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Hail to the Chief

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An Amtrak train leaving the new Wells station

This story begins with a really beautiful day up in Wells Maine. The kind of day you only get up there, where the sun beats down just hard enough for it to feel like summer, and the endless lines of trees and foliage are just as vibrant and colorful as you wanted them to be. Like something out of a painting or a brochure for some national park. Now before I get into the deep shit, I have to explain some stuff about myself. I hate going on about shit nobody cares about, such as my personal life but to have the story make sense, I have to get it out of the way.

I live on Long Island, which for those of you who don’t know, is about a 15 minute drive from New York City. Now you might be wondering what the hell I’m doing in Maine then. Well, my family owns a little cottage up in Wells, every summer we like to get away from the bustle, the traffic, and the sheer commercialism we’re so used to and live the simple life for a while. I really consider myself more of a country boy despite my upbringing and really enjoy every minute we spend up there. I’m the kind of guy who enjoys a secluded walk in the woods much more than a trip to the mall. Another thing you have to know is that I’m a huge fan of trains.

I live for trains. I video tape them, I follow them, I watch them, I do it all. But on Long Island all we have is the same shitty subways going back and forth all day. I’m more of a romantic. I like the rumble of the diesel, the grinding of a long freight train through a tight turn, the notion of a quiet undisturbed forest having its natural workings interrupted by the blast of a horn and the screeching of freight cars flying by at 60 miles an hour. Now that all that bullshits out of the way, the story will make a lot more sense. As I was saying, on those beautiful Maine days, my favorite thing to do is to head down to the Ex Boston & Maine Wells railroad station to hopefully catch some Guilford or Pan Am freight trains.

The location of the station was everything I dreamed of. It was right off I-95 and down a short road that passed through the middle of the woods that ended suddenly at the station parking lot. Half the fun of it was the fact a passenger train hadn’t stopped there since the early 1960s. Around this time the Boston & Maine found itself losing millions of dollars operating passenger service. They decided leave the passenger business altogether which led to the abandonment of all their passenger stations, including Wells in 1964. The old abandoned station building and low level platforms looked just the way they had in the 1960s, apart from some paint peeling and grime. This usually meant it was almost always secluded and empty, just the way I wanted it. Or so I thought.

That particular day I was shocked to drive into the station parking lot to find it about three times bigger than I remembered it being, and filled with cars. I was even more shocked to find the vintage station building demolished and a modern looking structure sitting in its place. They had also cut down a substantial amount of trees, which really took away the atmosphere I was used to. I was distraught. There had been talk of Amtrak reopening all the old ex-Boston and Maine stations and starting up passenger service again for years, but they would always encounter issues with replacing track or something of the sort around Wells. In fact, about five years earlier they had replaced all the track up to a half mile south of the Wells station in hopes of re instating passenger service.

It was never quite clear what stopped them. Nobody seemed to want to talk about it. I remember Trains magazine interviewed the project manager on the subject and he responded with something like:

“The grade was too steep and dangerous to proceed any further.”

This had to be complete bullshit seeing as the track for miles both north and south of Wells was completely level. I heard from several Maine locals including an old Boston & Maine engineer they were afraid to replace the old tracks because of some bullshit story about a Native American chief pissed off about the railroad taking his land ordering his tribe to stand their ground against the railroad… literally. The story goes, they all lined up on the tracks one by one and attempted to physically stop trains going by.

As you can imagine, it didn’t end well and the first northbound train plowed through the whole line of them killing and badly mutilating every single one, much to the amusement of the engineer. This particular had a great hatred for the Natives after seeing his parents scalped right in front of him as a boy during one of the many Native American raids on early Wells. Legend had it that later that night, the same engineer was coming back on the southbound train headed for Boston. He stopped the train in Wells, right where the grotesque remains of the Natives were just shoved to the side of the tracks in a pile. He proceeded to take the fireman’s shovel, dig out all the ballast and dirt from under the tracks just ahead of the locomotive and shove all the bodies under the rails.

Once he fit them all, he covered it all back up with Ballast and mumbled something like:

“Not even the crushing weight of every passing train over them can make them feel the pain they caused me.”

The myth says he climbed back into the cab threw the blood stained shovel back to the poor fireman, who seemed to be in a state of shock, and slowly opened the regulator causing the train to inch ever so slowly over where he had buried the bodies. The engineer let out a loud, almost satanic sounding laugh so loud it woke nearby livestock up scared locals living near the tracks. The rails under which he did his work sank considerably as the locomotive and cars one by one inched over them.

