Created By: DrNoPuma on August 4, 2017 Last Edited By: AHI-3000 on November 17, 2017

Ghost Train

A creepy, haunted, and/or sentient train used by (usually malevolent) ghosts or other monsters.

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trope
Although trains are usually seen as fun and lovable machines, they can be used for sinister purposes too. A Ghost Train is a train that has supernatural qualities, and is usually used to carry around ghosts or other monsters, scare people, or for other creepy purposes.

This trope, often seen in folklore, usually takes the form of an old steam train with a dark, twisted appearance. It may be inhabited by a ghostly conductor and passengers, and it may have been either created by the ghosts, or a normal train that they possess for their own ends. Alternatively, the train itself may be fully sentient.

It may often be seen in kid friendly works, especially those with Defanged Horrors, because in a way, it replaces the more conventional fun that trains bring with a more spooky sort of fun.

May be part of a Circus of Fear, or even just associated with Creepy Circus Music.

Compare Ghost Ship and Sinister Subway. See also Afterlife Express, which is for spirits going to the afterlife instead of staying on Earth, and may be more benevolent than this trope.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • Ghostbusters: A reporter invokes the trope by describing a spectral locomotive his grandmother used to tell stories about when he was a boy.

    Folklore 
  • The Silverpilen (Swedish for "Silver Arrow") was a train used by the Stockholm Metro from the 1960s to the 1990s. Although it's really just a rare train of unusual design, some people alleged that the train was supernatural; claiming that it picks up passengers at night, who either disappear forever or only return after a long period of time (weeks, months, or even years).
  • Statesville, North Carolina is said to have a ghost train that visits on the anniversary of a horrific 1891 crash in which a train plummeted from a high bridge and about 30 people were killed. Witnesses on the anniversaries of the wreck have heard screeching train wheels, screaming passengers, and the crash itself. Many have also reported seeing a man in a railroad uniform carrying a gold watch who vanished before their eyes. A spectator watching for it on the anniversary in 2010 was caught on the railroad bridge by a modern train and killed, raising the eeriness of the site.

    Literature 
  • Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novel Night Probe. While investigating the disappearance of a train, Dirk learns of stories of a "ghost train" that appears on stormy nights and disappears when it reaches a bridge. He later discovers that the story is a hoax, carried out by a train's headlight and a PA system broadcasting train noises being pulled along a cable suspended above the ground.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The YTV show Seriously Weird had the gang encountering a real ghost of a boy who had died in a train accident. The ghost uses his powers to change the diner that they are at, into a real life ghost train (the same one he died in), and sends it headed towards impending doom.

    Music 
  • The Gorillaz song Ghost Train only refers to this in his lyrics, but it's about something that goes after narrator's soul, and how he's prepared to fight against it. Being the "ghost train" part said after every line of the song, probably the narrator refers to the train itself that goes after him.
    ''Here they come to steal my soul
(Ghost train) Wait it out until I know (Ghost train) Trying not to feel like you did (Ghost train) Moving up until I go go-o (Ghost train)''
  • YouTube composers Derek and Brandon Fiechter have a song called Ghost Train as part of their Creepy Circus Music series. The story in the video's description describes a haunted train that moves on its own.
  • The track Ghost Train by Waterflame is based on, well, a ghost train.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Pride of Yirrimburra". While the investigators are in Yirrimburra, they will hear legends of a ghost train that was lost when it fell into a river. It's said that those about to die will hear its whistle blow. Later in the adventure, if the investigators are walking along the abandoned railroad tracks at night they will hear the whistle of a locomotive and the tracks will vibrate.

    Toys 
  • LEGO's "Monster Fighter" series included a set called "Ghost Train", a spooky-looking train with glow-in-the-dark elements and a creepy face on the front, driven by a group of troublemaking ghosts.

