So many amateur ghost-hunters and curiosity-seekers have been inspired to check out The Ghostly Children that San Antonio P.D would occasionally have to get involved, due to both traffic issues and other less-than-legal activities. I have a feeling that more than a few cans of beer have been emptied on the road side and more than just a few underage drinking tickets have been given out.

...And yet, even with long, long lines, shady individuals of the non-ghostly variety lurking about, and the risk of tickets and the loss of  their favorite Refreshing Golden Beverages, the people still came, in huge numbers...singly and in groups. TV shows were filmed, parties were had, and pictures and videos were taken...and that, my friends, is how The Legend of The Ghost Children of San Antonio became the most famous ghost Story in Tex...


Stop Right There!!! 

...Come on gang...you really didn't think this was the end of the story did ya. What about the accident that created the legend?? Where, you may ask, is the in-depth analysis? The speculation? The discussion on emergency response?? Something a few of you may be thinking, is fishy here. And to that I reply...you're absolutely right!

You see, while thousands upon thousands of ghost seekers have, and still do, journey to Shane and Villamain annually to check out The Ghostly Children, the story they're chasing just doesn't hold up. 

Try something. Go to Google, and plug 'San Antonio Bus-Train crash' in. Search away. And yes, a slew of results pop up...all of them stories of the Ghost Children. None of them, however...as in Not. A. Single. One...reference any specific accident in the state of Texas, much less one in San Antonio or at that particular San Antonio grade crossing

You guys, BTW, aren't even close to being the first people who've discovered this little anomaly while searching for this apparently very elusive train crash. And Google isn't even vaguely the only place info about said accident is missing from.

First lets talk about the long time residents of San Antonio. The accident at Shane and Villamain supposedly happened in the late Thirties, so even people who were first or second graders at the time would be in their early to mid eighties if they're till around. There probably aren't many of them left, and fewer of them are around with each passing year. So, while finding a San Antonio born octogenarian who could confirm or deny that the accident happened, first hand, isn't an absolute impossibility, it's becoming more difficult by the day. As with any city, however, there are younger lifelong and long-time San Antonio residents who've made recording the history of their town a beloved and dedicated hobby, so we can just ask one of them about the accident..

With that fact in mind, go to San Antonio and ask some of the city fathers who to ask about their city's history...you know, not just the stuff that's in history books, but the little fascinating details of local history that you really have to dig for. Trust me, they'll know exactly who to refer you to.

Next, go find a one of these amateur historians and ask them about the tragic bus-train crash at Shane and Villamain.  They will then, while very likely giving you one of those looks that just freaking screams 'Oh, God, not another one' , very quickly tell you that they've never heard of a bus-train accident...an actual bus-train accident as opposed to the mythical variety...at that crossing because no such accident ever happened there, or anywhere else in San Antonio or even Texas, in the first place.

Then our historian will go on to point out one very strong bit of speculation and several very relevant facts that absolutely prove that the accident never happened.

First the speculation...if there had been ten kids killed in a bus crash in San Antonio, there would be some memory of it. These kids were supposedly on the way back into town, which means they lived in San Antonio, which means they would have had relatives their own age or younger who would have grown up and passed the story about Aunt Mary or Uncle Jimmy or Cousin Bob being killed in that horrible bus accident in San Antonio down to their own kids. 

Guess what gang. Nada. No one living who now lives or has ever lived in San Antonio can recall any stories passed down by relatives or friends about siblings or kinfolk dying in a train-school bus crash in San Antonio. Anywhere in or even near San Antonio, much less at that particular crossing.

'But wait!!!' the diehard Ghost-Child fans among us will point out.  'There's a subdivision just to the north east of the crossing...almost with-in rock-throwing distance...and the streets all have child-like names. These streets are supposedly named after the children killed in the accident. So just plug the location of this elusive accident along with a couple of the first names used for the street names into Google, Bing, or your search engine of choice,  and see what...'

...And several people were way ahead of you on this one. The streets are named after the grand kids of the guy who developed the subdivision. All of whom have grown up happy and healthy.

