In the early nineteen fifties a visionary mayor and entrepreneurial business man conceived a plan to build a little railway circling their town. The business man would use the five stations as centres of growth and the mayor would use it for his political advantage. The business man bought up all the land around the stations and the mayor prepared to use the line in his campaign for re-election.
Initially all went well. The mayor was re-elected and the town bought the land for the five stations and the track, from the business man leaving him with the best land all around the stations. The five stations were erected helping to increase employment in the town but, unfortunately, the town did not grow as expected and actually shrank. This did not affect the mayor who went on to become the local MP, however the businessman went bankrupt and hung himself in the main station thus becoming the first of the railway ghosts.
The second station had been erected next to the town’s cemetery. It even had a mortuary platform. Many people have sworn they have observed the newly buried arise at midnight and go to the station to catch a train to heaven, or hell, even though there were no tracks.
In the third station a woman was brutally murdered, her body dismembered but her head was never found. One evening a young courting couple swore they saw a headless woman stumbling around seemingly searching for something, accompanied by the sound of a train whistle.
It was the fourth and fifth stations that grabbed Arthur and Wonda’s attention. The pair are ghost hunters, constantly investigating haunted houses and buildings no matter how spooky and terrifying. They were a weird pair. Arthur was tall and spindly, with a shocking mop of red hair and large, thick spectacles. Wonda was short and curvy, with long blonde hair. She also wore spectacles but of a more fashionable type.
“Yer don’t wanna go there,” said Hector. Hector was ninety and the town’s unofficial historian. For the price of a pint he’ll tell you anything about the town and anybody in it.
“The last fella that did, well, they found him all mangled as though he had been run over by a train,” said Hector and then mysteriously whispered, “and there isnay any railway tracks.”
Although there are no tracks between the stations there is a tunnel between stations four and five. The tunnel is a favorite amongst the town’s children and occasional teenage lovers and quite often they were the source of ghost train stories.
One night, at midnight, a pair of amorous teenagers, seeking somewhere private, went to enter the tunnel. Just as they were approaching they heard a loud whistle, like a steam train followed by a huge rush of air, as if something was passing in a hurry. When everything went quiet the boy crept into the tunnel with a torch and came upon a mangled body.
“It was Kotter,” Hector stated mysteriously.
Arthur and Wanda looked back, blankly.
“Kotter was a crim. A drug dealer. Seems he was supposed to meet his supplier at the fourth station. How he ended up in the tunnel is anybodies guess and nobody ever found the supplier,” said Hector.
What about station five?” asked Arthur.
A dark cloud passed over Hector’s face.
“Aye. It’s the last station, the last stop to hell.” pausing and sipping his ale he continued, ” a man, a rich man, Mr. Hall, buit a mansion for his family, next to the station. It was an impressive building with two stories and a little cottage. He had a large family with many servants. He built it there so his family could have an easy, safe walk to the station”
He paused and looked expectantly at his empty pint glass. Wanda smiled and said,“I’ll have a gin and tonic. Would you like another, Hector?”
“Aye, love. This talking is thirsty work.”
Upon Arthur’s return he continued, “They all lived there very happily but as they were some distance out of town they had their groceries delivered to their door. It was Gretham, the delivery boy, that found them one morning. When he got there it was eerily silent and the kitchen door was open. Lying on the floor was the cook. Her body had many fatal wounds and blood was everywhere. He found the servants bodies lying on the stairs and in their bedrooms. When he went upstairs the most of the family had been butchered or shot in their beds but a nanny had gathered up the children and fled to the station. The madman followed and shot them all while they huddled in the station masters office. Fifteen people in all, grown-ups and kiddies had been massacred.”
“Did anybody survive?” asked Wanda in awe.
“Aye, a young scullery maid was found cowering in the coal scuttle. She told the coppers what happened,” replied Hector, draining his glass and putting it down in front of Arthur. With a sigh Arthur picked it up and returned with it filled.
“It turns out the gentleman had been a business competitor of Mr. Hall. Through devious and illegal means he bankrupted the poor man ruining his marriage and his life. It drove him mad and he sought, and achieved, his revenge.”
“What happened to him?” asked Arthur.
“He shot himself in the station masters office in the fifth station and now the house and the station are linked. It is said that ghosts will arrive at the station on their way to the house. Why? Well no one really knows.”
