TOM CYPHER’S PHANTOM ENGINE
(Seattle Press-Times, Jan. 10, 1892)
Locomotive engineers are as a class said to be superstitious, but J.M. Pinckney, an engineer known to almost every Brotherhood man, is an exception to the rule. He has never been able to believe the different stories told of apparitions suddenly appearing on the track, but he had an experience last Sunday night on the Northern Pacific east-bound overland that made his hair stand on end.
By the courtesy of the engineer, also a Brotherhood man, Mr. Pinckney was riding on the engine. They were recounting experiences, and the fireman, who was a green hand, was getting very nervous as he listened to the tales of wrecks and disasters, the horrors of which were graphically described by the veteran engineers.
The night was clear and the rays from the headlight flashed along the track, and, although they were interested in spinning yarns, a sharp lookout was kept, for they were rapidly nearing Eagle gorge, in the Cascades, the scene of so many disasters and the place which is said to be the most dangerous on the 2,500 miles of road. The engineer was relating a story and was just coming to the climax when he suddenly grasped the throttle, and in a moment had “thrown her over,” that is, reversed the engine. The air brakes were applied and the train brought to a standstill within a few feet of the place where Engineer Cypher met his death two years ago. By this time the passengers had become curious as to what was the matter, and all sorts of questions were asked the trainmen. The engineer made an excuse that some of the machinery was loose, and in a few moments the train was speeding on to her destination.
“What made you stop back there?” asked Pinckney. “I heard your excuse, but I have run too long on the road not to know that your excuse is not the truth.”
His question was answered by the engineer pointing ahead and saying excitedly:
“There! Look there! Don’t you see it?”
“Looking out of the cab window,” said Mr. Pinckney, “I saw about 300 yards ahead of us the headlight of a locomotive.”
“Stop the train, man,” I cried, reaching for the lever.
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s what I saw back at the gorge. It’s Tom Cypher’s engine, No. 33. There’s no danger of a collision. The man who is running that ahead of us can run it faster backward than I can this one forward. Have I seen it before? Yes, twenty times. Every engineer on the road knows that engine, and he’s always watching for it when he gets to the gorge.”
“The engine ahead of us was running silently, but smoke was puffing from the stack and the headlight threw out rays of red, green, and white light. It kept a short distance ahead of us for several miles, and then for a moment we saw a figure on the pilot. Then the engine rounded a curve and we did not see it again. We ran by a little station, and at the next, when the operator warned us to keep well back from a wild engine that was ahead, the engineer said nothing. He was not afraid of a collision. Just to satisfy my own mind on the matter I sent a telegram to the engine wiper at Sprague, asking him if No. 33 was in. I received a reply stating that No. 33 had just come in, and that her coal was exhausted and boxes burned out. I suppose you’ll be inclined to laugh at the story, but just ask any of the boys, although many of them won’t talk about it. I would not myself if I were running on the road. It’s unlucky to do so.”
With this comment upon the tale Mr. Pinckney boarded a passing caboose and was soon on his way to Tacoma. It is believed by Northern Pacific engineers that Thomas Cypher’s spirit still hovers near Eagle gorge.
THE SPOOK OF DIAMOND ISLAND
(St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 18, 1888)
Harden, Ill., Sept. 18.—For some time past rumors have been circulated in Hardin to the effect that Diamond Island, in the river about two miles from this place, was the home of a ghost. The stories concerning the movements of the alleged spook were, of course, not given any credence at first, but later, when several reputable citizens of Hardin announced that they had positively seen an uncanny looking object moving about on the island at night, the rumors were more seriously considered. Now, after investigation, the mysterious something is no longer considered a myth.
Along toward midnight a peculiar light is seen at the foot of the island. It has the appearance of a huge ball of fire, and is about the size and shape of an ordinary barrel.
A few nights ago a party of young men from this place determined to visit the island and fathom the mystery if possible. Equipped with revolvers, knives, shotguns, and clubs, the party secured a boat and were soon cutting through the water at a good speed for a point on the island near where the specter usually made its appearance. Arriving at the landing place, the skiff was hauled up on the shore and the young men took up a position in a clump of trees close at hand to watch and wait.
Suddenly the whole point of the island was illumined as a bright red object rose apparently from the water and glided up into the air. Ascending probably to a height of forty yards, the watchers saw the lurid ball fade away. The investigating party had seen all they wanted. They made a mad rush for the boat, but, just as they reached the place where it had been left, they were horrified to see the little craft moving out on the water from the island. At first its only occupant seemed to be the red ball of fire, but the next moment the watchers saw the crimson object gradually take the form of a man, and they saw him, too, dip the oars at regular intervals and pull a long, steady stroke. The man’s features were fully concealed by a wide-rimmed slouch hat, which was drawn over his face. A peculiar light illumined the boat and the waters around it, making the craft and its mysterious occupant perfectly discernible to the party on the shore, who stood paralyzed with fear, unable to speak or move, their eyes riveted by some mysterious influence they could not resist on the spectral object before them.
The boat was now about in midstream, and suddenly the group of watchers saw the skiff’s occupant change again into the crimson ball. Then it slowly began to move upward, and when it was about parallel with the tops of the trees on the island it disappeared. Next instant the watchers looking across the river saw nothing but the flickering lights in Hardin.
The cries of the crowd on the island awakened a sleeping fisherman on the opposite side of the river, and he kindly pulled across and rescued the ghost-seeking youths. The fiery spook, it is said, still makes its nightly trips to Diamond Island, but no more investigating parties have ventured across to solve the mystery.
It is said that some years ago a foul murder was committed on this island, and by the superstitious the crimson object is believed to be the restless spirit of the slain man.