So much for speculation...now we get into the indisputable facts. 

Even in the very unlikely possibility that everyone with any reason to remember such an accident has passed away, there would still be official documentation. Even eighty years ago, a major accident that resulted in the death of ten kids would have generated literal reams of reports and paperwork, especially if it occurred in a large city. There would be investigative reports from the local and State police as well as State and Federal regulatory commissions, transcripts of court proceedings, and records of the burials of the victims...who would have been also named in the aforementioned local and State reports. 

Also, even in the1930s, San Antonio's population was pushing a quarter million, so they had a pretty large and (For the day) well equipped fire department. It's just about a given that S.A.F.D. would have  responded to a major bus-train crash, even if only peripherally, and that would have also generated a report. Make that reports...one for each company that responded.

Guess what? None of these agencies, be they local, State, or Federal, have any record at all of a bus-train accident with 10 fatalities anywhere in San Antonio or even the State of Texas during that period, much less one at that particular crossing. 

While we're at it, a search of the archives of the fire and police departments of Texas' larger cities would yield the exact same result. No school bus-train crashes with even one fatality, much less ten. And trust me...a ten fatality accident would have left an official footprint somewhere. A whole slew of 'em in fact.

Now, lets talk a bit about The Media. A freight train hitting a school bus and killing ten kids would, to put it mildly, set off a media feeding frenzy. True, back in the Thirties the technology to send it around the world instantly didn't exist as it does today, but, with the accident happening late at night, the local papers and radio stations would have had it by the next morning, the wire services by lunchtime, (If not a bit sooner,) and by the next evening...morning of the second day at the very  latest...it would be a front page newspaper story and lead radio newscast story from coast to coast and border to border. This is, in fact, what happened with all of the accidents from the '30s and '40s that I've posted about.

If newspapers nationwide covered the story, that would mean it would show up in searchable on-line newspaper archives, which takes us back to the old Google-machine and it's kin. Again, if you plug in 'San Antonio Train-Bus Crash', or any version there-of into any newspaper's search box, the only archived stories you get are those about the Ghost-Children. Nothing about an actual accident, much less one that killed ten kids. 

I've researched nine bus train crashes from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, all of which resulted in ten or more fatalities, and while the quantity and quality of information available varied widely from incident to incident, there was always something  out there...even for the Proberta, California accident, which is just five years shy of being a century ago.  Google searches for All of them yielded at least one or two archived news-paper articles, even, again, the nearly century old Proberta crash. 

That being the case, it stands to reason that, had there been such an accident in San Antonio, there'd be something out there. Problem for the story is...it's not. 

The accident never happened, gang. It just, well, didn't.

This little factual bump-in-the-road very obviously hasn't discouraged the thousands of people who show up annually to check out The Ghostly Children for themselves. So with that thought in mind, lets look at the practical side of the story...is someone or something actually pushing all of theses cars up-hill and off of the tracks?  

 Lets take a look at a couple of street view pics of the crossing first...
This is what a driver on Shane Rd sees as he's approaching the crossing. Told ya it was a desolate looking area! Hard to believe this is with-in the city limits of a city of over a million people. Also...and the actual point of this image...you don't even have to look all that hard to see that, yes, it in fact does look like you're heading uphill as you approach the tracks. The question is...are you? Read on.

Same view. but a little closer. The crossing is still an unprotected crossing, BTW. That's just a standard cross-buck, what lpoks like it may be warning lights beneath the cross buck is just a 'Yield' sign.

Hmmmm... Shane Road does indeed seem to be, at the very least, level if not climbing a very slight grade as it approaches the crossing.

 The question is...is it?

This question was answered for us in expert and entertaining fashion by The SciFi Network's 'The Miracle Hunter'  a few years back.  'The Miracle Hunter' host Johnathan Levit, along with his crew and several truckloads of equipment, headed for San Antonio to film an episode that would either confirm or debunk 'The Myth Of The Ghostly Children'. The area immediately surrounding the crossing was wall to wall packed with cars and people the day the episode was filmed, which I'm pretty sure is exactly what they wanted to happen. Given the fact that the episode and filming for same were probably widely publicized in the San Antonio Metro Area for several weeks beforehand, if there hadn't been a huge crowd it would have not only been a surprise, it would have also been a near-killing-blow for the episode...

