The Story of Railroad Mary

A chilling and haunting tale

The Story of Railroad Mary
A haunting and compassionate story

I was born in Middlesboro Kentucky and spent much of my life in the small town of Jellico Tennessee. For as long as my memory serves I recall hearing the haunting story of a young girl named Mary. In fact, this was the very story that sparked my fascination in the paranormal world.

I decided to learn all that I could about Miss Mary as her story lingered with me and captivated me for years. I began my research in the town of Jellico where the story takes place. I spoke with the elders and utilized the internet for information. Eventually I even visited the railroad tracks and launched my very own paranormal investigation. What I discovered sent chills down my spine and even tugged passionately at my heart strings.

It all began in the early 1920's, Jellico Tennessee was still a relatively young coal mining town. Mary was a young teenage girl living with her parents in a small, one room shack. Mary's father worked in the coal mines and her mother was an ailing homemaker. Mary had very little education, she spent much of her time at home helping her ill mother with the house and chores. She had no friends to speak of other than a big red rooster which she named Roho. Knowing how much that she loved her rooster, Mary's father spared him from the usual chopping block. For such a young girl, Mary had a lot of responsibilities to tend to.

As her mother's illness escalated, she became bedridden and Mary was forced to step up as the woman of the house. Her father's grief took a undesired turn into anger toward Mary. His first ghastly outburst was forcing Mary to slaughter her rooster for dinner. This inflicted horrible torment and agony on her and was clearly visible to everyone.

Mary's father also found contorted pleasure in telling her that she was worthless and unproductive. He would point out to her how a son would be much stronger and more favorable in doing chores. After her mother died, people would gossip about seeing Mary bruised and bleeding but nobody seemed to get involved or ask many questions.

It was late one night when her father's abuse became too much for her to bare and Mary decided to leave her home. Leaving with only what she could carry she wondered the dark streets in search of a new place to call her own. For a girl of such a young age and with no money to call her own, Mary's options were very limited and barren. She finally came across a old, abandoned, relinquished shack near the railroad tracks and decided to make it hers.

The locals all believed that Mary's father knew exactly where she was at. After all, Jellico was and still is a very small community where very few secrets go untold. He simply did not want her back so he never cared to go after her. Some people even thought that Mary may have waited for her father to come retrieve her in hopes that her absence had taught him a lesson. However, it never happened and soon her father also died. Their small shack was dismantled by neighbors who used the property for cattle and livestock.

People around town tried to watch over Mary as best as possible. Folks was always coming by and leaving food items outside of her door. Some of the local ladies even left clothing and warm blankets for her to find. It's likely that the generosity of others kept Mary alive as she had no means of really caring for herself. Eventually people bestowed her with the nickname "Railroad Mary".

Mary stayed mysterious and disclosed and nobody really ever saw her, however they continued to visit, leaving treats and necessities outside of her door. This continued for about 3 years before something dreadful and horrendous happened.

The events that took place on that fateful night are sketchy and nobody seemed to really know for sure what happened. Earlier in the day people reported spotting three strange men walking around the railroad tracks near Mary's shack. It was not really uncommon to see strangers come and go through town so nobody took much notice.

Sadly, nobody even knew that anything was wrong with Mary for days. Not until they came around to leave food and items for her and noticed that what they had left days earlier was still sitting there untouched. Some local men broke through the door and found Mary's body, beaten, bloody and broken. She had been gruesomely tortured and her little shack had been ransacked.

The town was grieved and unsettled, who would do such a horrible thing to such a quiet and innocent young girl? The mystery was never solved. Some local people buried Miss Mary just behind the tracks and marked her grave with a simple, plain stone. The shack was dislodged and torn down and soon people stopped talking about Mary and life in Jellico moved forward.

Life may not have converged for everyone though as people began seeing Mary again. It is said that even today Mary can be seen walking the tracks at night. She seems to be searching for something, maybe looking for the snacks and treats that she was so dependent on. It's also said that if you go to the railroad tracks late at night and leave a gift for Mary and then turn your back for a moment, it will mysteriously disappear. Be advised though, it is also rumored that if anyone plays tricks on Miss Mary, she will take revenge and something atrocious will happen.

In 2011 two local kids decided to test this rumor by visiting the tracks late one night. They placed a bag of red apples and a quilt on the tracks. One boy turned his back and the other one snatched the gifts up and ran. As they was running away the boy claims that he felt hands push him from behind. He fell to the ground breaking his leg in two different places and hitting his head on the ground. The second boy made it home only to find that his house was on fire. Was this the revenge of Railroad Mary?

In 2018 someone else decided to test Mary's patience by visiting the tracks. This time it was a young female who decided to offer Mary a gold chain necklace only to take it back and make a run for it. On her drive home she was involved in a car accident which demolished her car and landed her in the hospital for more than a week. Was this also the doings of Mary perhaps?

On the contrary a few people have told more compassionate stories about visiting Mary. A older gentleman from Jellico told me that he too decided to visit Mary one night. He left a basket of fruit for her and turned to walk away. As he was leaving he said that a soft wind blew and he heard a gentle "Thank You!" he turned to find that the basket was gone and he saw a beautiful, golden glow dissipate right in front of him.

Another Jellico native said that they often leave pretty flowers for Mary and have even seen her spirit. A young girl, wearing what appeared to be a burlap fabric dress and long flowing hair.

All of the people in and around Jellico that I have spoken with about Mary all say that the description of her, as told to them, is that she was a fairly pretty young lady with long unkept hair and her clothing was old and ragged. She was very shy and delicately, soft spoken.

Because Mary's story has touched me so deeply I decided to take the trip to Jellico and visit the railroad tracks for myself. I sit for hours in the dark asking Mary to come talk to me. "Please come tell me what happened, let me help you." Although I never seen her, I was able to capture photographs of a golden colored orb on more than one occasion. I heard footsteps in the gravel coming toward me and was overtaken with the feeling of being watched. Because everyone says that Mary loved apples, I also took a variety of different apples with me. I walked about 20ft away and closed my eyes. When I returned the red apple was gone but all of the others remained untouched.

During my most recent visit to Jellico I was informed about a new twist to this story. Located downtown sits a red Caboose, which has become somewhat of a landmark for Jellico. Some folks are now claiming that Miss Mary can be seen peering out from within and that sometimes a ghostly woman can be seen late at night standing on the steps. Perhaps Mary has found a new home. For all that it's worth, I deeply inhabit the hope that Mary has found her new home. A safe place where she can spend the rest of eternity in the peace that she so dearly deserves.

- Raven Willow

urban legend
Raven Willow
Raven Willow
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Raven Willow

Raven Willow is a multi-award winning, horror and paranormal author and columnist.

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