The telling of urban legends has become a sort of modern folklore among people of any given time. Though the stories are usually fictional, they are surprisingly often inspired by a sliver of truth of something that might have happened in the past.
Perhaps at one time, some of these stories were completely true. But, through time and the oral passing of a story from person to person, the stories have evolved in a way, taking on a life of their own. They have been transformed from fact to fiction, increasing in effect as they are passed further, and eventually becoming the foundational folklore of a place.
Though urban legends can sometimes be comedic and humorous, they are more commonly scary and dark in nature. You’ll most often find people telling urban legends around campfires or in the dark so that the person telling it can achieve a sense of fear in others.
A great example of an urban legend that exists right within our own community is one that is known to the people of Moorhead, Minnesota.
Claims of strange happenings on the railroad tracks between Moorhead and Fargo have become the foundation of an urban legend that has only grown to captivate the minds of those who live here.
The legend began with the stories of homeless men who reported experiencing a disturbing apparition of a woman. The woman, they said, had red eyes and, as they tried to find a place to sleep along the tracks, the woman appeared to get closer to them, leading them to sleep elsewhere for the night.
Following these stories, many other claims have come forward about the area of lonely space between the two cities.
As rumors began to grow about the tracks being haunted, people were drawn in with curious minds only to experience something they couldn’t completely explain. Some claimed to see mysterious balls of light, while others swore they had heard the agonizing wailing of someone screaming in the distance.
Though there are many variations of the story of why the tracks might be haunted, the most common -- known to the people of the area -- talks about the tragic demise of a young girl who had attempted to jump onto a moving train that was traveling through the area.
The popular story, which has grown to become Moorhead’s very own urban legend, goes on to explain how the girl botched her landing and, in turn, was dragged down the railroad tracks all the way through Fargo. Some versions of the story explain how there were people who witnessed the remnants of the tragic accident as the train continued to travel through town.
Although not all urban legends stem from truth, many take root in a place in the aftermath of an event such as this one. So, next time you’re exploring the tracks of Fargo-Moorhead, take a moment to pause, think of the girl who was lost to the tracks so long ago, and listen carefully. You may just hear the sounds of the past drifting through the night.
[Editor’s note: Seng is the host of “Whispers in the Night” podcast--which explores topics of the paranormal and unexplained in the Midwest]
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