Take a look-see at the segment of The Miracle Hunters dealing with The Ghostly Children, posted below...

You guys KNEW I'd post this!  The full Miracle Hunters segment on The Ghostly Children

The crew first shot several establishing frames looking up Shane Road while Jonathan commented sagely on the fact that Shane Road does look like it runs uphill towards the crossing. They then panned the camera across the crowd, showing people sprinkling talcum or baby powder across the cars' trunks to preserve any ghostly hand prints that might appear to prove that their cars, if they did indeed roll across the tracks, were pushed across by tiny poltergeist.

And then of course, they filmed several cars rolling slowly across the tracks...that was, after all, the whole point of the episode. After the cars were spirited across the tracks, they interviewed the occupants, taking particular care in showing them pointing to the allegedly new hand prints that had appeared on the trunk lids and rear bumpers of their rides. They asked these same people if they had washed their cars before they came. None of them had, BTW.  Keep this fact in mind...it'll be important here in a minute or so. 

So, to review, the cars were indeed rolling across the tracks with no help from their engines. And hand prints were indeed appearing on the trunk lids. So something was going on...but whatThat, of course, is what Jonathon Levit and his crew were there to find out. Spoiler Alert...if you're a fan of The Ghost Children, you're probably not going to like the answer they came up with.

The show team car was readied, and in the process of being readied, it was washed. We're talking 'Had it professionally washed at a high-end car wash' kinda washed. They even set up cameras, both inside and outside the ride, to show the Official Washing in progress. 

Then, once they arrived at Shane and Villamain, Johnathon wiped down the back of the car good to ensure it was indeed squeaky clean, produced a can of talcum powder, and, with great dramatic flourish and camera rolling, sprinkled it liberally across the Jeep Cherokee's lift-gate.

 He then got behind the wheel, positioned the car several dozen yards from the crossing,  popped the transmission into neutral, and waited. They only had to wait for a couple of seconds or so before the car, unbidden, started rolling. And, as had happened to literally thousands of cars since the Legend Of The Ghost Children was born, it bumped across the tracks and rolled on, stopping a few feet beyond, safely clear of the crossing. And yes, in fact, it did look like it was rolling up hill.

The question is, of course, was it? To answer that question the producers of The Miracle Hunter  enlisted the services of a couple of veteran surveyors who were armed with GPS equipped digital surveying equipment that very likely cost a couple of times as much as the vehicle it rode there on.

They set up the equipment with the the first rail that a car on Shane Road would cross as the zero-elevation baseline, sighted on it from 20 feet out, took a reading, and found that the road's elevation had increased..not by much, only about 3/4 of an inch in fact, but it had still increased. Meaning that Shane Road was running uphill as you went away from the crossing...and therefore (Lets all say it together)  down hill as you approached the crossing. But that was just a barely perceptible grade at 20 feet out. The road could have just pitched down, barely, as it got closer to the tracks.

So they took several more readings at points ever further from the crossing and found that the results were consistent...Shane Road ran down-grade as it approached the crossing. Barely down grade, to the tune of a sub 1% grade (A 1% grade is an elevation change of 1 foot in a horizontal run of 100 feet) but still enough of a downgrade for a car with it's transmission in neutral to start rolling. Down hill. Across the crossing. Without any assistance, ghostly or otherwise.

So...it seems that the mystery of the Ghost Children has been solved...busted in fa...

"BUT WAIT!!!!" I hear everyone...OK, the Ghost-Child-Believers among you...yell.  What about the hand prints?

Ahhh...the hand prints! First, there were no hand prints...ghostly or otherwise...on Jonathan's ride after it rolled across the tracks. And, cool as a rescue performed by a bunch of tiny ghosts would be, that one's even easier to explain...and debunk...than the allegedly uphill-rolling cars.  

Think back on all of the cop shows you've ever seen...what's one of the very first things that the fictional detectives/crime scene techs/what have you do when they arrive at the fictional crime scene. 

