THE BLACK CAT TRAIN.
Uncanny Apparition That Is Always Followed by a Mishap
The Madison branch of the P., C., C. & St. L. sports what is called by the railroad boys the “Black Cat” train, says the Louisville Times. Some time over a month ago the train, in charge of Conductor Wheedon, pulled out from Columbus, and just beyond that city the trainmen observed two black cats crossing the track ahead of the locomotive. It was jokingly remarked that this was a sign of ill-luck, and, sure enough, the train was wrecked a few moments after. Fortunately nobody was hurt. Since then the trainmen claim to have seen one or both black cats crossing the track ahead of the train several times, and some mishap always followed. Night before last the black cat crossed in front of the train again and sure enough the engine broke her “saddle” a few miles below Columbus. This is the last piece of ill-luck credited to the black cat. It is said that the trainmen are becoming nervous over the persistence of the ebon-hued feline, and next time they see it cross before the train will turn back for a fresh start at the risk of a discharge.
The belief in the evil influence of a black cat is as old as the hills, but is especially strong among railroad men.
Chicago [IL] Herald 28 February 1891: p. 12
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: With Hallowe’en and “Black Cat Day” (27 October) approaching, a look at some black cat superstitions seems appropriate. There was a good deal of controversy over whether black cats were good luck or bad luck, as we see in this slight selection of cat-lore:
Of all kinds of cats, the black one has produced the most superstitions. If a darksome feline crosses a gambler’s track in the morning he will not make a wager that day. [And yet, if a gambler strokes the tail of a black cat seven times, he will win at cards!] It might be that gruesome tale of Poe’s “The Black Cat” is all the more weird because of the color he assigns the walled up feline. The notion is generally prevalent in our county and State that it is bad luck to kill a cat of any color, but all the worse if the mouser is black; that such slaughter will be followed by a death in the family of the slayer.
On the other hand, in certain portions of New England and of the West it is a sign of good fortune to be followed by a black cat in daytime, but unlucky if she follows at night. In New Hampshire it is bad luck for a black cat to come into a house, but Just the contrary in our State, where possibly we have more superstition than is current in Yankee land. The Lancaster [PA] Examiner 12 February 1908: p. 4
If a black cat crosses in front of a funeral procession, there will be a death in the family of the corpse within three days. Kentucky Superstitions, edited by Daniel Lindsey Thomas, Lucy Blayney Thomas 1920
To keep off evil spirits, clip off the ends of the nails of a black cat with a pair of scissors, collect them, and sew them up in a piece of black silk, which can be carried about your person or kept in your home. It will bring you good luck. The Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Cora Linn Morrison Daniels, 1909: p. 1408
Black cats were a popular Edwardian good luck charm and were carried for luck by soldiers in both World Wars.
Intriguingly, the author of this next squib “spun” the story to make the black cat lucky. The engine drivers of the “Black Cat Train,” would undoubtedly have seen the creature as the cause of the derailment.
Black Cat Averts Wreck.
Fond du Lac, Wis. A black cat probably saved many lives on a St. Paul road passenger train near Mayville. As the train was leaving the city Engineer Henry Heider saw a black cat crossing the tracks in front of the locomotive. Being superstitious, Heider slowed down. A minute later, while the train was moving slowly, the locomotive was derailed. Had the train been traveling fast a serious wreck would have occurred.
The News [Newport PA] 14 July 1914: p. 4
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.