Location: St. Louis, Saskatchewan
Appearance: A round, bright light that appears white, red or sometimes green. Some people report hearing the sound of a phantom locomotive at the site. Others claim that cars will not start again once turned off.
- The light is said to be the spirit of a railroad worker who was decapitated in an accident.
- A slight variant tells that the light is the ghostly headlight of a phantom train.
- Another variant claims the light is a railway worker looking for a baby who died on the train in a derailment.
Other explanations: Very likely car headlights from a section of highway about five miles distant.
Additional notes: The St. Louis Light appeared on a stamp series by the Canada Post in 2014, marking it as one of the most famous ghost stories in Canada.
The St. Louis Light, also called the St. Louis Ghost Train, is located in Saskatchewan, Canada along the former site of a railroad line. The light is said to be that of either a ghost train or the spirit of a worker who died in an accident on the railroad. The light is reported to be very bright in most accounts, even shining off car hoods. Most accounts describe the light as round, although I received at least one that claimed to see a triangle-shaped light. The light approaches the observer along the site of the old railroad tracks and may remain white or change from white to red to (sometimes) green. Some people report being able to hear the sounds of the passing locomotive during their experience. Others say cars may refuse to start at the site once turned off.
In the early 2000s, two high school students performed a series of experiments at the site of the St. Louis Light and came to the conclusion that the light was being diffracted from a section of a highway about 5.3 miles distant. An online publication called Virtual Saskatchewan thoroughly discussed the results. In the article, it is explained that the spaces between the trees in the forest can act as a sort of lens to magnify the head and taillights of vehicles on the highway.
Many sources online claim that the St. Louis Light was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, but this is not the case. It appears that once again people are confusing this with the Gurdon Light, which did appear on the show. However, the St. Louis Light did appear on a stamp series by the Canada Post in 2014, marking it as one of the most famous ghost stories in Canada.
The viewing point for the light is on private property now, but can apparently still be reached. There are several YouTube videos showing the phenomenon, although modern written accounts are quite sparse. Several sources mention that the road from which the light can be seen is quite difficult to find, even with directions.
The timeline and history of the St. Louis Light are a bit shaky. Statements that the light has been seen since at least the 1920s directly contradict other stories that categorically state the light’s origin as stemming from accidents in the 1930s or 1940s. No data exists to support any of these claims. However, we can reasonably infer from the accounts of readers whose parents told them the story of the Ghost Train that the legend likely originated sometime in the 1960s, and perhaps as early as the 1950s.
(1) Date received: Sat, 27 Feb 1999
During the summer of 1997, myself and a group of friends decided to check out the ghost train of St. Louis, Saskatchewan. It is near Prince Albert. When we got there we were very skeptical that the legend of the train was true. The legend is that there used to be tracks at St. Louis that were taken out after the accident. A passenger train derailed. It is believed that a hired worker who holds the lantern is seen looking for a baby that died on the train.
When we got there we were scared to turn off the car because we were told that the car wouldn’t start again. We got out and started to walk down the track path. At first the light flickered on and off. We thought that it was just passing cars, but there was no way that car headlights could have been seen from there.
Then the light began to stay on more. It swayed back and forth as a train and walking beside it was the lantern just floating in the air beside the train light. Later in the night we heard the train whistle and saw red and green lights. It was a very frightening experience and I now believe in the ghost train of St. Louis, Saskatchewan. Sorry it was so long.
(2) Date received: Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1999
This is a story concerning my father. There is a small town of St. Louis about 45 minutes from here. It’s a very small town, and probably only has about 200 people living there. There is a legend that has been around there for years. It involves a ghost train, and a mysterious light.
My father has told me this story over and over, but still I find that my arms and legs get goosebumps. When he was a teen, there was a lot of hype about this St. Louis ghost light. What was it? Nobody really knew. So being the bad-ass teenager that my dad was, one night him and a few friends decided to check this “light” out.
They waited until about 11:30 PM, when it was pitch black out, and drove the 45 minutes to the St. Louis train tracks. They waited outside of their cars, talking about whatever: girls, cars, school. After about 30 minutes of waiting outside in the chilly night air, they decided to head back home. But as soon as they turned to get back in the cars, this enormous light erupted, lighting up the night air, like it was two in the afternoon. It was just this huge ball of light on the train tracks, and it sort of looked like it could be the headlight of a train. My dad and his friends were in awe, and, understandingly, shock.
