In Episode 198, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger take a drive up Lakeside Avenue in Burlington, Vermont, searching for a train bridge built by a ghost. In June of 1900, Mary Blair was killed crossing the train tracks in front of the Queen City Cotton Mill. The event triggered a haunting that made the newspapers, with reports coming from inside the mill late at night, and out on the tracks where the accident occurred.
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JEFF: Okay, we’re going to turn right up here onto Lakeside Avenue.
RAY: Got it. There’s Lake Champlain right over there to our left.
JEFF: Yup. We’ll have to tip our hats to Champy the Lake Monster as we drive by.
RAY: Right, we covered that legend way back in Episode 38.
JEFF: We did. We’re not in Burlington, Vermont, looking for a lake monster this time. We’re actually looking for a ghost a little further up this street.
RAY: Oooooo a ghost on this street?
JEFF: You see that large, brick smokestack up there on the left?
RAY: I do.
JEFF: That used to be part of the Queen City Cotton Mill. Once we reach the train tracks just ahead, we’re in the right spot.
RAY: I see the train bridge right there. (PAUSE) Okay, we’re passing under the tracks right now.
JEFF: Pull over just ahead, because it turns out this underpass was built by a ghost.
JEFF: Hey, I’m Jeff Belanger
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to episode 198 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: Burlington, Vermont, is the next stop on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re a community of legend seekers who love keeping these stories and the past alive. We appreciate when you get involved in our super secret Facebook group, when you download our free New England Legends app for your smart phone, so you can check out all of the locations we’ve covered for yourself, and when you visit our Web site to see video clips from the New England Legends television series that you can watch right now on Amazon Prime. While you’re on our Web site, please nominate your regional favs for a BoNEy award! We want to find the Best of New England.
RAY: Now, before we go looking for a ghost by these Burlington train tracks, we need to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals.
JEFF: Like last week, we wanted you guys to hear from Nuwati Herbals founder, Rod Jackson. Rod, we’ve gotta know, how do you come up with all of the funny and interesting names for your products?
ROD: We like to have fun when creating the names, but still let the people know what is intended to do. But in one case, a customer named a tea. I made it for a woman who had stomach issues, and she said that it was the only thing that had ever calmed the storm in her stomach, and that tea became Calming the Storm. When we developed a laxative tea, we just had to go with: Bear in the Woods. The name of Share My Blanket just conjures up a picture of lovers cuddled under a blanket. Kimberly named our award-winning product, Tea Pee Tea for prostate support, and it always brings a laugh. So how do we come up with the names? We just have fun!
RAY: I love it. Thanks, Rod! No matter what you call them, these teas, balms, and essential oils help get me through my day.
JEFF: These are herbal remedies from Mother Earth. Check out the Nuwati Herbals Web site to see all of their great products AND you legendary listeners get 20% off your order when you use the promo code LEGENDS20 at checkout. Visit Nuwati Herbals dot com. That’s N-U-W-A-T-I Herbals with an S dot com.
RAY: So Jeff, you’re telling me that this underpass and bridge on Lakeside Avenue in Burlington, was built by a ghost?
JEFF: It was!
RAY: But this is an actual bridge made of steel and sitting on concrete foundations!
JEFF: That’s true.
RAY: With a paved road underneath, with storm drains and everything else.
RAY: So this ghost must be a structural engineer and construction worker of some kind.
JEFF: Yeah, not quite. We’re looking for the ghost of a young woman who died in this very spot. Let’s head back to June of 1900 and meet this young woman.
[STEAM POWERED WORK WHISTLE]
RAY: It’s June 29th 1900, and we’re standing outside a massive brick building with a tall smokestack. This is the Queen City Cotton Mill. The business employs hundreds of people who work multiple shifts per day to churn out the fabric and other cotton products.
JEFF: One half of the building is about three stories tall, while the other half sprawls out for several acres, and is two stories tall. There aren’t a lot of trees around here right now. I can clearly see Lake Champlain just a few hundred feet in the distance.
RAY: It’s 6:30 in the evening, and this factory is bustling. A shift of workers are walking up to the building coming back from their dinner break. Among them are 22 year-old Mary Blair, her sister, and another female friend all chatting as they walk up to the building.
[TRAIN WHISTLE IN THE DISTANCE]
JEFF: The Rutland railroad tracks run right by the Queen City Cotton Mill. Workers need to cross the tracks to get to work, and with the train coming, they need to hurry.
[TRAIN CHUGGING IN THE DISTANCE AND SLOWLY GETTING CLOSER]
JEFF: Sometimes long freight trains come through here and can force workers to wait several minutes until the train passes in order to get by.
RAY: When your work shift is about to start, several minutes can mean the difference between getting to work on time, and getting your pay docked for being late.
JEFF: The three young women are making their way up to the tracks, but the train is getting close!
RAY: Oh man, I’m nervous. You can clearly see the train is coming! They better hurry!
[TRAIN WITH BELL RINGING]
JEFF: The women are scampering across the tracks… OH MY GOD!
JEFF: Mary was just hit by the train’s engine! Her body went flying.
RAY: This is terrible!
[TRAIN FADES OUT]
JEFF: Young Mary Blair didn’t stand a chance. The newspapers cover the story.