    Video Games 
  • AdventureQuest Worlds had a Friday the 13th event in 2011 featuring a Ghost Train. The player, Voltaire, and Deady board the train as a quick means of traveling the desert. However they have to fight their way off in order to leave the train, as passengers are not permitted off once boarded.
  • The Phantom Express from Cuphead is a creepy living train who carries a ghost, a skeleton conductor, and two lightning-shooting creatures through a dark forest.
  • In Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3 there's the "Iron Terror", a monstrous ghost train which serves as the stage for Jon Talbain/Gallon in the game. Also this stage can be seen few stages before getting Jedah, so it's probable the Iron Terror goes to Jedah's headquarters.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Haunt The House: Terrortown has a level taking place on a big carnival train. You play as a ghost who lives in the train's smokestack, and as in the rest of the game, you possess the (frankly, already somewhat creepy-looking) props around the train to scare everyone off.
  • The Monster-themed Downloadable Content for LittleBigPlanet has you riding around on a skull-shaped locomotive. In fact, the level is even called "Ghost Train!!!".
  • Invoked in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, in the level "Ambush Maneuver". Prof. E. Gadd shrinks Luigi down so he can enter a toy train set in one mansion. After activating the train, Luigi gets attacked by a giant Boo. He must fight the boo in the train set, while the train circles around them and Creepy Circus Music plays. Ironically, though, Luigi actually uses the train to defeat the Boo, by using the big drill on its front to split the Boo into smaller Boos, then flinging them into the train cars, trapping them.

     Webcomics 
  • Chapter 4 of Paranatural is named "The Activity Club and the Ghost Train." It features... members of the activity club going for a ride on the eponymous Ghost Train.

    Web Original 
  • SCP-1489 ("A "Ghost Train"). SCP-1489 is a train (1 locomotive and 18 railway cars) that has been herded into traveling along a circular track. It has no physical substance and will pass through any material except old railway components. If not touching such components, it flies through the air in a straight line. The SCP Foundation started stories about "ghost trains" to discourage people from believing witness accounts of SCP-1489's travels.

    Western Animation 

Indices:
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • August 4, 2017
    Leporidae
    Webcomics

    • Chapter 4 of Paranatural is named "The Activity Club and the Ghost Train." It features... members of the activity club going for a ride on the eponymous Ghost Train.
  • August 4, 2017
    Prime32
  • August 4, 2017
    Etagirl
    Unfortunately I believe there may already be a trope for this called Afterlife Express. Check it out and if it is not what you are looking for then by all means attempt to create a new trope!
  • August 5, 2017
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novel Night Probe. While investigating the disappearance of a train, Dirk learns of stories of a "ghost train" that appears on stormy nights and disappears when it reaches a bridge. He later discovers that the story is a hoax, carried out by a train's headlight and a PA system broadcasting train noises being pulled along a cable suspended above the ground.

    Tabletop Games
    • Call Of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Pride of Yirrimburra". While the investigators are in Yirrimburra they will hear legends of a ghost train that was lost when it fell into a river. It's said that those about to die will hear its whistle blow. Later in the adventure, if the investigators are walking along the abandoned railroad tracks at night they will hear the whistle of a locomotive and the tracks will vibrate.

    Web Original
    • SCP-1489 ("A "Ghost Train"). SCP-1489 is a train (1 locomotive and 18 railway cars) that has been herded into traveling along a circular track. It has no physical substance and will pass through any material except old railway components. If not touching such components, it flies through the air in a straight line. The SCP Foundation started stories about "ghost trains" to discourage people from believing witness accounts of SCP-1489's travels.
  • August 5, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Music:
    • The Gorillaz song Ghost Train only refers to this in his lyrics, but it's about something that goes after narrator's soul, and how he's prepared to fight against it. Being the "ghost train" part said after every line of the song, probably the narrator refers to the train itself that goes after him.
      Here they come to steal my soul (Ghost train) Wait it out until I know (Ghost train) Trying not to feel like you did (Ghost train) Moving up until I go go-o (Ghost train)
    Video Games:
    • in Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3 there's the "Iron Terror", a monstruous ghost train which serves as the stage for Jon Talbain/Gallon in the game. Also this stage can be seen few stages before getting Jedah, so it's probable the Iron Terror goes to Jedah's headquarters.
  • August 5, 2017
    Astaroth
  • August 5, 2017
    lakingsif
    It wouldn't be on We Are Not Alone Index, because the Ghost Train page on Wikipedia is some combination of this trope and Afterlife Express, so shouldn't stand for only one of them.
  • August 5, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    ^ I see what you mean. I'll change that now.