Like I said before, my dad was a bad-ass, so he decided to walk up to the tracks. He faced the light, and started walking toward it, despite the pleas of his friends. As he walked toward it, the light moved back. But the second he turned his back, it engulfed him. He ran back to his car as fast as he could. For some odd reason, the car wouldn’t start, and the windshield wipers came on. Finally they got it started, and tore out of there like the world was going to end.
My father says that he has never felt that fear before, probably because you can’t really explain it. But even though he was terrified out of his mind, he still went back. He has asked me to go, but I am too scared. My dad told me that he researched the area of St. Louis for a report for school, and he found out that there was a train accident on those tracks on December 10th, 1943.
Thanks for reading my story. I hope that you enjoyed it, and I want you to know that if you are a believer or not, stuff like this happens out there all the time. Like it or not, not everything can be explained.
(3) Date received: Mon, 28 Aug 2000
I am an English professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This summer my daughter told me of a strange light she had heard of in the small hamlet of St. Louis, a town about 70 miles or so NNE of Saskatoon. She was in charge of a group of exchange students from across Canada. Her superior, who had grown up in the area, mentioned that it might be fun and a bit of an adventure to take her people up to St. Louis and see if they could see the mysterious (but well known locally) light.
A few days after the excursion my wife and I invited my daughter and her “troupe” over for dinner, at which point she and her students told me excitedly that they had in fact seen the light. While believing them, I was, of course skeptical concerning the paranormal nature of the light, to say nothing of the authenticity of the ghost story that surrounded it. However, having written a book about the development of narrative as a means of providing some form of explanation of an equally unusual experience—the alien abduction phenomenon—through the creation of myth, I was intrigued, and as soon as my daughter had some spare time, she took me out to “see the light”, as it were.
Luckily, we had no trouble seeing it, and it lived up to her description in every respect. I returned home with my curiosity sufficiently aroused as to tell a friend, and we drove up the next night, complete with my friend’s Sony camcorder. Again we were lucky, and we were able to take what I believe are some very impressive video photos of the phenomenon. It is more or less as you have heard from other witnesses, although not quite as dramatic as the folklore would have it.
The light begins—or at least it did both nights I saw it—by appearing as a faint glow apparently just behind the trees that border the abandoned rail line/now narrow pathway, on the right hand side, seemingly on the horizon. The path appears to rise to a height that seemed by a very rough estimate about 100-200 yards distant, maybe less. It then seems to move to the center of the path, whereupon it grows both in size and brightness, briefly reaching a magnitude considerably greater than, say, the planet Venus (as an amateur astronomer, I can state this with a degree of accuracy). As mentioned, it also takes on discernible size from the original point of light when first seen, and in magnification looks remarkably like a light from an old-fashioned locomotive, doubtless accounting for the phantom railroad train in the various ghost stories that evolved over the years.
The light is pure white initially. After reaching a peak of brightness, it quickly vanishes, and is usually, but not invariably, replaced in a few seconds by a red light that is never more than a pinpoint, of no discernible shape. This red light seems to wobble for a few seconds, then disappears, leaving blackness. A little while later, the phenomenon repeats itself, but not exactly as before. Each appearance had unique aspects, and no two appearances were identical.
We thought we also saw briefly a small green light, but were not sure, and it does not seem to have been picked up by the recorder. My daughter claimed that when she first saw the spectacle, the progression from large white light through red light to green light was more or less regular and predictable. I should add that my experience with my friend was quite distinct from what I had observed the night before with her. Weather conditions were similar: warm, light wind, but with greater cloud cover on the first encounter.
I could not help thinking throughout the first sighting that what I was witnessing was some form of mirage, almost like a mirror that was catching the lights of a car: first the headlights, then the red taillights, with the green light an anomaly. However, the second night, being so distinct from the first without the same regularity, has made me rethink this rather comfortable explanation. There is a highway 1.3 kilometers from the abandoned track running parallel to it which might provide a possible explanation, but I have been assured by local residents that the phenomenon has been seen, and recorded as having been seen, since the 1920s when there was no vehicular motor traffic anywhere in the area. Furthermore, again according to local residents, scientists have studied the phenomenon, and surely would have been able to determine if reflections from passing automobile lights were responsible.
