It’s generally thought to be a good thing when you are listed on a top ten list. Top ten most likely to succeed. Top ten places to live. Top ten movies in the year 2016. A good thing, right? But, Loomis Street in Naperville, Illinois is listed on a maybe not-so-great top ten list – the Top Ten Most Haunted Streets in the USA.
How did Loomis Street get that ghostly standing?
It all started on a pleasant spring day, April 25, 1946. A Northern Pacific train, called the Advanced Flyer, was westward bound from Chicago towards Omaha, Nebraska. The train had thirteen cars, not a fortuitous number in the first place, that were all filled with passengers enjoying the speedy convenience of a train ride to their destination. Many of the passengers that day were World War II servicemen returning home from war.
As the train left Chicago and sped down the track, a brakeman noticed an object fly out from underneath the carriage of one of the cars. So, practicing caution, he signaled the train to stop at Naperville, so it could be checked for damage. The train pulled into the next station on the route – Loomis Street.
A flagman from the Advanced Flyer grabbed a red flag and walked down the track about 800 feet, waving the flag to warn of the stopped train. But, his efforts were supplementary because there were signals all along the train tracks that would be red, signaling other trains to stop.
Nobody will ever know what was on the mind of M.A. Blaine, a 68-year old train engineer who had years of experience. He was piloting the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy train, the Exposition Flyer that was also westward bound on its way to San Francisco. It was three minutes behind the Advanced Flyer. All along the route, the approach signals were blinking red, but Blaine either didn’t see them or, as many later testified, chose to ignore them.
The Exposition Flyer rammed into the back of the Advanced Flyer at a speed of at least 80 miles per hour. The huge diesel engine tore through the last car, slicing through the middle of it with the sound of screaming metal. Unable to halt the heavy train, it rammed halfway through the next car and sending so much force with it, it buckled the next car, a lighter weight dining car. The car was crushed, like a pop can, killing almost everyone inside it. The next car was thrown onto its side and the rest of the cars derailed.
At that time, Naperville didn’t have a hospital. The people in the community responded, doing their best to extricate passengers from the wreckage. Kroehler Manufacturing, across from the tracks, shut down operation for the day so all their employees could help with the accident. They turned their factory floor into an emergency triage hospital. North Central College students brought mattresses from their dorm rooms to lay the injured upon. Ambulances worked all day and night, transferring the injured to hospitals in Wheaton and Aurora.
Forty-seven people died in the accident. Rescue workers were stunned by the horrific condition of the bodies as they pulled them from the wreckage. The dead were laid out in long rows, placed side by side, on the lawns of the homes parallel to the train tracks. The line of dead stretched almost a full block, from Loomis Street to the station.
The blocks around the station are said to be haunted by very active phenomena. There are cold spots felt. Voices heard calling for help. The touch of a phantom hand. And full-bodied apparitions walking the streets. There are many reports from people who claim to have seen dark figures approach them in the twilight, only to have them vanish without a trace.
Loomis Street. Perhaps not the place for a midnight stroll on a dark, autumn night.