He kept the regulator open just a crack till the entire 20 car train had passed over the spot. They say after that night the engineer was never seen again. All they found was his pocket watch hanging from a tree a few yards south of the Wells station. The fireman was sent to the York Mental hospital about three days after. Years later in 1993 when Amtrak first attempted to restart passenger service, they started replacing all the old track from Boston to Portland. All went well until they came to Wells. Apparently it took great effort to remove the old section of rail just south of the station and when it was removed, the project manager started feeling sick.

Without telling anyone he wondered into the woods next to the tracks and was never seen again. People say it was the Native American spirits that drove him mad and to the point of suicide in the blink of an eye. There was no warning, he just disappeared never to be seen again. All the police ever found was his left shoe stuck on the bank next to a small creek with a note attached to it that read:

“WHITE MAN GOT WHAT HE WANTED. THE CHIEF AND HIS MEN SUFFER FOR ALL ETERNITY AND SO SHALL YOU”

Now all this makes for wonderful storytelling and some great around the campfire shit, but let’s get real here.

I’d spent hours in Wells and never experienced any weird feeling or kind of paranormal activity. And to my knowledge, there was no dip in the tracks where the bodies are claimed to be hidden either. It’s straight as an arrow. At least that’s what I thought. Anyway, as I was saying, after staring at the new structure in sadness, I decided to give it a chance and see what it was like inside. I was greeted by a huge blast of cool air from an A/C unit. I had to admit, as much as I loved the old structure, it got really hot sometimes. Maybe this new structure wouldn’t be so bad. I was also greeted by an old man sitting behind a ticket counter window at the back of the station.

He was reading the newspaper and looked up and greeted me as I came in. He seemed like the kind of person who enjoyed having a railfan like me around, so I asked him if there had been any freights that day. He replied, “Sorry son, we had three northbound and four southbound come through right before you got here. That’s usually all we get in a day”

He could probably tell I was disappointed and added.

“Of course there is the chance of an extra coming by or a light engine move if you want to stick around”

I hesitated but decided it’d be worth it. My parents were out shopping for curtains at the home depot anyway so I wouldn’t be missing much even if nothing came by. Now this is where it starts getting weird. I saw a bunch of brochures on the wall, which is a common thing in Maine.

I figured I might be able to find some good train related ones so I headed over to them. As I was looking through them I leaned against the wall to take some of the stress off my legs. As soon as my body hit the wall I started feeling weird. I thought I felt my heart beating in my head, very softly at first, but progressively getting louder. I immediately put my hand over my chest, seeing as I had a minor heart disorder that sometimes caused a similar feeling. But it was beating fine. The pounding in my head got louder. I began to realize, it sounded a lot like the pounding of a drum.

I heard urgent sounding shuffling and a noise like papers hitting the floor. I saw the nice old stationmaster swing around his chair and look at me with an angered face.

He quickly yelled, “GET AWAY FROM THAT PICTURE!” in a very aggressive tone. I was panicking by this point and had no idea what he was talking about.

“WHAT PICTURE?”

I yelled probably sounding scared. The man leaped from his chair and pulled me away from the wall and sat me down on a bench in the middle of the room. The drum beat had stopped.

He pointed to the wall I was leaning on and to my horror, most of the wall was covered by a painted portrait of a Native American Chief. His eyes were wide and menacing and were staring right at me so that they followed me around the room. He looked tense, almost angry. My stare was broken by the old man’s voice.

“Um... Sorry I lost my temper like that, uh… that’s Chief Wellsabiddan. He doesn’t like it when people touch him. He’s who our town is named after. Biddeford is also named after the second part of his name.”

Too shaken up to care at that point I simply responded with “Where was hell was that drum coming from?” The Stationmaster just gave me a puzzled look and said he had no idea what I meant, which is strange because he obviously heard it as well judging how he came running over to me. He told me I should go outside and get some fresh air and I kind of agreed. I figured I must have been hearing things. I found a bench right next to the tracks that never used to be there. Perfect.

I took a seat and tried to take my mind off that drumbeat. But No matter how hard I tried, I kept feeling like I was being watched. I eventually gave in to my fear and turned around, and through the glass door I could see Chief Wellsabiddan staring right back at me. I tried to ignore him, but after ten minutes I thought I was literally going to lose my mind. “Fuck it” I thought to myself “I can’t stay here” Another one of my favorite things to do was walk along the tracks. I did it all the time at home, the only difference was at home there was civilization around the tracks.

