On Thanksgiving Day, 1902 a southbound train was nearing Geneva, NY and came upon the Marsh bridge. As the train approached the bridge, the engineer and fireman onboard heard a piercing scream. When they looked up they saw a white figure standing to the east of the bridge frantically waving its arms. The engineer brought the train to a stop and as he did so, they heard another scream and the phantom disappeared before their eyes.
The two men got out of the train and inspected the track and surrounding area for the screaming weirdo they saw just moments before. Nothing was out of place on the track and there was no sign of any person or thing nearby. As they started across the bridge they heard the shriek one final time.
The train pulled into the station and the men shared their odd experience with the other railroad workers. They learned that there was an accident at that bridge years prior. The engineer and fireman both died when the train went off of Marsh Bridge. The article said that the fireman’s body was lost to quicksand and never recovered. Ever since that accident, a shrieking phantom is said to be spotted on this bridge every year around Thanksgiving Day.
Did Any Of This Really Happen?
Let me tell you. It was not easy to try and figure out if the events mentioned in the article from 1902 really happened or where it happened. I was starting to think it was all just urban legend. But I did find an actual event that very closely matches the details in this story.
On March 29th, 1873 a train left Syracuse at 7:45 pm heading towards Rochester on the Auburn road. Within half a mile of the town of Geneva, the train ran into a sluice of water which had washed out a bridge over Marsh Creek. The locomotive, tender, and baggage car fell off the track and down into the flood waters. They practically disappeared under the water. Amazingly, the passenger cars stayed on the track and none of the passengers or the rest of the crew were seriously injured.
The same could not be said for the engineer and fireman. Both disappeared and due to the raging water, attempts to locate their bodies could not be made immediately. The body of the engineer, Ignatius Buelte, was found on the afternoon of Sunday, March 30th. The body of the fireman, Augustus Sipple, was found quite a distance away on the 31st of March.
The incident became known as the Marsh Creek Casualty or the Geneva Disaster. Consequently, the families of both men sued the railroad due for negligence in failing to properly maintain the bridge. Both families were later awarded money.
I couldn’t find any connection to Thanksgiving Day. Maybe this is one of those urban legends meant to remind people how fleeting life can be. Or maybe the spirits of Engineer Buelte and Fireman Sipple were simply trying to warn other railroad men of the dangers of the bridge.