(Orig. Published 3/2004)
On March 22, 1899, Railroad Engineer Alexander Logan ran Train No. 5 along the Erie Railroad near the River Styx Bridge, traveling at nearly 80 miles per hour. He would never meet his destination. The engine mysteriously jumped its tracks, turned over and crushed the engineer to death. No one knows what caused the train to derail, but most agree that Logan’s heroic decision to stay on the train and steer the engine saved the lives of others on board. Witnesses say that when Logan’s body was later recovered, his hand was still clutched to the throttle.
Two weeks before this tragic incident, Logan confided to his colleagues that he believed he would die on that engine.
Since that fatal accident, strange events have been reported on and near the River Styx bridge.
Just a few months after the accident, the November 8th, 1899 edition of the Wooster Republican reported that Wayne County Coroner Dr. William Faber and his friend witnessed a phantom train plunge from bridge. The train was covered in flames and Dr. Faber stated that he heard the screams of people coming from inside. When he and his friend approached the site of the wreckage, the train was gone.
The bridge itself is quite massive and imposing, towering high above River Styx road below.
Author Chris Woodyard, in a bonus story from Invisible Ink, writes that those foolish enough to walk the trestle were “cut to pieces” from on-coming trains, and that the bridge is the site of some suicides. In addition, a strange fog has been seen to suddenly appear, and there have been a high number of car accidents on River Styx road below the bridge, involving people who claimed to have seen something falling from the bridge.
Are all of these strange incidents related to the 1899 train disaster? Or is there something much older and sinister at work here?
The town of River Styx has a colorful, weird history. The nearby River Styx cemetery is said to be haunted, and visitors (well, o.k., just us) report being menaced by surly livestock.
Some say that the town got its name after settlers irrationally burnt down miles of forest in an effort to destroy a rattlesnake den, wiping out their main food supplies in the process.
At around the turn of the century, a few residents supplemented their income by robbing local graves and selling the corpses to medical schools in Cleveland. Grave robbing became such a problem that the folks in River Styx started burying their dead in out-of-town cemeteries. One family even constructed an above-ground stone vault at River Styx cemetery in an effort to thwart would-be thieves.
But perhaps the strangest story involves Bigfoot! In the fall of 1978, while driving near the bridge at around midnight, two people observed a 6-foot tall “bear like” creature with a strange face standing by the road.
As for the report of the fiery ghost train, we cannot say that it has a real connection to the Spring 1899 accident. Upon reviewing a photograph of the actual wreckage, it does not appear that the train was consumed by a large fire or that the accident even occurred at the bridge. Furthermore, the accident caused only one death, which does not mesh with Dr. Faber’s account of the screaming passengers being burned alive. We did not uncover any reports of other train wrecks at this bridge. Dr. Faber’s story sounds strikingly similar to the Ashtabula Train Disaster, which happened about 20 years before. However, the Ashtabula wreck occurred on the Lakeshore and Michigan railroad.
This leaves some interesting questions: Is Dr. Faber’s ghost train sighting a snapshot of what would (or should) have happened if Engineer Logan had not given his own life and saved those of others? Was it a picture of what was meant to be? Or did Dr. Faber (and his companion) indulge a bit too much from a bottle of one of those “special” tonics in his medicine bag?
Of course, during our visit to the bridge on the eve of the 105th anniversary of the train wreck, we did not witness a ghost train or any other unusual incidents. Nonetheless, the bridge itself is quite a remarkable structure and the view alone is worth the drive.
To read Chris Woodyard’s “The River Styx Run”, which includes a reproduction of the Wooster Republican news article, click here.
For more information on the strange history of River Styx, check out this interesting Sun Newspaper article by clicking here.
To read the obituary of Engineer Logan, and read more about Erie Railroad history, click here.
Check out the 1978 Bigfoot sighting report, as published by the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (“BFRO”), by clicking here.