As one wrestles with the unexplained, I wondered if the railroad company might possibly have buried a vat containing chemicals many years ago, and that some form of luminescent effluvia was being released periodically, as a result of the heat of a summer sun causing some sort of reaction in the chemicals. Companies’ irresponsible dumping of toxic waste has been with us for some time, and spontaneous combustion is a well-known phenomenon. I have heard of no seismic activity anywhere in the area (open prairie/grasslands, a good 100 miles south of the Canadian Shield), so Persinger’s theory does not sound too relevant here.
I hope the above is of interest to you. Your web site has been very informative and extremely helpful.
(4) Date received: Mon, 28 Aug 2000
On August 21, 2000, three friends drove out to St. Louis to see the ghost train. Two of us had been there the previous week and felt compelled to go back. It was a clear night and the moon was nowhere to be seen. The sky was full of stars. It was the perfect setting for a little ghost hunting.
We were the only ones there when we arrived around 10:00 PM and started walking up the track. It only took a few minutes before a white light started to shine on the track up ahead. It came towards us at a steady pace, with the light shining brighter and brighter. I could feel the goose bumps on my arms but wasn’t really frightened. I was completely awestruck.
After a few minutes the light went away. The three of us just stood there and waited. Soon the light was back where it started from way down the track. All of a sudden it vanished and was followed by a bright red light. I was amazed at how fast the light was moving. It kept getting closer and brighter. And then it too just vanished.
Now we all were really excited and couldn’t wait for the next show. It didn’t take too long. The light was back at the end of the track. As it moved towards us a pack of coyotes nearby all of a sudden just started howling and screaming. It was as if something had disturbed or frightened them. I felt, as well as the other two, that it was time to go. On the walk back to the car the northern lights came out and we really felt a part of something. It was an experience we will not soon forget. In fact the next trip has already been planned.
(5) Date received: Tue, 05 Mar 2002
I was raised on an acreage three miles north of St. Louis, Saskatchewan along rural route #2, five miles from the light by car, two miles as the crow flies. As you may suspect, I have had a number of experiences with the “ghost” light and have a number of opinions as well. When people ask me about the light I try my best to remain objective, and I like to think that my accounts of this thing are fairly tidy.
I have witnessed the light around 50 times. As a curious youngster, I often begged to be driven down the highway and up the grid road to see the light. Living in the area as a young boy, it seemed that the light was an omnipresent reality, and a part of the landscape. Our property stretched back from the highway west to the CNR easement, and a bit beyond. I remember the first time I saw the light—the tracks were still there, and it would have been around ’81—and my parents, being new to the area, actually thought that there was a train coming. So, yes, it does look a lot like an old train.
The light, over the years, has performed rather predictably. The other accounts posted here are rather accurate, especially the Professor’s. I happened to have studied American lit under him 15 years after first seeing the light!
By far the most unusual and unexplainable experience I ever had in the area was about a mile south of the viewing “crossroads” area where most congregate to see this thing. My father, knowing the area roughly, and the leaseholders, decided that we needed to drive the truck south through various fields and gates to get a closer look at the light.
We came upon a level farm road crossing of the tracks a mile south of the crossroads where we stopped the truck, and my father applied the hand brake (ignition off). All I really remember is my parents getting out of the truck to take in the unusually bright glow over the horizon and to the south. As the light got to its brightest, the truck suddenly, and rather slowly, rolled back off the tracks and came to a sudden halt again.
What I remember most about the experience (I was 7) is how truly frightened my parents were, which as a child is always alarming. We returned to the normal viewing area to see the light had advanced and was quite close, closer to the crossroads than normal.
This is a tale which I am always hesitant to weave around those who I have respect for, and for whom I value friendship in, but it is absolutely true.
A very good neighbor and loyal friend of my father’s told him one time that she had a “near miss” encounter with the light that she described as almost like being run over by a car at night, minus the noise.