NEWSMAN: Struck by the Flyer. Mary Blair, a girl 22 years of age and an employee at the Queen City Cotton Company’s mill, was struck by the 6:40 train on the Rutland railroad last evening at the crossing at Lakeside Park and instantly killed. She, with her sister and a girl friend, were returning to work. Two of the party crossed the track in safety, but Miss Blair was not quick enough and was struck by the engine and thrown about 75 feet. She was badly bruised in all parts of the body, there being a bad gash on the right side of her head and her right arm was broken. Several other bones were also broken. The accident was, as nearly as can be learned, due wholly to carelessness on the part of Miss Blair.
RAY: The reporter goes on to describe how the crossing is near the middle of a one-mile straightaway in the tracks. The train’s whistle was blowing and its bells ringing. Mary Blair had plenty of warning, and should have waited to cross the tracks.
JEFF: A horrible and tragic accident that ended a young life. And though Mary is gone, this is NOT the end of the story. Just a few months later, strange events start happening at the mill. Especially late at night when it’s just the night watchmen. It’s now November.
RAY: It’s just after midnight, and the Queen City Mill is quiet, which is exactly what the night watchmen expects. He’s in his mid-40s, a sane and sober fellow, as his friends describe him. On most nights, this job is pretty boring, but that’s how he likes it. Quiet. (LONG PAUSE) But then…
[OLD FACTORY MACHINES RUNNING]
RAY: The silence is broken! The weaving looms are running, and that only happens when the factory is full of workers. Something is up!
RAY: The night watchman races to the machines to find six of them running at full speed. Cloth is being woven without any guidance. As the watchman looked on, the machines…
[FACTORY MACHINES STOP]
RAY: The machines stop. The watchman scratches his head. He’s never seen this happen before, but nothing seems missing, and there’s no sign of a break in. He makes a note to file a report that these machines may be on the fritz.
JEFF: But later that night, the night watchman is making his rounds when he spots a glowing white figure pacing back and forth in the work room. Unsure of who or what this could be, he approaches… but then she vanishes. He reports all of the night’s events to the mill authorities in the morning. That’s when his managers weigh in.
[LAUGHING AT HIM MOCKING]
JEFF: But this sane and sober night watchmen vows to return to his duties this evening and bring along some friends to bear witness.
RAY: With two other friends in tow, the night watchmen settles in for his shift. The first few hours pass as they often do. Quiet. Pretty soon his friends are bored and feeling foolish at spending their free night looking for ghosts. But then…
[FACTORY MACHINES RUNNING]
RAY: The weaving looms are running again! And once again producing cloth with no one around to tend to them.
[FACTORY MACHINES STOP]
RAY: And once again the glowing white specter of a woman makes an appearance in the work room. The night watchmen’s friends are now firm believers in ghosts.
JEFF: These events continue for several nights in a row, with even more people coming by to witness the strangeness. They also see flitting lights and hear other strange sounds. But that’s just inside the building. There’s odd activities afoot outside as well. Out on the train tracks near the mill? Train engineers are reporting things that shouldn’t be happening. Those supernatural reports make it to the newspaper.
NEWSMAN: The young woman was killed by a Rutland railroad engine which at night is attached to the train leaving this city at 10:06 o’clock, and is run by the engineer who was aboard the engine when the girl was killed. The headlight of this engine is an electric one, and it is controlled by storage batteries directly behind it. Each night as the train nears the spot where the accident occurred, a white figure is seen to walk on the track along the path followed by the victim of the accident. When the train strikes the spot, the headlight goes out and does not light again until the spot is passed.
JEFF: Of course the mill’s management deny any knowledge of the ghosts, but still, people talk. Workers talk. And the ghostly activity continues. And though a ghost haunting the train tracks is frightening, it’s not nearly as scary as the other near-misses that occur at this crossing in the coming years.
RAY: It’s January of 1908, and the Queen City Mill workers are demanding a safer way to get to work. 500 mill workers need to cross these tracks multiple times a day. What happened to Mary Blair is going to happen again.
JEFF: Ultimately, it’s agreed that an underpass will be constructed so workers can walk safely underneath the train tracks. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Okay, now I get how a ghost built this underpass.
JEFF: Right. People died here. The event haunted the Queen City factory workers. Sure, a ghostly legend can force you to look both ways before crossing the tracks where your colleague met her end, but after a while, you start to get angry that your safety isn’t a priority for your employer. In this case, a ghost forced some changes.
RAY: And the underpass is still here.
JEFF: It is. But most of the giant Queen City Cotton Factory is gone. The iconic smokestack still stands, and part of the former mill building is now home to various offices. I can’t help but wonder what strange sounds those workers may still hear inside late at night.
RAY: Hmmmm it makes you look over your shoulder, doesn’t it?
JEFF: It does. Hey, we’d love for you legendary listeners to join our growing list of patreon patrons! These folks are the backbone of what we do. They keep us going and growing. Plus, they get early access to new episodes and bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. Just head over toe patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
RAY: Please consider telling a friend or two about our show. Share your favorite episodes on your social media pages. We appreciate your help getting the word out. You can also call or text our legend line anytime at 617-444-9683. You can even leave our show closing on there for us.
JEFF: We’d like to than Michael Legge for lending his voice acting talent this week. We’d like to thank our sponsor Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: Hey everybody, this is Andrew Maguire. Your self-proclaimed New England Legends Road Dog calling you currently from Nebraska. Just wanted to call in and remind everybody that the bizarre is closer than you think.