San Antonio is a city of culture and lore and with Halloween creeping up after a sweltering summer, legends of San Antonio haunts are once again retold. One of the most famous local legends in our dear city is the story of the San Antonio Ghost Tracks.

The famous haunted railroad tracks lie in the southeast side of San Antonio at the corner of Shane and Villamain, just outside of Loop 410. It is said that in the 1930’s, a school bus filled with young children was making its way through the intersection when it stalled on the tracks. A speeding train smashed into the bus, killing all the children and the driver.

Since then, the legend says, when a car stalls on the very same tracks, the ghosts of the long dead children push the car to safety. Some say if the back bumper is covered in baby powder, little handprints of children would show up. Locals and tourists alike have been known to test the theory, though it is illegal to linger on railroad tracks anywhere.

It is an old tale that has been told for generations. Even the surrounding neighborhood has streets supposedly named for the killed children. There is no native San Antonio resident who has not heard the tale, but is it true?

In 2003, Paula Allen of the San Antonio Express-News wrote an article that said there is absolutely no evidence that such an accident ever happened in San Antonio. A similar accident, however, did happen in Salt Lake City, UT, in 1938, of which the heavy media coverage is where the legend may have stemmed. As for the memorial street names, they were actually named in honor of a developer’s grandchildren, not to remember young students killed in a bus accident.

If all that is so, however, how can so many people witness the phenomenon if it was not due to benevolent ghosts? The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association (yes, there is such a thing) has done multiple experiments on the tracks, once in 1986 and again in 2006. The SGHA claims that the tracks are nothing more than an “optical illusion.” Although the area looks flat, the seemingly ghostly movement of a vehicle over the tracks is due to a slight incline at the site.

What about the handprints that so many residents have excitedly pointed out after experiencing the eerie occurrence themselves? According to the SGHA, a light powder would bring up any fingerprints that were ever left on the bumper, much like the powder used at a crime scene. The oil from handprints and fingerprints slowly absorb the powder, which causes them to shrink in size, resulting in tiny, child-sized hands.

It doesn’t matter if there is evidence for the contrary; believers will always fervently swear there are child poltergeists. Despite the chances of getting ticketed by local police, there will always be families and young couples testing the legend out for themselves, sometimes claiming to hear phantom children laughing.

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