If you don't say 'Dust For Fingerprints' you have never ever actually watched a cop show. But yes...the correct answer is to dust every possible surface that the unknown evil-doer may have touched to see if he left any fingerprints. And one of the oft-exclaimed frustrations voiced by our TV-Crime-Scene- Techs is 'It's been wiped clean!'  

Keep all of the above in mind...it's all relevant.

Jonathon Levit didn't go into the finger prints/no finger prints deal in as much detail as he did the grade leading to the crossing, but the explanation is simplicity itself. See, fingerprints...and hand prints as well...will last for literally years. There was actually a kidnapping case in my home state of Virginia where the victim's hand print was found on the inside of the trunk lid of the prime suspect's car years after the crime was committed, so again, fingerprints and hand prints will last for years...as long as the surface they're left on isn't wiped down.

When you touch an object that'll hold fingerprints...say the back of a car...your fingers leave minute traces of oil behind. Not only that, when the friction ridges that form your fingerprints compress to grip what ever was touched they leave that oil behind in the exact pattern formed by the ridges, which is why fingerprints are so useful for Identification purposes.  This is also why our detectives dust all surfaces with fingerprint powder, as well as why our ghost hunters liberally dust the trunks and bumpers of their cars with talcum powder or baby powder. The powder sticks to the oil, making the pattern formed by the friction ridges stand out more sharply, thus making the finger prints more visible.

And this takes us right back to the 'Ghost Children' episode of The Miracle Hunter, the cars that were filmed rolling across the crossing and the hand prints seen there-upon. Remember Jonathan running his ride through a car wash before he went out to the crossing? Then wiping it down after he got there? The reason he did so had absolutely nothing to do with wanting his ride to really sparkle for the TV  camera's and everything  to do with fingerprints. In fact he was doing the exact same thing that our TV detectives curse their TV suspects for doing. He was wiping it down to remove any old fingerprints that may have been left behind on the lift gate all the times it was opened it in the past. So, when Jonathan, his camera crew, and a few million TV-viewers checked out the back of his ride after it rolled across the tracks, they saw only sunlight gleaming from pristine, unmarked paint. 

 SO that's not only why Jonathan did such a thorough job cleaning his ride, it's also why all the other cars had finger and hand prints there-upon. The other cars hadn't been washed before arriving at the crossing, and the fingerprints on the trunk lids weren't those of tiny but civic minded poltergeist. They were the prints belonging to the owners of the cars, left there every time they opened, then closed, the trunk. 

Sorry, Ghost-Child-Fans, but the story's pretty much just an Urban Legend.

So! Now that Texas' most famous ghost story has (Again) been thoroughly debunked (Hey, I didn't do it! I'm just relaying the facts!) just where the heck did this story come from. Were the residents of San Antonio so bored in 1938 or '39 that they came up with this story out of whole cloth? Sort of maybe. But they had help, and some inspiration...and yes I noted a specific year for a reason. See, there was a bus crash that year, and, in fact, I've posted about it.

The accident that inspired The Ghostly Children occurred on December 1st, 1938 in Sandy Utah, when the driver of a bus load of high school kids crossed in front of an oncoming train and was hit broadside, killing 26. This was also the worst grade crossing accident in U.S. history...a record that still stands and, hopefully, will never be bested...and I posted an article on it HERE.

That crash became a national news story, and with-in 24 hours banner-sized headlines had appeared on just about every front page in the country, so everyone in the U.S. knew about it, and was talking about it by lunchtime on December 2nd...the day after it happened. This included, of course, the residents of San Antonio. Like the rest of the country, San Antonio was subjected to ten solid days of intense coverage of the accident. And somewhere along the way, as the residents of The Mission City read article after article about the horror in Utah, one or more of them became inspired. 

 We'll never know just how or when the illusion of rolling uphill at San Antonio's Shane Road crossing was discovered or who discovered it, but that optical illusion had to have been an already known fact for the ghost story to have been created around it. And we'll certainly never know just exactly how the ghost story came to be created and then associated with that particular crossing. But we can be pretty sure that it was probably a multiple part...and multiple person...occurrence. And we can also be equally sure that it took a good bit of time...maybe even a few years...for the story to be developed.

