Sometimes the force of a good ghost story moved more like a toddler on a tricycle than with the speed of a train.
After doing research on the legend of the Ringling Ghost Train, I discovered some things. The first is that no one has ever heard of it and it has no trackable presence online. This is unusual in that a story like this usually has some kind of traction in the modern era of media. Not even older sources of hauntings have it listed. I found a few other hauntings connected with Ringling Brothers, but nothing local or even connected to the college.
I did find more information on the depot itself though, and the news is a bit more encouraging. It would seem that while the arena where the circus laid up for the winter has been pretty much torn down, the depot still exists. The Venice Area Historical Society maintains the property and has used it as a way to preserve the history of the city. A brief history of the depot can be found through their site, although it makes no mention of the legend. I contacted several people associated with it looking for more information, and I hope to hear back from them. It is hard to tell from the pictures and map online, but it seems to be accessible to some degree for what I am looking to do, although I will be careful not to enter the property itself without permission from someone from the society on the night of the event. I will, however, scout the location tomorrow and see if I can get any more details.
I also reached out to Kim Cool, author of the book Ghost Stories of Venice, although the only contact information I was able to use was from her Facebook account. While this sometimes has the immediacy needed for research, and removes the days you would often have to wait for people to check and respond to e-mails, more and more people are moving away from being active on a daily basis on their account, and unless it is hooked into their phone, it might be a while before I hear back from her, especially considering messages not sent by friends go into the nebulous “other” folder of people’s accounts.
She has several books about ghost stories and folklore from the area, but both her business site and artist site seem to be as abandoned as an old train depot. Based on some of the information and book titles, I think I might have met her during the infamous St. Pete ghost conference of 2008. We’ll see if she gets back to me.
Catching a story can be as difficult as trying to catch a picture of a ghost. My lines have been cast and the stage has been set. My hope is that even if I can’t get a glimpse of the train Saturday night, some of these contacts I have thrown out there might lead to the next story.
You can follow the details of the story on Twitter at #Trippingtrain.