Here it was nothing. The tracks were just a small cut through the massive pine barrens of Maine. I knew it would be slightly dangerous, but as I mentioned before I love being in the woods so I figured it would be fun and a good way to get my mind off the chief. I hopped off the new high level platform and began heading south. I knew of a fun little crossing it would be great to see trains at. At first everything seemed completely normal. I started to feel good again. The birds were singing, the sun was shining how it only does in Maine. Things were fine till I thought I heard something. I couldn’t tell what it was and at first it sounded like it was coming from in front of me.

As I kept walking along the tracks, it kept getting louder. Finally I could hear it and to my horror, it was the dreaded drum beat from earlier. Only this time, it wasn’t in my head, I could actually hear it. I wanted to turn around and go back to the station, but the drum beat kept pulling me in, as it got louder, and louder, AND LOUDER. I covered my ears but it didn’t do shit. I started running, and it just kept getting louder, I thought my ear drums were going to rupture. All of a sudden I felt the ground give way bellow me. I fell a good foot or two causing me to trip. As frantically got up I began to realize what was happening. This was the spot.

The tracks sank down just like the legend said they would. Even more scared I started I now heard the far off battle cry of wild people and smelled smoke from a bonfire. I saw Native American appear out of every corner of the woods, out from behind every tree. They didn’t look normal, they looked almost like skeletons but not quite, there was still some dried out flesh clinging to their bones causing them to look even more horrifying. At this point I felt a hold cold boney hand grab my shoulders and in a deep, almost satanic sounding voice I heard the infamous line.

“WHITE MAN GOT WHAT HE WANTED. THE CHIEF AND HIS MEN SUFFER FOR ALL ETERNITY AND SO SHALL YOU!”

The Chief pressed my head down on the hot metal rail causing me to scream, I looked up and saw an arm above me holding a giant blade carved from bone about to come swinging down on my scalp, but then all of a sudden I heard a train horn.

The Chief and his men seemed to hear it too. They went silent and looked towards the north. They started chanting war cries and jumping up and down. I just barely managed to pull myself off the tracks. I had been shaking so much I couldn’t even walk. The chief and his army lined up one by one until they had formed a line down the middle of the tracks. They formed a chain by grasping each other’s shoulders with Chief Wellsabiddan, with the same menacing eyes like in the station house photo, in the front in a war stance.

The train horn came nearer. I began to feel the ground shaking under me. The horn blared again, and this time I could see the train round the bend barreling towards Chief Wellsabiddan and his men. He let out one final cry as the nose of the locomotive slammed into him. I looked up to see if the engineer was stopping or was aware of what was happening, but he just gave me a smile and a wave. As if he didn’t see or feel any of this. It seemed like an hour waiting for all the cars to go by. At last the blinking end of train device passed me and faded into the distance. I plucked up enough courage to get up and look around. There was absolutely no sign of chief Wellsabiddan and his men. The tracks were straight as an arrow again too. I quickly thought about what had just happened and came to the conclusion there was no way in hell I was telling my parents. They’d think I was fucking nuts. I decided the best thing to do was walk back to the Wells Amtrak station and go the fuck home.

The walk back was torture. Every little noise, every bird chirping, and every gust of wind sent me into a panic. I thought my heart was going to give out before I made it back. I finally made it back to the station and stumbled up to the platform. The man in the station. The man in the station had to know something about this. It just dawned on me he referred to the portrait of the chief as “him” and heard the same drumbeat. I had to talk to him. I barged into the station looking frantic. I looked over to the portrait of Chief Wellsabiddan. However, this time he looked different. He looked sad, almost like he was going to cry. He was looking down instead of at me.

That scared me more the anything else. I figured I needed to leave, fuck the stationmaster. Right as I pushed the door open I heard a familiar voice.

“Hey son, I was right wasn’t I? Did you catch that extra go by?”

I just looked at him and replied, “yeah...” before attempting to head out again. I was interrupted.

“You’re lucky,” the stationmaster seemed to say to himself, “They just changed the schedule today. That was a new train.”

“Yeah, you said it. That was damn lucky…” I replied kind of sarcastically, finding irony in how the man didn’t know how much truth was behind that statement.

The moment I said that I heard what sounded like a thump coming from the wall. I looked at the chief. He was back to his angry self and staring right at me. The stationmaster looked at me for a second and gave me a wink, almost like he knew everything, and went inside. I started to walk away from the glass doors of the station to my car, but I turned back to look one more time. I saw the stationmaster jokingly hit the portrait of chief Wellsabiddan and say “don’t worry, chief, you’ll get him next time”. He then put on his hat and headed for the door. He came out laughing and swiftly locked up then drove away still chuckling to himself. For some reason that really frightened me. I ran back to the car, shaking and drove home as fast as I could.


This was my first attempt at writing and any feedback is much appreciated.

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