“Perfect,” they said in unison.
“If ye are daft enough to go there watch out for the witch.”
“A witch. It really can’t get any better,” exclaimed Arthur rubbing his hands together. Wanda looked doubtful.
“Aye and she’s an evil one at that. She lives in the little cottage there.”
“Was she involved in the massacre?” asked Wanda.
“Nah. She moved in a couple of years later and just took it over. Some say, though, that she was responsible for burning the mansion down.”
Arthur got two more pints for Hector to show their appreciation then went off to prepare for the exploration.
They sat on the brick wall looking at the fifth station. The granite blocks forming its walls had ivy and Jasmine climbing all over it and the windows, naturally, were all smashed but the oak doors still hung securely from their iron hinges. The roof was sound but weeds and flowers grew out the gutters. Long grass surrounded the building and a burnt out shed stood some distance away. The whole place appeared to exuded so much peace and happiness that it was difficult to appreciate the danger they were in.
“Come on,” said Arthur, “let’s get our stuff in and the gear set up.”
They pushed open the waiting room door into a pleasantly lit airy room. Sunlight shone through the window openings and there was surprisingly little rubbish. There was even a portrait of the Queen hanging on the wall. It was as far from a spooky room as a kindergarten from a prison.
Arthur began to set up his equipment. He was a brilliant scientist or he would have been if he had stayed at uni. He had built all his own equipment and this particular one he was setting up was a ghost repelling fence.
Once they had set up their gear and camping equipment they went out onto the platform. There was another platform on the other side but there were no buildings on it. Arthur jumped down to where the tracks should be and looking up the track to the tunnel he said, “That tunnel must be dead straight, you can see the exit from here.”
“Help me down,” Wanda asked and Arthur grabbed her waist and gently lowered her down onto the track bed. Hand in hand they walked towards the tunnel.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it,” said Wanda, ” look at all the daisies and buttercups. There are masses of them. ”
As they stood and drank in the scene a sudden huge gust of wind blew them apart and sent them sprawling amongst the flowers then a sound like iron wheels on tracks and a receding stream whistle fell on their ears.
“Wow, that was a blast,” said Arthur then remembering Wanda he shouted, “Wanda, you Ok?”
Wanda, lifting herself up from a patch of daisies and cried, “I wanna go home.”
At least, that is what she wanted to cry but didn’t want Arthur to think she was some sort of weak girl.
“Yeah, yeah but what the hell was that,” she said instead.
“I think,” he answered, helping Wanda to her feet, ” that was your classic ghost train. ”
“I wonder what would have happened if we were caught in the tunnel,” wondered Wanda.
“You know, we were right in its track. It should have slaughtered us so how come Kotter’s body was mangled,” wondered Arthur, “come on. Let’s explore the tunnel.”
The exploration, while a pleasant walk, revealed very little. Apart from the location of the body marked by a cross on the tunnel wall there was nothing to be found. They stood at the exit and the fourth station could just be seen further down the “track”. Slightly disappointed they returned to the station and prepared to spend the night in the waiting room.
The first appearance happened at dusk. They were having supper and didn’t hear a sound. Wanda happened to look out the door and saw a train standing there.
“Oh my god, ” she exclaimed, ” there’s a train there.”
Standing at the station was an eerily silent six carriage steamtrain with smoke drifting from the funnel. They slowly and curiously approached it, touching the sides of the carriage.
“I... It’s real, I can feel it,” said Wanda.
Arthur looked in the windows but all the carriages were empty. A door opened on the last carriage but nothing appeared to come out. The train gave an enormous blast of its whistle and moved off. The surrounding air grew colder.
“I think our ghost has arrived,” said a nervous Arthur, “and we had better get out of here. Quick follow me.”
They both managed to reach the protective fence when their lamp launched itself from the window ledge and flew over their heads.
“Hit the deck,” yelled Arthur, throwing himself on the floor. Wanda landed next to him covering her head. All around them objects took to the air and flew around the room and crashing into walls and the ceiling. Miniature tornadoes erupted all over the floor, sucking up dust and spinning over their prone bodies trying to lift them up. Cans of drinks burst out of their picnic hamper and hurled themselves against the walls, exploding on impact and showering them in soft drink and all around them there was an awful howling noise.
