On a rainy night in 1867, conductor Joe Baldwin lost his head — literally.
Joe worked for the Wilmington, Manchester and Augusta Railroad, now the Atlantic Coast Line. His train was heading home to Wilmington in a driving rain. It was almost at its destination. At the time Baldwin was in the last coach of the train doing paperwork. He looked at his watch. It was time for him to walk through the passenger cars to announce that the train was nearing its destination.
When opened the front door of the coach he found to his surprise that the rest of the train was far ahead of the coach — nearly out of sight. The last car had somehow uncoupled. He knew that close behind him was another train — an express — bearing down at high speed.
Joe ran to the rear door of the detached coach and swung his lantern wildly, trying to catch the attention of the engineer piloting the train behind, but it was no use. The express careened into the coach, demolishing it and decapitating Joe.
To this day, Joe’s ghost lantern still burns over that stretch of railroad. Old railroaders swear that it is the ghost of Joe Baldwin looking for its head (which, by the way, was never found). The ghost light causes a real problem because other engineers have often mistaken it for a real signal. As a result, the railroad ordered its signalmen at Maco to use two lanterns, one red and one green. That way there would be no mistake as to which lantern was the ghost light and which lantern was real..
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