Between the years of 1902 and 1918, 6 different railroad employees ended up dead in weird and unspeakable ways. Although none of their deaths happened in the same manner, all of the railroaders had 2 things in common, the first is that they all suffered an untimely, terrible death, and the second is that their very last meal was at the “Hole-in-the-Wall” cafe.
The legend is that a married railroad engineer had met a young woman in Marceline and had continued an affair with the her, on his many stops through town. A railroad engineer would spend a lot of time on the rail, hopping from town to town on the train. So this theory could easily be true. And of course, when the woman became pregnant, the married railroaded wanted nothing to do with her. He insisted she get rid of the baby, but she did not. On one of his trips through town again, the woman came to him with the baby and insisted they start a family together. This was a big problem for him and he needed to make it go away immediately. So he killed the woman and her baby and threw them into a dried up well in the fall of 1887.
Before there was a Marceline, this area was a beautiful rolling prairie in a region known as Yellow Creek. There was only one trail cutting through this area, and it was known as the Jesse Watkins Trail. There were active towns north and south of us, so travelers would ride through this area from time to time. That dirt path, although it did not lay perfectly north and south would became our main street. Making the trek back then, via horseback, it would make sense that there would be wells along the way, for the horses and men. Right off the trail would be a perfect place for a well. And there is indeed an old well under the foundation.
When Marceline was first incorporated the city officials set it up as a dry community, meaning the sale of any and all liquor was prohibited. Because of this, just one block south of here, the Lake Street District began to transform into a rough area, with speak-easies, illegal gambling and brothels. From time to time, lonely railroaders may have ventured into the Lake Street District. It could have easily been the start of something between our lonely railroader and the nameless lady in white.
The early days of Marceline was somewhat of a time of lawlessness, the city had not yet been incorporated and city law enforcement had not yet been established, so a double murder could have been carried out pretty easily.
The legend goes, that even though the bodies were resumed from the well, the spirits lingered. And in 1898, a cafe was built over the well, and that is when the hauntings started.
Cafe employees would report hearing cries and muddled screams coming from the cellar. The fact that the cafe kept late hours, to accommodate the changing shifts of the railroad employees, made her midnight howling that much more unsettling.
Eventually her apparition began to appear, she was dressed in all white, sometimes with a baby in her arms and sometimes without. It came to be known, that if you ate dinner and the lady in white showed herself to you, your death would be coming. It is said, that one by one, the railroaders would come in for dinner, and during their meal, they would appear to become uneasy, as if they had seen something that no one else had seen. And sure enough, after paying their bill and heading to their work shift, they would end up dead, sometimes within as little as 20 minutes, sometimes within the day.
It is believed that the lady in white was trying to get her revenge on the railroad men that had treated her poorly.
After the final connected death in 1915, the ghost became more peaceful, perhaps she had fulfilled her unfinished business.
Below is a list of those railroad men that died:
Samuel Wise; born 1857 - died December 8, 1902; cause of death: unexplained train derailment, pronounced dead on sight.
Charles Wise; born 1865 - died March 22, 1905; cause of death: mysterious break malfunction, and train ran him over, pronounced dead on sight.
William Geyer; born 1869 - died December 17, 1910; cause of death: mystery gunman, shot on tracks, perpetrator never found.
William Beach; born 1876 - died Dec 24, 1912; cause of death: accidentally shot and killed himself while cleaning a gun that was supposed to be unloaded, however, others questioned the ruling of self-induced, due to the angle of the bullet wound.
Oscar Dail; born 1887 - died June 11, 1915; cause of death: caught between two freight cars, killed instantly.
Fletcher Shoemaker; born 1899 - died Jan 3 1918; cause of death: slipped and fell under the wheels of the train, crushing his legs, he died in the hospital later that evening. His apparition was said to be seen by a co-worker, in another location, at the hour of his death.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, the restaurant was operated by a lady named Wilma Zink. She shared a number of stories involving the Woman in White. She reported, one morning after a cool night had frosted the windows of the restaurant. Pressed to the windows, surrounded by frost were hand marks, below the hands were the imprints of a small nose and mouth of a child. These imprints were on the inside of the glass, after the cafe had been closed and locked up all night. Ms. Zink was not the only witness of this phenomenon. Her employees often reported glasses falling off shelves and plates sometimes flying through the air.
The restaurant has changed hands several times over the years, which leaves you to question: are the ghost stories real?