Instinctively, Arthur’s hand grasped his backpack just as it was about to take off. Desperately, he opened it and took out a little black box with a button on it and when he pushed the button, a green light came on. The room went silent and all the objects fell to the ground. The miniature tornadoes vanished and the dust drifted in the air. Wanda took her hands off her head and wondered if she should get a new boyfriend.
“What the hell was that,” she said.
“That was your classic poltergeist,” announced Arthur.
“Is it gone.”
“I don’t think so. Just scared off. This little device emits an ultra-sonic scream. Most ghosts can’t stand it.”
“Look,” said Wanda, pointing outside. It was totally dark now and the ghost train was sitting outside with all its lights on. Cautiously sneaking onto the platform they could see inside the carriages. They were all filled with men and women. They were just sitting staring in front of them, totally silent. Suddenly, they heard the sound of a carriage door open then close.
“Oh god,” said a frightened Wanda,” another one.”
“No, I think this one is leaving.”
Suddenly, all the carriage doors opened and all the ghosts on the train disembarked and in an eery row walked, or rather drifted, off the platform and down the little road. When the last ghost left the train it gave a blast of its whistle and pulled away from the station. Soon all was quiet, and dark.
While they had breakfast, the next morning, they decided to have a look at the mansion. It was a short walk from the station and even had its own little road to get there. Ten years previously the mansion had suffered a fire and the only structure left standing was a little cottage now occupied by an ancient old woman. They explored the old charred ruins and in the middle of it Arthur twiddled the dials of an instrument he was carrying.
“We’ve found one,” he said excitedly, “this is an active ghost site.”
“Nonsense,” scoffed Wanda,“it’s just a pile of burnt out rubbish.”
“That’s what it appears to us but I think its being supported by the station.”
Just then a voice screeched, “Get out of there, get out of there, you ignorant fools”
Wobbling towards them, supported by a walking cane and waving her fist, was an ancient old woman. She was hunched over with gnarled fingers, matchstick legs and a wrinkled, leathery face decorated with a huge hooked nose. The only thing missing was the pointed hat.
“Now, that is what I call a witch,” whispered Arthur to Wanda. All the hairs on the back of Wanda’s neck stood upright.
The old woman stood there, in front of them, unafraid and invincible.
“Do you know what this place is,” she said calmly and looking at Arthur deeply in the eyes.
A bit uneasily Arthur replied, “A ghost site.”
“A ghost site, you fool, a ghost site. Hah.”
Moving right up to Arthur she said to his face, “This is the gateway to Hell, boy. Do you understand. Hell.”
Far away, as if to back her up a train whistle sounded in the background. Arthur gulped and slowly backed off the burnt ruins. Wanda ran. The witch watched them, cackling merrily then vanished. Walking back to the station Arthur said, “The next train load of ghosts arrive we follow them.”
Wanda did not say a word but mentally crossed herself and they settled down on the platform seats to wait for the next train.
Arthur decided he had to go in to town for food and, since they couldn’t predict when the ghost train would appear, wanted Wanda to stay and keep watch.
“No way, ” said Wanda strenuously, “am I staying here on my own.”
“But you will be perfectly safe in the protective fence,” said Arthur, trying to reassure her.
“Bullshit,” Wanda responded contemptuously,” I nearly got killed last night. ”
“Oh all right, come on then.”
They stayed in town all morning and when they returned they found a car in their parking spot. Hurrying up to the station Arthur said, “I hope they haven’t touched the equipment.”
However, nobody was in the waiting room and everything seemed untouched then they heard voices.
“If you hadn’t lost your temper and hacked him to bits he would have eventually told us,” a voice said.
“Oh. Stop complaining. I think I know where he put the package.”
“The cops have been all through the tunnel. What makes you think they missed anything.”
Ignoring him, the voice ordered, “Because they didn’t know what they were looking for it. Come on.”
Carefully, Arthur and Wanda looked out of the waiting room window and watched the two men enter the tunnel. Minutes later they returned carrying a package the size of a shoe box.
“See, I told you I would find it. Now let’s get out of here,” the voice said as they headed for the waiting room. Suddenly Wanda turned around and in a terrified voice said, “Look.”
