AMTRAK RESIDENCY, DAY 11
Haunted trains! Have you ever heard of haunted trains? I did today, from one of the very own Amtrak train attendants. But let me start from the beginning. Get ready for haunted stories and some rather unsightly life stuff concerning neglected children.
At breakfast, as you already know, I always meet new people since seating is limited and you get placed at a table with three other passengers, and the mix of people today couldn't be more interesting. Bobby and Kathy, both from New Orleans, celebrated their 50th anniversary by traveling to San Francisco. Bobby worked at Holiday Inn in the French quarter for 40 years and he said he's seen things "you wouldn't believe." He said he once came across a house that was haunted and whose owner rented out its rooms like in a small hotel. Each room had letters in it written by previous guests, letters about their ghost experiences. He said mostly the ghosts tickled people's toes. Brrrr...
Opposite Bobby and Kathy sat Marion, about the same age as them. She referred to herself as a "desert rat," and she lives in Phelan, CA. She once rented a house where the legend said a family lived with a young beautiful girl who rode her white stallion to the lake every day. But when the worker who worked on the house paid too much attention to the girl, her parents killed him. Marion said the doors in that house were misbehaving, falling off hinges and dropping on you me head. She also said that in addition to raising her own two sons, she once came across a family (her neighbors) who had a little boy contained in a room where the parents sawed off the top part of his door and simply threw in food and toys. She took him with her and kept him for 6 months. This was before child protection services, she said. Another one was a neighbor whom she found drunk, a mother, and her baby was crawling around the room chewing on her cigarettes. This baby Marion kept for 1 year. I warned you about heavy life stuff, didn't I? Marion was very animated, telling these stories, her hands wrinkled and gnarly from yard work. She said she is a yard artist.
This made me very inspired to keep writing my possessed train book, but after a 2-day-break of not writing in LA it was, as I anticipated, like pulling teeth. Scenery behind the window helped, especially staring out the back door of my sleeping car—a new experience. This time around the carriage I'm in is the last one and if you stand there, you get to see the tracks running away from you into infinity. I was mesmerized. I could stare at it for hours.
Then I read Anna Karenina and came upon a trippy passage about Anna daydreaming while on the train of a man who started gnawing on a wall, a woman whose legs stretched the entire length of the carriage and filled it with a black cloud, strange banging and screeching noises as if someone was being torn apart, after which Anna felt like falling through the floor. And there you thought things like that happened only in Wonderland.
But the best conversation has happened after dinner. Michael, the train attendant who takes care of our carriage, has told me an Amtrak ghost story. There is a train onboard which someone has committed suicide in one of the rooms. All train attendants know that this train is haunted. Michael worked a shift on that train and told me that he hasn't seen anything, but it felt creepy, and every time the train shut off electricity and he had to go through it in complete darkness, he would always run, scared out of his mind.
As you can imagine, these stories will probably make it into my book, one way or another. I'm typing this post on my phone. Behind the window is pitch-black darkness, and in my book I have marked the first ballerina to die. I don't know yet how she will die and how the train will do it, but I don't think I'm sleeping tonight. Nope, not at all. I'll go read some more Anna Karenina.
More stories tomorrow.