    Although, I'm starting to worry that this isn't different from Afterlife Express after all. Some examples (like the Cuphead example) are already listed on Afterlife Express (although, admittedly, the Cuphead example seems to fit this trope more. We don't know for sure yet because the game hasn't been released.) But since I've gotten this many hats, I guess I'm doing a pretty good job of differentiating this from the other trope.
  • August 6, 2017
    lakingsif
    Well, train to the afterworld is different from train full of ghosts that scares people. Obviously, some examples can be both if it takes a route through Earth, put the purpose is different and that's where the distinction lies.
  • August 8, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Hi, I just fixed a little the Gorillaz example, that's all :P
  • August 8, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Sorry, duplicated post
  • October 24, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    I guess this is as good a time as any to bump this draft. If it gets launched, I'd like to do it before Halloween!

    Any more comments or suggestions before launching?
  • October 24, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film Animated
    • Young Chihiro Ogino from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away travels on a commuter train to seek counsel from Zeniba. While the train itself seems ordinary and clean if outdated, all the passengers aboard are spirits, returning from Yubaba's spa. No one minds that Chihiro is riding this train, as her fellow passengers sit morose and unmoving the whole time.

    Possible page image: [1]
  • October 24, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    ^ That sounds more like Afterlife Express, though. Although I still have my doubts that people will consider this separate from that...
  • October 24, 2017
    Snowy66
    • The YTV show, Seriously Weird had the gang encountering a real ghost of a boy who had died in a train accident. The ghost uses his powers to change the diner that they are at, into a real life ghost train (the same one he died in), and sends it headed towards impending doom.
  • October 24, 2017
    Skylite
    • Film/Ghostbusters a reporter invokes the trope by describing a spectral locomotive his grandmother used to tell stories about when he was a boy.

    • Final Fantasy Brave Exvius had a Halloween event in 2016 that featured a ghost train full of hostile evil spirits,
  • November 4, 2017
    Snowy66
    • Adventure Quest Worlds had a Friday the 13th event in 2011 featuring a Ghost Train. The player, Voltaire, and Deady board the train as a quick means of traveling the desert. However they have to fight their way off in order to leave the train, as passengers are not permitted off once boarded.
  • November 4, 2017
    AHI-3000
    Aren't there urban legends about these ghost trains? There should be a Folklore folder.
  • November 5, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    ^ Only if someone has specific examples of legends about them.
  • November 5, 2017
    AHI-3000
    ^ Speaking of urban legends:

    Folklore
    • The Silverpilen (Swedish for "Silver Arrow") was a train used by the Stockholm Metro from the 1960s to the 1990s. Although it's really just a rare train of unusual design, some people alleged that the train was supernatural; claiming that it picks up passengers at night, who either disappear forever or only return after a long period of time (weeks, months, or even years).
  • November 6, 2017
    WildKatGirl
    • The track Ghost Train by Waterflame is based on, well, a ghost train.
  • November 6, 2017
    TropesForever
  • November 8, 2017
    CaptainAmazing
    Another Folklore contribution:

    • Statesville, NC is said to have a ghost train that visits on the anniversary of a horrific 1891 crash in which a train plummeted from a high bridge and about 30 people were killed. Witnesses on the anniversaries of the wreck have heard screeching train wheels, screaming passengers, and the crash itself. Many have also reported seeing a man in a railroad uniform carrying a gold watch who vanished before their eyes.
  • November 8, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    Regarding Spirited Away, there is a difference between "spirits" as in "the separated souls of formerly living people" and "spirits" as in "occasionally intangible mystical beings." There are many examples in Japanese media of the "spirit world" being a parallel reality that occasionally intersects with ours without the residents being the Western idea of ghosts. We're going to need cleanup between the pages.
  • November 10, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    Should we start a cleanup thread for Afterlife Express before launching this?
  • November 17, 2017
    fasoman1996
    Bump. There is a red link in the Literature part and a typo in Music.
  • November 17, 2017
    zarpaulus
    I could have sworn an actual ghost train appeared in Ghostbusters 2 or something?
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