He stretched a bit and yawned, trying to stay alert. And then he gasped. The lights had picked up the figure of a beautiful woman with long red-gold hair and wonderful blue eyes standing near the tracks. Too near! He sounded his horn to warn her away and then he realized that the light was shining right through her. She was a ghost!
She stepped into the center of the track, laughing and beautiful. She disappeared seconds before the train rushed through her. And then she was there, in the engine cab next to him. The scent of roses filled the air. He stared at the ghostly vision, bewitched by her beauty. With an enticing smile, she wrapped ghostly arms about his neck and kissed him. And was gone.
Dazed (and disappointed!), the engineer finished the run to Thatcher in a trance, completely forgetting to stop at the station. The fireman had to pour water on his head to snap him out of it.
The engineer decided not to tell anyone about the ghost, fearing for his job. But he was plagued by curiousity. Finally, he confided the story to a close friend who was a fellow engineer. To his surprise, the friend had heard about the ghost before. The ghost's appearance on the train was by no means uncommon. No one knew who the woman had been in life. But she always appeared on that stretch of track after dark, beckoning to the men on the railroad crew with a bewitching smile. Sometimes, said his friend, sometimes she would come right onto the train!
"Better not tell your wife about it," his friend advised.
The engineer never did.
Thereafter on misty nights, Joe's headless ghost appeared at Maco, a lantern in its hand. Anyone standing at the trestle first saw an indistinct flicker moving up and down, back and forth. Then the beam swiftly moved forward, growing brighter and brighter as it neared the trestle. About fifty feet away it burst into a brilliant, burning radiance. After that, it dimmed, backed away down the track, and disappeared.
It was Joe with his lantern, of course. But what was he doing? Was he looking for his head? Or was he trying to signal an approaching train?
In 1889 President Grover Cleveland, on a political campaign, saw the mysterious light, as have hundreds of people throughout the years. But in 1977 when the railroad tracks were removed and the swamp reclaimed his haunting grounds, Joe seems to have lost interest in Maco. At least, he has not been seen there lately.