 I have a feeling that, while discussing the Sandy accident, someone said something like  'Hey, you know that crossing on Shane Road...the one where you have to really keep your foot on the brake when a train's passing, even though it looks like you're going up hill...what if (As their face took on a pondering expression) what if that accident in Sandy had happened here in San Antonio, at that crossing...and those kids' ghosts haunted the crossing...to keep anyone else form getting hit...by pushing cars off of the crossing. I mean cars already roll there...what if it was kids' ghosts pushing them...

OK, as noted above, it almost definitely didn't happen all in one fell swoop in that manner, but over an unknown period of time...probably a couple of years, a least...the accident was moved to Shane and Villamain and the facts were modified to fit the story, in which the bus became our Catholic school bus, the kids became second and third graders, and the number of students was pared down to ten. And those ten fictional kids became our Ghost-Children.

The story was added to and enhanced, and polished  and spread around, and ultimately someone who wasn't in on creating the story, but who had heard it drove to the isolated crossing, sprinkled talcum powder on the trunk of their car, sat in it, popped the tranny into neutral, and was amazed as the car rolled 'uphill', then became even more amazed when they saw the hand and finger prints on the trunk of their car. So they told a some friends who also who tried it and told more friends...and a legendary Texas ghost story was born.

Then Jonathon Levit went and screwed it up for everyone, right? 

Actually, no. The stream of Ghost hunters and Ghost-Child fans didn't slack off in the least. Hordes of Ghost-Child-Seekers still made road trips to the Shane and Villamain to roll across the tracks...

Sadly...because, really, who doesn't love a good Urban Legend, especially one with a good ghost story connected to it...what Jonathon Levit couldn't do, The Union Pacific Railroad almost did manage to do, far more effectively I might add. The railroad had (And very possibly still has) plans to add a passing siding to that section of the tracks, upgrading the crossing while they were at it, with the distinct possibility that the slight grade that allows cars to roll across the crossing would be leveled off just shy of the tracks. This, of course, would mean that, instead of rolling across the tracks, cars will stop just prior to, or on top of, the crossing. Which would kind of defeat the purpose of the urban legend's story, effectively killing it.

It was almost a done deal. The crossing, and thus Shane Road, had been closed so the track construction and crossing upgrades could take place and the Ghost Children had taken a long over-due vacation. The residents of San Antonio...and likely the rest of Texas...were mourning the loss of their favorite ghostly urban legend when Texas' Favorite Ghost Story got at least a temporary reprieve. 

Those crossing upgrade and passing siding plans have been shelved, the crossing has been reopened, and the Ghost Children are back on the job.

It was probably a budget thing...projects get shelved or post-poned or pushed back all the time due to funding issues. Funds earmarked for a project get diverted to a more important project, or something comes up that requires an emergency reallocation of funds. 

And there are no ghostly children...was no fatal bus-train crash in San Antonio...the accident never ever happened, therefore there were no fatalities, therefore the ghost-children just don't exist. This has been pretty well established.

But..it'd still pretty much redefine cool if the real reason the crossing upgrade project was delayed was because Union Pacific's C.E.O., after opening his office on some recent morning,  found ten little ghosts hanging around, doing ghost-type-things. And, upon seeing him enter, the ten little ghosts became serious...or as serious as ghost-children can ever become...and one of the them, elected spokes-ghost by his or her comrades-in-haunting, said to him 'Dude...we gotta talk about this crossing issue... ; ) 

The Ghost Children are not amused by your planned crossing improvements...not amused at all

***********************NOTES, LINKS, AND STUFF*************************

The other posts in this series
in the order they were posted.

