Previously: The Travel Man Game.
If you’re looking for an eerie ritual game that’s more a test of courage than anything else, might I suggest the Ghost Train Game? There’s no prize for playing; it’s just something to do for the experience — and maybe the bragging rights you’d be able to lay claim to afterwards. Assuming you survive, that is.
Posted to the r/ThreeKings subreddit in January of 2023 by Redditor u/Ok_Responsibility403, the Ghost Train Game plays off of two common tropes: Haunted train tracks and other “ghost train”-type stories, and the dangers of whistling at night.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Ghost train stories are, of course, a fixture of folklore and urban legends, particularly in North America. In the U.S., we’ve got things like the Chapel Hill ghost light in Tennessee, the Lincoln ghost train legend in New York’s Hudson River Valley, and the Cohoke Light in King William County in Virginia, to name just a few; heck, even the John Lawson House in Wappinger Falls, New York — which is pretty clearly not a haunted house, but just an unusual art project undertaken by whoever lived there for many years — frequently had its mysterious moving mannequins chalked up to a railway accident that occurred in 1871 for a while. (The accident is almost certainly unconnected to the mannequins for reasons I laid out here, but it was still part of the lore for a long, long time.)
Further north in Canada, there are also stories like the St. Louis ghost train of Saskatchewan, the alleged haunting of the Blue Ghost Tunnel in Ontario, and the Screaming Tunnel near Niagara Falls. (Worth noting: The Screaming Tunnel wasn’t actually a railway tunnel; it was a pedestrian tunnel. But it’s usually referred to in the same breath as the rail line it was meant to cross, so, y’know. It counts, as far as I’m concerned.)
In the Ghost Train Game, the idea is that the train tracks you use to play are haunted — or at the very least, located directly near a cemetery. Redditor u/Ok_Responsibility403 noted that they’d played it in their hometown in Virginia, although without knowing the region or any further details, it’s tough to narrow down exactly where the tracks they used are located; for what it’s worth, though, as someone who lives in the DMV and is quite familiar with the geography of the area, I can attest that train tracks existing alongside cemeteries is pretty common here, especially in older towns.
You don’t have to be in Virginia to play, it though. Arguably, the tracks you use for this one don’t even have to necessarily be both allegedly haunted and pass by a cemetery; one or the other will probably suffice, although a set of tracks that satisfies both conditions would of course be preferable.
Oh, but let’s not forget the whistling aspect of the game: As I’ve previously noted, an awful lot of places and cultures have superstitions about whistling at night — or, more specifically, why you shouldn’t do it. What happens when you combine whistling at night with train-based ghost stories or superstitions? Well, here, we’re doing just that and… hoping for the best.
Or the worst, I guess, depending on your perspective.
There are a lot of real-world risks associated with this game, largely because of the train aspect, so consider this an extra warning — on top of the one we always have, of course:
As always, play at your own risk.
- One principal.
- Access to a set of above-ground railway or train tracks that satisfies the following conditions: They are believed to be haunted; and/or they pass directly by a cemetery, graveyard, or other variety of burial site. It is NOT recommended that you use tracks that are ACTIVELY IN USE. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A lantern.
- Begin at night.
- When it is fully dark, gather your lantern and travel to your chosen set of train tracks. You may make the journey by whatever means you like: You may walk to it; you may drive to it, as long as you are able to park your vehicle safely nearby; etc.
- When you reach the tracks, turn on your lantern.
- Now: Begin walking. Walk directly on the tracks. There is no need to run; just… walk. Watch your step — don’t trip on the rail ties or the uneven ground. Use the lantern to light your way; that’s what it’s there for.
- (That’s one of the things it’s there for, at least.)
- Walk along the tracks for one mile precisely — no more, no less.
- When you have reached your goal — when you have walked a full mile — stop.
- Do not turn the lantern off.
- Now: Begin whistling. As closely as you can, mimic the sound of a train whistle.
- As you whistle, listen closely to the sounds around you — the sounds of the night, the darkness, the environment. Listen past all of that. What do you hear?
- If you hear only yourself: The ritual has failed; do not proceed. Turn around and walk back the way you came. Turn off the lantern when you reach your starting point and return home. You may try again another time if you wish.
- If you hear another train whistle: The ritual has succeeded; you may proceed.
- As soon as you hear the train whistle, cease your own whistling and GET OFF OF THE TRAIN TRACKS IMMEDIATELY. Step at least a foot or two away from the tracks. This is for your own safety; do not fail to step far enough away.
- Remain silent.
- Do not turn off the lantern.
- No matter what you hear: Listen.
- Listen until the sound of the train whistle fades away. When you can no longer hear it — when all you can hear, past the sounds of the night, the darkness, the environment, is silence — walk back the way you came. Do NOT walk directly on the tracks. Walk ONLY beside them.
- When you reach your starting point, turn off the lantern.
- Return home. If you drove, do NOT enter the vehicle until the lantern is turned off.
- When you reach your home, double-check that the lantern is turned off before entering. Do NOT enter your home until the lantern is turned off.
- Go to bed. Sleep, if you can.
- When you wake, carry on with your day.
- Carry on with your life.
- But know that what you have you heard may stay with you for… longer than you might like.
This game is best played with one player. You may attempt to play with more than one, or with bystanders, but know that you may or may not achieve best results if you choose to do so.
Regarding the railway or train tracks:
- Do not use tracks belonging to a subway, metro, or other underground train system. The tracks must be used — or have been used — for a standard, above-ground railway.
- It is NOT recommended that you use tracks belonging to an ACTIVE rail line. This is for SAFETY PURPOSES; it is extremely dangerous, as well as illegal, to cross an active rail line at any location other than a designated crossing at designated times, or to walk along the tracks of an active rail line. We are not responsible for anything that befall you or others around you, based on the choices you make regarding this game.
- Use ONLY tracks that are no longer in use.
Regarding the lantern:
- For best results, the lantern should be a hand-held variety reminiscent of the lanterns once used by railway workers, such as a camping lantern. It may be battery-operated or lit with a candle; for safety purposes, however, it is recommended that it be battery-operated. Should you choose to use a live flame, utilize common sense fire safety precautions. We are not responsible for anything that may befall you or others around you, should you choose to utilize fire.
- If you are unable to acquire a lantern, a flashlight may be permissible; however, results may be… unpredictable.
It is recommended that you map out your walking route in advance, so as to be certain that you walk precisely a mile. You may find it helpful to locate landmarks along the tracks that correspond to the distance between your starting point and the one-mile mark.
Do NOT use anything other than your own mouth to whistle. You may not utilize any additional objects, etc. to create this sound. You are the instrument. You must generate the sound yourself.
Regarding Repeat Journeys:
You may play the game again another time, if you wish — but remember:
You have known the train once before…
…And the train has also known you.
It will not soon forget you.
In fact, it can’t wait until it finally gets to welcome you as a passenger.
Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!