Ghosts of the Labor Day Hurricane

(From Ghosts and Ghouls)

On September 2, 1935, the Labor Day Hurricane slammed into the Florida Keys, obliterating everything in its path and sweeping scores of men, women, and children out to sea. At least 423 people died in the Category 5 storm, though no one knows just how many perished. Even today, lost victims’ skeletal remains occasionally surface, along with whispered tales of ghosts.

In 1935, the only way in and out the Keys was by boat or by rail. As the storm drew near, escape by boat was impossible, and nearly 1,000 people found themselves trapped. A rescue train braved the pounding wind and rain, but was overcome when it stopped to help the stranded. The train cars quickly flooded, and many of the people who thought themselves saved were drowned or swept away. For years after the disaster, reports of a phantom train plagued the area.

“The Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway was never rebuilt after the storm, but in the early 1940s, weird events began to be experienced along the old line,” reports American Hauntings Ink. “The sound of a steam engine and a train whistle could sometimes be heard later at night and occasionally, a headlight could be seen silently rolling by in the early hours of the morning.”

The phantom train isn’t the only hurricane-related haunting. Legend has it the victims’ tortured spirits roam the swamps at night, searching for help that never comes. The hunched figures reportedly stagger in the same direction before fading back into the darkness, only to repeat their fruitless march another night. 

Do you think victims of the Labor Day Hurricane haunt Key West to this day? Or are the stories nothing more than remnants from the tragic past?

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