A ghost story handed down through the years is special. Its thrill and mystery can span generations and create a sense of community among the people who pass it along. 

When the Internet first came online, many of these local tales were captured and shared with the outside world for the first time. Things were good for folklore enthusiasts, until the scariest creature of all, consumerism, reared its ugly head. Geeks like these learned to turn a buck in this previously unexploited virtual niche, using only night vision cameras, a blog and a boatload of b.s.

In a desperate search for geek fodder, the SyFy channel provided these “paranormal investigator” groups a podium. Overnight, countless copycat organizations appeared from the ether and clogged the social sites and search engines with endlessly boring footage; mostly themselves walking through old houses documenting dust particles they cleverly refer to as orbs.

And yes, that 60 minute video you posted on youtube is indeed your shadow, not a tortured soul from the distant past. They know they’re cranking out crap but hope you’ll buy a baseball cap or coffee mug emblazoned with their logo before you catch on and log off.

Wait, what was my point here? Oh yeah, good old fashioned ghost stories. Since they are so hard to find amongst all the noise, allow me to treat you here to one of the best stories of all time: the haunted railroad tracks of San Antonio, Texas.

Here’s the story:

In the 1940s, a school bus full of children stalled on this crossing and of course got plowed by a speeding train. Ten children and the bus driver died in the collision. Since then, any car that stops on the tracks is supposedly pushed off by the protective hands of the children that perished there decades ago.

Every year a stream of paranormal pilgrims from across the US come to Texas and test this interactive legend for themselves.

Here are the rules:
  1. Stop the car 90 feet from the tracks.
  2. Sprinkle talcum powder on the truck and rear bumper.
  3. Put the car in neutral.
  4. Turn off the engine.
The car will roll uphill and over the tracks. Once it has stopped, get out and check the powder for children’s hand prints, they should be there judging by most accounts I’ve read. No wonder this story has been regularly featured in the national media, but what is really going on here?

How do cars roll up hill? A local television station in San Antonio hired a surveyor to analyze the crossing. He concluded that despite an illusionary appearance of an inclined road, it actually had a 2 degree declination just before the railroad crossing.

What about the finger prints? The most likely explanation is that the powder is merely revealing your own prints left from previous grocery runs. According to the last CSI episode I watched, latent prints can remain on an object for months, even after being wiped or washed.

Many diehard fans claim to hear children voices in the surrounding woods and have even seen their apparitions in the vicinity. So, skeptics and believers alike can have fun with this ghostly tale. Boo.