Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Ghost of Allatoona Pass

Allatoona Pass
One intriguing ghost story from Georgia involves the Western & Atlantic Railroad trains that traveled through the Allatoona Pass during the years after the Civil War ended.

Stories about sightings of a ghostly brakeman began to be reported seven years after the war.

This mysterious figure was always spotted sitting atop these steam-powered trains whether they traveled northbound or southbound just as they reached the Deep Cut at Allatoona.

One newspaper article published in the Atlantic Journal covered this story extensively in 1872.

“…For some months, railroaders--conductors, engineers, and brakeman --have been noticing, between Tilton and Allatoona, that when their respective freight trains would enter on to that portion of the track named, that their number would be reinforced by an extra train hand, which of course the officers of the W. and A. Railroad cannot persuade to sign the ‘death warrant.’”

In other words, these railroad employees saw a ghost. It seems this specter appeared regularly.

The witnesses that reported seeing this ghostly brakeman were not men to be faint of heart. All had served as soldiers in the Civil War, and they were used to seeing the horrors of battle.

So the sight of this ghost did not unnerve them. In fact, these employees were so unconcerned several tried to even collect a “fare” from this stowaway.

“…This individual appears suddenly on top of the freight cars, takes a seat and remains there for miles, then the unknown brakeman disappears. Conductors, seeing him, have often tried to collect a fare, but on nearing him, he would just vanish like the mist.”

The Deep Cut
An Eyewitness Account

Curiosity over the identity of this ghost led one engineer to seek an answer.

When I spotted the ghost on top of the 3rd car from my engine I left my fireman in charge of the train and proceeded to walk toward this strange figure.

I approached him cautiously keeping my eyes on him, but as I neared him, he just faded from my view. Continuing down the line of cars I turned back and saw him sitting on the 3rd car again.

As I made my way back he disappeared once more.

Feeling completely bewildered I became determined to discover what was going on.

I searched the entire train but found nothing. I went atop one car to return to my engine when I spotted the strange figure sitting in the exact spot where I had initially seen him.

As I walked toward him again, he vanished. At this point, I felt he was playing some sort of game with me.

This ghost continued to be seen atop trains in the Deep Cut for many years. There are several published stories about these sightings.

Newspapers across the South covered this story--this caused widespread speculation as to who this ghost was.

Allatoona battle site.
One prevailing theory put forth states he most likely was a Civil War soldier who died in the Battle of Allatoona Pass. Most believe he must have been a brakeman before the war started.

The following account backs these theories.

The Night I Met a Ghost

In October of 1934, an article published in the Atlantic Journal Magazine tells about another encounter with this ghost.

E.L. “Polly” Milan worked for the W&A Railroad for 73 years; by the end of his career he was an engineer.

At the age of 19, he saw the ghost of Allatoona Pass. At the time he was a brakeman, which historically was a dangerous job.

Air brakes were not in use yet, and Milan’s job was to help stop the train. He would move in between each car and manually apply or turn the brakes. He also was responsible for ensuring all couplings--that attach each car to another--were correctly connected.

His job required courage. He often found himself hanging between cars precariously as the train he was on thundered down a mountainside.

At midnight, during one trip the train he was on had just dipped into Allatoona. It was discovered two cars had separated. Milan was ordered to go back and flag or warn the train that was following.

Holding a pistol and a lantern he hit the ground and ran back up the hill. He stopped in the middle of the cut, which was 60 feet deep and 400 feet long.

He spotted a tombstone of a soldier at the north end of this dark cavern. He stopped before he reached this grave. He watched as his train was able to couple up and move on.

Misty orb captured
at pass.
After it had faded into the distance, he was startled to see a man who was glowing white. This man then approached him. But when he got within a few yards, he slumped down and sat on the ties.

Milan was not sure what to do as he watched this strange figure. He spoke to him but did not get a reply. Feeling very alone, his teeth clattered together loudly.

He recounts “something seemed to shove him toward the figure.” He reached out and touched it with the back of his pistol hand.

What happened next Milan stated he wasn't able to forget. He felt an odd cold sensation shoot up his arm. After this, all he remembers is running wildly down the track.

He had run over a mile and a half when the train he was supposed to flag overtook him.

This photo was taken atop the ridge
at Allatoona Pass shortly after Civil War battle.
The train tracks can be seen
approaching the cut.

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