The Haunted Engine


| January/February 1964



You leave the village on an old red brick highway. After about two miles you turn left on a gravel road that winds through a little valley studded with twisted corn shocks. Then you cross a wooden bridge, and climb a crooked wooded hill -- then turn left again on a narrow, rutty, dirt lane paved mostly with dried-up mud holes. After a dozen or so aimless turns a tall, rusty, crooked smoke stack, peeping over the top of a matted clump of bushes, marks the spot the HAUNTED ENGINE!

At least that's the way it was 40 years ago. My guide who incidently was my landlord for the winter--said, 'You're always talking about steam engines. Here's one that ought to interest you!'

We parted the weeds and walked around the huge old portable. A slight mound was all that was left of an ancient sawdust pile, and a short distance away the hollow of an old pond was grown full of cattails and willows. A couple of empty bottles and a few scattered cigarette butts told of previous visitors. It was about as bleak a picture as could be imagined. I remember -- a cold, red sun was setting -- a fiery glow behind broken black clouds.

'When old Alex Goetz came back from the Civil War,' my friend continued, 'he bought about all the big timber in these parts. Later he built a water-powered sawmill about two miles from here, but his water supply was not very dependable. A few years later he got this engine and moved it in here with oxen.

'He and his son Vanus sawed many a thousand feet of fine boards here. Then Vanus got married and moved away, and Old Alex, who was always tight with his money, began to rely on his wife for help at the mill.'

Here my story teller dropped his voice, although there was probably no one else within a mile of the place at that time. He told me that the old lady had not been 'quite right' for several years, and with the loneliness of her life after their son's marriage, and her treatment at the hands of the stern, cynical, stingy husband she became steadily worse.