The Ghosts of Suicide Past: The El in Fishtown

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Walking around Philadelphia can sometimes be decrepit, or it sometimes can be riveting. In my childhood I found the neighborhood of Fishtown to be right in the middle. We had gritty people who fought for everything we got. It was a blue collar neighborhood where if you had a problem you fought it out. I got into my first fight on Frankford Ave circa 1999. That means before it was a hipster hellhole. Regardless I also always felt this mystique energy right under the El on Front St.

My friends and I were under it while a train passed. All we could here was a bustling sound, but no train. People, crowds, screams, and shouts. It was as if I was in a ballpark full of people. We did not understand what was going on so we bolted.

Luckily being with my friends I did not have to experience this alone and feel as if I was crazy. With that said, a group effect kicked in where we all felt crazy. So we decided to go back to that exact spot. Nothing. We waited for three hours, but did not experience that same feeling.

However the next morning I woke up and was still spooked. I went over to my boy Tommy’s place. I said “Do you think it’s weird that we all heard the same sounds at the same time, but when we went back didn’t experience a thing?” He said that he agreed. So I told him lets go back to where we were after breakfast.

Tommy and I meet just under the El right on a desolate corner. We then walk to the exact location where we were the previous night. We sat there for hours on end just the two of us, but nothing. So we left.

Then about a year later I found myself walking home after a long day in Center City (aka the Times Square of Philly) and heard it again. Near the same spot I was just 365 days ago. I immediately reach into my pocket to grab my phone. They do not hear a thing when I put it on speaker. However I hear an overbearing bunch of screams. I actually begin to run home. Upon arriving home I finally tell the rest of my family what I have experienced both individually and with my friends.

It just so happens that my 84 year old grandfather is over. As soon as I tell these stories he beins to laugh. At first it is because I think he is crazy. Then he tells me “Boy, you have never heard of the ghosts that haunt the El?” As if this was common knowledge.

My grandfather goes onto tell the whole family that since he has been a boy there have stories of sightings and feelings of ghosts along this train line. That it is “All of the people who have committed suicide in front of these trains throughout the years.” He says that it is their scream before getting hit by the train and their spirit living on within the location of being hit. He also explained that the more people who killed themselves in an area the more powerful the noises.

I then asked him “Why did I not hear them often?”

He said that “You only hear that at the same time every night. You and Tommy were stupid enough to go back there in the morning. I guess you finally happened to be there during the 30 seconds you needed to be again.”

Wow. To think that such a thing could exist in Philly has rattled me. I hope this is not something that we encounter anywhere else in the city. I will never go on the El again.

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  • Christine

    New meaning to the lyrics “You can’t get to Heaven on the Frankford el”…haha