Since the fall of 1867, peculiar sightings of an unexplained floating light have been reported by both locals and visitors of Wilmington, North Carolina. Eyewitnesses claim that the “Ghostly lights of Maco”can be seen after dark, floating down the tracks at the old Maco Train Station.
According to stories passed down from generation to generation, the floating light can be attributed to the ghost of deceased train conductor, Joe Baldwin, who met his untimely death on those very train tracks. It’s said that one night, on a routine trip to Wilmington, the last car of the train, which Joe was riding in, became dislodged from the rest of the train. Unknowingly, the train kept fast on it’s course, leaving the small car trailing slowly behind them.
Suddenly, a fast express train, which had been following, approached the small car out of the darkness. With no other way to warn the approaching train of the slower leading train, the conductor began waving his lantern to and fro, hoping that someone on that train would see him and slow down.
Unfortunately, no one saw the light, and the express train collided with the much smaller car. Though the express train was knocked off the track, no one on it sustained serious injuries. The same could not be said for Joe Baldwin, though, as died instantly as a result of decapitation. His lantern, (which was upright and still burning) was found, along with his headless body, beside the tracks in the swamp. The search for his missing head continued for two weeks, but it was never recovered. Finally Joe was buried, without it, in St. James Cemetery in Wilmington. It’s reported that later his grave was moved to another location, but his headstone was never relocated, so his body lies somewhere in an unmarked grave in Wilmington.
Every since that night, along the tracks of Maco Station, a glowing light, which bears remarkable resemblance to a conductors lantern, bobs around through the still night, as if being carried by someone or something. Even railroad engineers have reported seeing the ghostly light as it appears on the train tracks in front of them. Once a US army colonel was commissioned to find the cause of the mysterious light, but just as his soldiers encircled it, the light disappeared, only to reappear behind the circle of soldiers. As the astonished troops watched on, the light continued on it’s slow and steady journey down the tracks away from them.
The train tracks were finally removed by the station in 1977, but the lights continued to be seen.
Is it the ghost of old Joe Baldwin, searching for his lost head? Or just headlights from passing cars, as some have claimed? Whatever the explanation, the lights at Maco Station can still be seen, (the last sighting was actually reported in 2009) and probably will continue to shine on.. Well at least until Joe Baldwin finds his head.