March 1972

October 1971

August 1976

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2015/02/conasauga-tennesee-bustrain-crash.html  Conasauga Tenn.
  March 2000

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/sandy-utah-bus-train-crashthe-worst.html   Sandy, Utah Dec 1938

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/proberta-california-train-bus-crash.html  Proberta, California Nov 1921

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/02/shreve-ohio-and-berea-ohio-school.html  Shreve and Berea Ohio Jan. 1930

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/crescent-city-florida-trainschool-bus.html  Crescent City, Florida December 1933

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/rockville-md-train-bus-crash-april-11th.html  Rockville, Maryland April 1935

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/mason-city-iowa-bus-train-crash.html  Mason City, Iowa Oct. 1937

http://disasteroushistory.blogspot.com/2016/03/eads-tennessee-trainschool-bus-crash.html Eads, Tennessee Oct. 1941


I gotta admit, this one made me wish I lived about 1400 miles or so closer to San Antonio. Or that I had the free time and free cash to snag a plane ticket and make the four hour and change flight to The Mission City so I could check out the crossing myself. I mean, really, who doesn't love a good ghost story.

I had this one in mind to wind up the train/bus crash posts almost two years ago, when I started working on this series. It's a fun and unique little story, mythical (And debunked) urban legend though it may be. It's still nice to end this series of posts up with a story that doesn't rip your heart out.

Another interesting point about The Ghostly Children...they are far better documented than any of the actual bus/train crashes I researched. There are literally hundreds of articles on-line about them.

OK...On to the Notes an' such!


Another interesting point about The Lone Star State's favorite tiny ghosts...no one's really sure just when they came into being. While I had the story being created shortly after the Sandy accident occurred, the legend probably didn't gather steam until the mid or late Forties, and it wasn't well known outside of Texas, apparently, until the Fifties at the earliest.

It had started gathering a good bit of renown by the Seventies, but it really took off with-in the last twenty or so years, with the coming of The Internet.


Interestingly enough, The Ghostly Children apparently don't limit their activities to San Antonio...a couple of other crossing accidents have inspired their own version of the same story. As all of them popped up at about the same time, so they were all very likely inspired by the Sandy, Utah crash. On top of that, so called 'Gravity Hills'...hills that seem to ascend rather than descend because of the lack of a true horizon creating an optical illusion...are not that uncommon at all, and all of these urban legends are based on such a hill.

Interestingly enough, it would have been impossible for a similar urban legend to actually take root at the now long-gone crossing where the Sandy, Utah crash occurred because that road not only climbed a pretty good grade as it crossed the tracks, it also rounded a pretty sharp curve immediately before the crossing rather than being a straight shot like Shane Road, meaning that there would be no way that a car could roll across the crossing without being driven across..

Of course, train wrecks in general have a habit of inspiring ghost stories, and The Ghostly Children aren't even the only youthful poltergeists directly inspired by the Sandy Utah bus /train crash. That tragic and horrendous crash has it's own ghosts. The kids who never made it to school allegedly haunted the halls and classrooms of old Jordan High School, and then, after a new Jordan High was built, occasionally popped up at the entertainment complex that was built on the site of the old school.

Like The Ghostly Children, these ghosts apparently were (And are) benevolent. Sadly, though, unlike the San Antonio crossing ghost children, the Sandy ghost stories were inspired by an accident that was, tragically, very real.


San Antonio's Ghostly Children even inspired a movie. The 2006 horror film 'Fingerprints', written and produced by Jason and Brian Cleveland, and directed by Harry Basil, was based all but directly on the Ghostly Children. 

Poster for 'Fingerprints'

In the film, a teenage girl (Melanie, portrayed by Leah Pipes) gets out of rehab and returns to her small Texas town, where Ghost Children push cars off of a crossing before it can be hit by a train (Hmmmm...that do sound familiar, don't it?). This being a horror film, there's a sinister and evil mystery to go along with the bus crash, and the ghosts, apparently, aren't as benevolent as their San Antonio kindred spirits.

The film never got a wide release...it was an Indie film, released at various film festivals around the country, but it did grab a pretty prestigious award, snagging 'Best Feature Film' at the New York City Horror Film Festival.

For more details about 'Fingerprints', take a look at it's Wikipedia Page and IMDb page 

Both are loaded with good information about the film, and IMDb is the definitive 'Go To' site for info on anything involving either television or film.


