#ThrowbackThursday: October 25, 2007

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. The Matthews Record asked kids, grades K-12, to complete a story to be published just in time for Halloween 2007. Below are a couple of the winning stories. These stories were originally published October 25, 2007. Illustrations by James Denk.

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The Prompt: The townspeople of Matthews didn’t know where the train had come from or how it had arrived. They only knew that the train, the Seaboard 5217, was empty. Except for the caboose where strange noises awakened the on that cool, full-moon night…

Story number one written by Joey Schachner:

…The mayor called a city council meeting in order to determine what to do with the train.

“Why don’t we just wait a few days to see if goes away?” suggested Mrs. Thompson.

“The next train scheduled to stop here isn’t supposed to arrive ‘till Sunday,” stated Mr. Harton, consulting an enormous ledger.

“I say we BURN it!” cried Mr. Barns. As usual, no one paid very much attention to Barns’ outrageous exclamations.

In the end, it was decided that a group of five would go in and investigate the mysterious train. Once they reported back to the council, the final decision on what was to be done would be made.

Among the five men selected to investigate the train was sixteen-year-old Charles Harvey. Harvey was not afraid of anything, and wasn’t one to pass up on an adventure. Exploring a ghost train was an opportunity too good to refuse. Besides, what harm could some dumb old train do to him?

As soon as the exploration party entered the train Charles immediately branched off from the group and headed for the caboose. He had to admit, though, the deserted train was quite spooky; the dust on the seats and the cobweb in the corners gave the train a ghostly, haunted aura. He shuddered. Perfect.

Finally he came to the door that led to the caboose. Drawing in a deep breath to steady his nerves, he reached out, grasped the doorknob, turned, and pushed. The door swung open, revealing utter blackness within.

Charles Harvey, his hand shaking in fear, lifted his flashlight and swept it across the length and breadth of the room and saw — nothing. With a noticeable sigh of relief, he turned around and was about to shut the door when he became aware of a steady dripping sound. Slowly pivoting back towards the caboose, Charles lifted his flashlight up to the ceiling — and froze.

A bloodcurdling scream split the night air, sending chills down each and everyone’s spines.

The four other men investigating the train raced back along the length of the train, nearly colliding with Charles about three-quarters of the way back. Charles looked absolutely petrified: his face was white with horror and a nasty looking gash ran down the length of his forearm, gushing blood onto the dusty floor. They rushed him off the train and into the arms of Meridel, the town healer.

No one was very enthusiastic about board the train after that incident. In fact, the mayor even decreed the area a danger zone and warned anyone against going anywhere within a hundred yards of the train. But after a little while, none of that even mattered to anyone. Because later that night, when most of the townsfolk had retreated into their homes for the night, the mayor turned to look one last time at the train, but it was gone. Without a sound, flash, or disturbance of any kind, the train had seemingly disappeared. The Seaboard 5317 had vanished.

Charles Harvey never entirely recovered from that one fateful night. His arm healed fine, sure, but it was his mind that suffered most. From that evening on, Charles seemed less of an enthusiast, more withdrawn. And he never, ever discussed what he had seen in the caboose that night. If you asked him, he would dodge the question or mumble something like, “I…don’t really want to talk about it.” No one has ever solved the mystery of the Seaboard 5317, and probably no one every will. But if you stand near the train tracks on Halloween night, you may just hear a scream…

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Story number two written by Mrs. Sutton’s 3rd Grade Greenway Park Class:

The townspeople of Matthews didn’t know where the train had come from or how it had arrived. They only knew the train, the Seaboard 5317, was empty. Except for the caboose where strange noises awakened them on that cool, full-moon night. The Seaboard 5317 normally traveled from Wilmington to Tennessee but this particular night the train seemed to appear from nowhere. Several brave farmers quickly scrambled for their rakes and shovels and crept toward the rear of the train. Suddenly, a screech owl startled the men as it swooped out from behind the livery stable and nestled in the old oak tree. With hearts pounding and eyes bulging, the frightened group huddled together and continued past the empty side cars. The light of the moon guided them as they signaled to one another to be prepared. Several other townspeople soon joined them and you could hear the frantic whispers of nervous town folk as they planned their next move. After all, it was 1901, the turn of a new century and no one had seen such a mysterious train pull into Stumptown before.

Just as they approached the caboose, a wild cackle could be hard from inside. Everyone covered the head and ducked down just in time as a party of phantoms, ghosts, and ghouls flew out the back door of the caboose and into the woods. Were they dreaming? No one really knows, but if you’re really quiet on a full-moon night, you can still hear the cackling sounds today, of those ghoulish spirits hiding in the woods near the train depot.