Standing behind then was a zombie. It was covered in rags, had one arm missing with tendons and blood vessels hanging down. Half its skull was gone and part of its brain dangled next to its neck. There was a huge gash in its side and its entails were trailing on the ground. Huge pieces of flesh were missing from its legs.
Arthur and Wanda prepared to flee but the zombie ignored them. The two men entered the room then froze also ignoring the pair.
“Oh my god. It’s Kotter,” said one.
“But he should be dead,” said the other.
With a deep rumbling voice, as if it came from the very pits of hell, the zombie said, “but I am boys, I am ”
He started to give a horrible laugh, spitting huge globs of blood and lung around them. The zombie advanced on the two thugs who backed up swiftly when suddenly the ghost train appeared behind them. The thugs had no choice but to retreat towards it and away from the advancing zombie.
They were within arm’s reach of the train when long green arms grabbed hold of the thugs pulling them, screaming, into the train. The zombie boarded the carriage and the train pulled silently away.
They were so engrossed with these events that they completely missed the old witch standing at the end of the platform quietly cackling to herself and rubbing her gnarled old hands together. The carriage door swung open and a black shapeless cloud floated out. It drifted over the witch, enveloping her and carrying her away.
They went back to the waiting room and Wanda sank, exhausted, onto one of the wooden benches.
“Arthur,” she said ominously, “your a nice boy. Intelligent, funny, kind and I am in love with you but...” She paused for effect, ” you gotta get another hobby. I don’t think I can survive another ghost. ”
Arthur sat down beside her and put his arms around her shoulder.
“Just a little longer Wanda, please. I want to see what happens to those ghosts that leave the station.”
“You promise,” she said, with tears gathering in her eyes,” that you will give it up then.”
“I will do more than promise,” he replied, “I will marry you.”
They were so involved in their passionate embrace they didn’t see the black cloud float into the waiting room and envelope their entwined bodies.
It was a few minutes before the lovers realised they were no longer on wooden seats in the waiting room but on a sofa in a comfortable little living room. Sitting opposite them on a three legged stool was the witch.
“You clumsy, incompetent, nosey fools,” she screamed at them.
“You want to find out about the gates of hell. Well you can go through them.”
“Well, actually, Miss er... Witch we were just about to go home,” said Wanda but when she tried to stand up she found herself glued to the sofa. Just then there was a loud whistle.
“Ah,” said the witch painfully standing up, “that is the next batch of lost souls on their way to burn in hell for eternity. You will join them.”
Arthur and Wanda felt themselves stand up and drift outside to wait for the advancing column. Down the little road came the ghosts, men and women. Faces pointed forward and eyes staring hopelessly as the last one floated past them the unlucky pair joined the queue.
The line entually reached the edge of the burnt out mansion and all the charred timber started to glow a cherry red and the air surrounding became hotter. Eventually flames burst from among the glowing embers and grew several metres high and the temperature became intense.
Upon some invisible signal the first ghost walked into the flames and gave a hideous shriek as fingers of fire grasped and hauled it down. One by one each ghost was consumed by flames until Wanda was standing on the edge.
Just as she was about to step into the flames they vanished as suddenly as if the gas was turned off and the whole area went back to being a burnt out mansion.
“Only the dead can enter the gates of hell and your not dead. Anyway, I need you both.”
“I am getting old and I need someone strong to carry me around and perform mundane tasks. You, boy, will be perfect,” said the witch pointing her finger at Arthur. Immediately Arthur turned into a crude, plastic covered robot.
“Damn,” said the witch, “I wanted one of those sleek Japanese one.”
The witch turned her attention to Wanda and said, ” and you, you will make the ideal companion with your lovely golden hair.”
She waved her fingers and Wanda changed into a beutiful golden retriever who began running around barking and wagging her tail.
“Alright Arthur. Pick me up and let’s go and feed the puppy.”
Hector picked up his fourth pint, courtesy of the German tourist.
“Aye, it’s called the Last Station to Hell is the fifth one. Nice young couple went missing when they went looking for ghosts. The police found their car and all their stuff in the station but no sign of them. They searched everywhere.”
Sipping on his pint he pointed at an old woman hobbling along with a golden retriever on leash, entering the beer garden.
“That old woman there. She was the one that reported them missing.”