While The Miracle Hunter's investigation of The Ghostly Children is, arguably, the best known debunking of the myth, they're not the only ones who took the Ghost Children to the small screen. The Sci-Fi Channels 'Fact or Faked also did an episode...or half of an episode...devoted to the Ghost Children, and the debunking of same. 

They covered the same material as  'The Miracle Hunter', and took it just a scosh further by interviewing one of those local historians I was talking about above, who explained the ghostly screams that some people reported.

Here's a small segment of the episode:

The full episode is available on Amazon...at a buck ninety-nine a pop. Sure, that's not going to break anyone...but it also prevents me from posting the entire episode.

As for The Ghost Children's opinion of their fleeting small screen fame...through their agent, they declined interview, other than noting that 'Those posers Slimer and Casper get all the good publicity!!!' ;)


While straight ghost stories and paranormal activity are way beyond the scope of this blog, I'd still be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that The Ghost Children are in good company...San Antonio is known as The Most Haunted City in Texas.

Many if not most of the city's numerous old hotels, such as the The Menger, The Crockett, The Sheraton (Formally the Gunter), The Emily Morgan, and The Black Swan Inn, have their own well known ghosts-in-residence.

Then of course you have an obscure little mission known as The Alamo that's home to a few ghosts of it's own. And this is just a small sampling of San Antonio's citizen-ghosts. If you're into the Paranormal...or just curious...just plug San Antonio and 'Most Haunted City' into Google and see what you come up with!


As I noted above, there at least seemed to be more articles written about The Ghostly Children then there were of every other bus crash I've posted about combined. Literal pages. And pages. And pages of 'em.

I'm not even going to try to post all of 'em, so what I am gonna do is post the best several links.

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/tx-ghostlychildren.html   Legends of America article about the Ghostly Children. The author is..rightfully...pretty skeptical about the legend. There are also some pretty interesting comments at the end of the article, written by a couple of true believers in the Ghost Children

http://paranormal.about.com/od/hauntedplaces/a/The-Haunted-Railroad-Crossing.htm   Another interesting article, this one written by paranormal phenomenon expert Stephen Wagner. While it disputes an actual bus crash happening at the crossing, it also gives some pretty chilling examples of paranormal activity occurring at Shane and Villamain...pretty convincing stuff if you believe in that sort of thing. It's an interesting and entertaining read whether you 'Believe in Ghosts' or not.

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1298    Roadside America.Com's page about The Ghostly Children. Has some interesting and in depth comments both pro and con, RE: The Ghost Children.. This is an awesome site in general, in fact, chock full of interesting articles about unusual things that can be found along the highways and byways of The U.S. and Canada.

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/ghosts/handprint.asp   Ya just gotta have a Snopes.com page about The Ghostly Children. Spoiler Alert...Snopes pretty much debunks the myth as well. Just not as eloquently as I did ;) :D

Weird US.Com also has a page about The Ghostly Children...a collection of stories by people who have indeed checked out the myth.

Another blog-post that debunks the myth...and makes a very good point while it's at it.. Be sure to read all the way to the end.

http://sanantonioghosttracks.blogspot.com/   The Ghost Children even have their own blog!!



  1. It's not a crash. That is understood. can it be spirits of those taken by a serial killer maybe. Are there any unsolved murders that happen there. Or around there. Can it be a dumping ground for the killer. Something is saying something happened. Dig deep

  2. I'll wager this was actually inspired by the train / bus crash on 1/22/1927, that killed ten Baylor University basketball players in Round Rock, Texas - the still-remembered "Immortal Ten."

  3. Thanks for your interest in my blog! I'd lay bets that you're at least partially right. At the very least, the Round Rock crash is probably the reason the number of 'Ghost Kids' was set at ten. That crash could have very well inspired the whole story, but the fact that all of the articles I read about the the crossing specify that the mythical bus crash occurred in the late 30s. makes me lean towards the Sandy bus crash as the one that brought the story to life.

    The 'Immortal Ten' crash is on my list of subjects to cover, too.