If you happen to pay a visit to the quaint little town of Vander, located in Cumberland County, you may be welcomed with a well known ghost story. But if you're really lucky, you might actually get to witness the Vander Light, which appears on the train tracks in town, for yourselves.
The phenomenon, which has been observed since the 1800's, is thought to be the ghost of Author Matthews, a resident of Vander. Matthews was employed as a ticket master at the railroad, where he later met his untimely death.
One rainy night, as he sat waiting for the train, he noticed that the train was running behind by more than a half an hour. Concerned, he gathered his lantern and headed out to the tracks to take a look, hoping that he may either see or hear the approaching train. Unfortunately he could neither hear nor see anything in the thick darkness. As he turned to go back inside, however, a strange rattling noise coming from the other side of the tracks caught the ticket master's attention. No one knows what he saw or heard that night, and he didn't live long enough to find out himself. As he lifted his lantern to investigate, his foot slipped on the slick platform, and Matthews fell to the unforgiving tracks below, knocking himself unconscious on the steel.
As the train engineer approached the station, he noticed something out of the ordinary. His attention was drawn to a light shining brightly in the middle of the tracks. As the train grew closer, the light illuminated the face of Author Matthews, and the surprised engineer scrambled to apply the brakes as quickly as he could.
Though the wheels spit out sparks as it tried to come to a halt, the train inevitably continued on, right over Matthew's body, and past the Vander train station. When it finally rolled to a stop, the horrified engineer raced back down the tracks to the body, but it was too late. The train had crushed and mangled Author Matthew's body, leaving only his head and his lantern-still glowing-in tact.
Since that day, a mysterious light has been appearing to locals and visitors. The apparition begins as two balls of light, but one fades out rather quickly. Some say that the disappearing light is Matthew's cigarette, which he dropped as he leaned over the railing to investigate the noise. The other light is thought to be his lantern, which is reported to glow a yellowish brown in color.
Witnesses have reported seeing the “lantern” light from far away, and that it disappears as they get an arms length away, only to reappear right behind them when they turn around, and then “falls” to the ground and disappears completely.
Does the light at the Vander railroad tracks belong to the late Author Matthews? No one knows for sure. But the townsfolk have been telling this ghost story for years, and as long as the Vander Light keeps appearing, the story is sure to be told around the campfire for generations to come.