Some of the “car didn’t start” accounts, or actual visions of human ghosts may be chalked up as fueled by booze—the light used to be quite a party locale.
A local old lady who lives nearest the light has, on warm summer nights, reportedly heard sounds of babies crying and other human commotion from up on the hill where the tracks were. Again, possibly parties, and coyotes.
Proof, Suspicions, Theories:
It’s not the damn car lights. Period. It’s not the grain elevator on Hoey Hill 20 km to the south. That is now gone too—guess what still shines north of St. Louis? Apparently most of the scientific data collected has pertained to the possibility of gasses or fluorescents in the soil or plants. But really nothing solid has turned up.
My opinion: I know that there exists an underground river or aquifer of huge proportions in this exact spot. When our house was built in the ’70s they had to excavate on a built up area as they hit water under eight feet of land. After watering lawns and greenhouses all night, the well at our farm recovered higher than its initial volume and with great speed. My best guess is that there could be a sort of static charge or energy given off through the flow of moving water underground.
Yet, this still seems unsatisfactory to me, given a couple of things: The light only shines towards the north. Where else in nature do we see this kind of behavior from a light source?
I know exactly where the light exists, or emanates from, in the human point of view, because of an experiment my father undertook. He drove south of the viewing area at night to the next grid road that crossed the tracks, just south of where our property crossed the track. While he did this, he left a group of friends at the ordinary viewpoint. He turned the truck to face north and shone the headlights down the rail line. Those at the other end witnessed the “ghost light” superimposed, or in-between them and our truck!
This puts the light very near or on our old property. No one has ever, to my knowledge, caught up to or walked to the light.
The one thing I find most interesting about most experiences at the light is the strange or creepy sense that most get out there after seeing it, or by knowing that it’s looming. Possibly, as the Professor argues, there is a human construct at work here; we want to be a part of the narrative, so we indulge in getting downright “spooked.”
Yet there is energy out there. I remember being older, say 13, and riding my mountain bike along our trails my father cut through the woods on our 80 acre plot. One evening, as I lost track of time, I found myself out at sunset and stopped to take a drink from my water bottle.
Without really stopping to think about the light I got a truly “skin crawling” sensation and rode back to the house in a hurry. Maybe it was all those years of growing up near a ghost and all the stories, but it was quite a strange sensation to say the least.
To conclude, I will share an interesting comment that I think transcends all scientific or otherwise rational explanation offered up for the light. It was included in a homespun story about the light in a local newspaper a few years ago that I happened to see on a visit back there, and comes from an older local woman. Referring to the sweeping curve the tracks used to take after crossing the St. Louis bridge and heading north (just before the “light”), she said that “that train went around those curves so many times over the years that I think maybe it just wore a groove in something.”
What “that something” is or what the “groove” constitutes is left up to the interested witness. I just thought that a statement as mysterious as hers really encapsulated the strangeness of the light itself.
(6) Date received: Sun, 21 Apr 2002
I grew up in the little town of St. Louis, Saskatchewan, and therefore I have always heard stories about the Phantom Light/Ghost Light. I have been out to the area on many occasions, but have never seen it very well. A few times it would come out faintly, and then disappear just as suddenly as it appeared.
My friend and I decided we were going to go out there as often as we could so that we would actually get a chance to see this inexplicable phenomenon. For the past week, we have been going out to look for it every night, and it paid off. The first night that we were there, it appeared very brightly. It was extremely bright, where it was reflecting off of the hood and the windshield of the car. It was triangular, although I have never heard of it being shaped in such a way before. It stayed out, fading once in a while until we left.
We went back the next night, and it was out once again. This time it was circular in shape, and when we would flash our headlights at it, it would glow brighter and brighter until it was nearly blinding us it was so bright. On both occasions it ranged from red to orange in color, and every once in a while it would fade to yellow. It would seem to travel on the path that the railroad tracks used to lie on, and as soon as it would start coming closer, it would go out and then reappear farther down the tracks. We stayed out there for about an hour, and it was with us the whole time. I was skeptical about this phenomenon, but now that I have actually seen it, I have to say I am a believer. There is no way that this light could be caused by traffic, or anything else. It is truly unexplainable, and amazing.
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Updated 04-18-21. -Obiwan