“Seen by Six Different Persons”
Do people who walk St. Louis’s Riverfront Trail know that, once upon a time, the freight yards of the Kansas, Missouri, and Texas Railroad sat a bit north of the Cotton Belt Freight Depot? Do they know that, in early 1902, six train workers spotted a ghost in those yards, between Mullanphy and Mound Streets? The sightings made the front page of The St. Louis Republic.
The article says that “near the hour of midnight a ghost flits about among the freight cars in the vicinity,” eluding those hoping to get a grasp on what it is. The apparently male figure darted around without making a sound, sometimes coming so close to the wheels of moving trains that one jittery worker asked to be reassigned to the day shift.
An explanation given for the ghost — if ghost it was — involves an engine having struck and killed a man near the Mound Street bridge. William Owens, a night yardmaster, and Matthew Cummings, a switchman, both claimed to have seen the specter near this bridge. The latter says that, when one gets close enough to the figure, “it assumes a phantomlike appearance as if it were only a mist or shadow.”
Updating the Phantom’s Territory
The article is pretty specific about where the ghost ran: “Main near Mullanphy” and on and beneath a bridge built at Mound Street. Attempting to match these 1902 sites to what’s there today, I started with an 1870 map. A lot can change in 32 years, but this was the best I could find. Mullanphy and Mound are both still there, but at some point, the stretch of Main Street between them was renamed Commercial, according to the Google map. (Meanwhile, not far away, 2nd Street was renamed 1st. Broadway retains its name along with some of the area’s other cross streets, such as Brooklyn, Florida, and O’Fallon.) In other words, assuming 1870’s Main and Mullanphy was the same spot in 1902, it’s now Commercial and Mullanphy.
A Short Side Track
The article says: “The spot most frequented by the apparition is the site of the old Waddingham mansion. The old house was torn down in 1830 to make room for the M.K.&T. freight-house.” I had hoped this landmark would confirm the location, but I’m having difficulty learning much of anything about the Waddingham mansion. Somehow fittingly, it seems to have vanished without a trace! I did discover that a few Waddinghams are buried in St. Louis’s Bellefontaine Cemetery, which is alleged to have a few ghosts of its own.
Returning to the freight yards, I mention above that the Riverfront Trail and Cotton Belt Freight Depot are close by. It’s a very industrial area, though, and maybe not the safest place to wander around at night. St. Louis offers ghost hunters several alternatives, including haunted theaters (aren’t all theaters haunted?) and spooky mansions. If you brave the freight yard, let us know what happened. If you visit one of those mansions, perhaps you could ask the guide about what became of the old Waddingham place. No matter what ghosts you hunt in St. Louis, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.