The famous Christmas Place runs along the edge of the Mississippi Delta and is about 10 miles NE of Yazoo City and a solid hour from Vicksburg. Old maps of Holmes county show several railroad lines that ran across it. In early years the delta flooded every year and several of the oldest lines ran across the tops of the bluffs in different places before falling down into the main corridor to these two cities. The remains of the oldest of these early rail lines is still visible here, if you fight your way deep into the heart of the property. This is the incredible tale that Paul told, and I have seen the remains of the old railroad trestle with my own eyes.
Paul, as you know, spends a whole lot of time scouting for deer. He has walked almost all of the property and early in the fall of 2001 had started making an effort to roam and know every part of the very east side of the club. This part of the property is thickly grown up and a perfect bedding area for deer. We have not spent much time exploring it because it is just too steep to deer hunt. Deep, deep valleys and high hogback ridges cover this area and there is really no open ground to hunt. It is hard to get into and even harder to get out of.
Paul parked his 4-wheeler near the Box Stand field and spent the afternoon fighting the high narrow ridges and crossing the narrow hollows. He found plenty of deer sign but not a good place to setup or to comfortably hunt. Late in the afternoon, he decided he would head back and found himself following a ridgetop about 12 feet wide that looked like it had been used for logging 100 years ago. It was grooved out and flat like an old road and he followed it in a generally west direction. He had a machete and used it along the way to cut through briars and tangled vines and when confronted by a giant bamboo thicket, started cutting his way through. He knew he was not going to get out of there until after dark.
Off in the distance he could hear a train whistle.
After he got through the thicket, he saw protruding through the leaves and dirt, a set of iron train tracks.
He rubbed the leaves and dirt away and followed the train tracks down the top of the narrow ridge hopping back and forth, walking on top of the rusty rails.
He could now hear the distant chugging of a train on a steep grade and thought about how cool it was that an old steam train used to run across the property and what it must have been like.
A short distance later he stood at the end of the ridge. It sheared off straight down and the old iron rails jutted out about 6 feet into this void. The ridge resumed at another sheer cliff only 30 yards away, but Paul knew he would have to backtrack and go off the side of the ridge to get around the drop-off. He knew this instantly, but what caught his eye was located halfway between the 2 points. He could really hear that train loudly now but he was studying the sight in front of him. Practically perched in mid-air in front of him were two rusty 16 foot sections of iron rail of the old track. Looking down, he could barely make out the vine covered and rotted remains of the very center of an old train trestle that miraculously still held the last two pieces of rail suspended in front of him.
The train was louder now and seemed to be way to close. An icy chill seemed to suddenly run down his spine and he turned and peered back down the narrow ridge. Several hundred yards away, through the thick trees, cane and briars he saw a large light and realized that it was rapidly coming down the ridge right at him. He stood gaping for a few seconds and then the phantom train let the steam whistle shriek. The ground seemed to shake under Pauls' feet, the ear-splitting blast seemed to almost freeze his blood, and panicked he glanced sideways to find room to get out of it's path. The tall cane he had chopped through seemed to bend over and move out of the way as the fast moving train hurtled toward him. He could see the cowcatcher underneath and the steam pouring out of the stack and jumped to the side just as the ghostly steam engine reached him. It gave a long shriek of the whistle and seemed to fade away as it hit the old bridge.
It was twilight, but Paul saw the large number 83 on the side of the engine and said that it had 4 or 5 freight cars behind it. He could not see anyone up in the cab but he was trying to get out of the way. What skeletal hand was on the throttle and what happened to the lost souls aboard this strange phantom train? We will likely never know. We are planning on going and sitting in the woods this Halloween and see if the Haunted Train reappears.