The Astor Place ghost train.
Astor Place subway station is tucked away in the bustling center of New York City. But although bustling and full of people today, there are legends and tales of strange things and ghostly apparitions connected to the station. The ghost train that occasionally passes through the station is perhaps the most intriguing of all the reported hauntings at Astor Place. Let’s dive into one of the most interesting phenomena of the underground network of tunnels and rails of the big apple… The Astor Place ghost train.
History of Astor Place subway station.
Astor Place subway station was first constructed in the early 1900s as part of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. The station officially opened on October 27, 1904. It soon became a popular stop for commuters and tourists alike. It connects the green subway line (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) with several bus lines and is at a strategic endpoint in lower manhattan.
In the 1930s, the station was expanded to accommodate increased passenger traffic. New entrances and exits were added to better serve the surrounding area. Still, the station’s historic architecture has been preserved over the years. If you go there, you can still see many of the original design elements, including the distinctive white tile walls and elegant station entrances. Today, Astor Place is nr. 85 of New York’s busiest subway stations, with an average of almost 20,000 travelers passing through daily.
Ghostly sightings at the Astor Place subway station.
But we weren’t going to talk about the station and its history, as much as about the legendary ghost train passing through there. First, let’s consider that there have been quite a lot of other reports about strange occurrences and ghostly sightings. Subways (and trains, carriages, boats, and all kinds of travel means), are popular to attach to paranormal phenomena. And the subway stations are particularly adapted to have phantasms in them, with the dark, creepy tunnel, on each end, having the train appear from nowhere… And then disappear into the shadows again. It’s creepy.
So, many station employees have reported feeling a sense of unease or being watched, hearing unexplained noises, and even seeing stuff and people who weren’t there. There is supposed to be a ghostly figure lurking right at the point as far as the light from the station reaches inside the tunnel. Others have reported hearing disembodied voices and footsteps.
The legend of the ghost train.
The most intriguing of all the reported hauntings at Astor Place subway station is that of the ghost train. It is said that the train can be heard passing through Astor Place station on occasion, even though no train is visible on the tracks.
There are two distinct ways it shows and two distinct ways it is explained.
- The train is heard arriving but not seen. You can hear the phantom train rumbling through the station, you can hear the screech of metal on metal, the sound of wheels grinding to a stop, and possibly the frantic cries of passengers. It seems to be right there but can’t be seen or perceived in any other way than with your ears and your body sensing the vibrations.
- The second type of apparition is the actual train. It is an early 1900s luxury train in perfect condition. No one is onboard but some say it stops, opens the doors, closes them, and takes off again. An eery detail is that it is numbered 6. It would be recommended to never just get on a train without first checking the number above the driver on the front car.
What is it that makes train nr.6 re-occur at Astor Place station?
- A train carrying passengers on the Lexington Avenue line derailed and crashed in the early 1900s. The impact was deadly and at the time security in the tunnels was almost non-existing. The crash and the following fire killed everyone on board. The ghost train is that same train driving at high speed toward its doom.
- The second idea has to do with the looks of the train. Leather couches, silk curtains, and even a wood-burning stove have been witnessed inside one of the cars. It is told that it is an exact copy of the private vehicle of August Belmont, Jr., the CEO of the company that constructed the station.
So, again, is it true? Is there a real ghost train under the streets of New York?
Well, we don’t know. The difficulty here is obvious that it is very difficult to investigate. A house, a castle, a tunnel, or even an abandoned location that nature has completely reclaimed, these places can be checked. But a train, you never know when it shows up, that’s another story, If you don’t want to just sit down at the station and wait, it is almost impossible to have any decent evidence or any concrete result for or against it. With objects that just show up when they want, we’re kind of stuck.
The testimonies of the Astor Place ghost train.
There is testimonial evidence about the train and its passing through the station. But the testimonies are mostly of a friend of an acquaintance type of evidence. “It is said that”, or “I have heard that” is the standard phrase in this context. When collecting testimonies, they are always about the first type of train, the non-visible one that rumbles through the station. Witnesses also always perceive it at night or late evening.
In 2006, a track worker named Frank Rivera was working on the tracks a short distance into the northern tunnel, when he felt a vibration as if a train was approaching. The vibrating train seemed to arrive, pass him, and continue out of the tunnel and into the station going south without any visible manifestation at all. He was unable to witness anything although the train apparently passed just meters away from where he stood. He claims the perception was that of a high-speed train that entered the station without any intention to stop.
Confirming the Astor Place ghost train.
There are a few facts to consider:
- There was no tragic accident on Lexington Avenue. In fact, we have to wait until the 1970s before any severe accident occurred in lower manhattan.
- Although someone might think that a luxury car like the one supposedly appearing at the station is unimaginable in a subway. The cars just don’t look that way. Still, as unlikely as it may seem, August Belmont Jr. had such a private subway car. Mostly for impressing wealthy acquaintances, but even so, it exists. And it has a nickname… the Mineola. Belmont used it on a private track from Hotel Belmont to Grand Central and from there all the way to Belmont Park in Elmont. Just like his father, August Belmont Jr. was an enthusiastic racehorse breeder.
Transportation in all its forms as well as location connected to transportation; stations, tunnels, bridges, etc are frequent when paranormal activity is claimed. From ancient times, traveling, passing from one part to another has always been connected with uncertainty, and as such always provoked our fear of the unknown.
The Astor Place ghost train is probably an urban legend. Hearing invisible trains passing isn’t unusual at all. Then, there are perfectly natural explanations about how our perception when underground, in a closed context with active mechanical engines and electricity, emitting infrasounds can be unreliable. The fact that almost no testimonies are direct and that even second-hand and third-hand testimonies always occur in hours with few people on the station is suspicious.
But, by all means. If you live in New York or have the possibility to visit, please go down to the Astor Place subway station, sit down on one of the very few benches there, and wait.
… And if you should hear or see a train, please register the sound and take a photo.
Even if it is difficult to say whether the train is really there or not, the details of the case have many similarities with an urban legend. That fact alone is not absolute confirmation, but it’s pretty likely that the ghost train is just a story.