Help convince me that I did NOT see a ghost today

Let me start off this story by first stating for the record that I am a skeptic and do not believe in the paranormal. That being said, I had a mighty strange experience on the train home today that I can’t explain. Hoping some of you can talk me off of the It-Was-A-Ghost Ledge.

So I work in downtown Chicago and commute every day on the Metra Union Pacific North Line. I usually take the 5:21PM train home (used to be the 5:10p before all of the changes they made to the schedule) and my stop, Rogers Park, is the second stop of the route.

For those that don’t know, Metra trains have a door in the middle of each car with a small vestibule and doors going towards the front half of the car or the rear half of the car. Here is a photo of the type of train car I was on. I got onto the third car from the front of the train, and sat next to the window on the left side, just five or six rows up from the vestibule. The vestibule has heavy sliding doors that open after you press a big black button-panel. They usually take a few moments to open up after you’ve pressed the button. To the right and left of the vestibule door, inside the car, are stairs that go up to a single row of seats that line the top of both sides of the train car. Some cars have a toilet, but this one did not.

At our first stop, Ravenswood, hundreds of people (including a lady that had been sitting next to me) get off the train. Because of the schedule changes, some trains have been eliminated so there are just a lot more people getting on and off and it took awhile for everyone to get off the train at Ravenswood. A few people got onto the train and one of them sat down next to me.

The person that sat next to me was a man, I’d say in his upper-50’s, wearing a gray business suit with a jacket and tie and carrying a large leather briefcase. The briefcase caught my eye because it was obviously very old. It looked like something you’d see a lawyer carrying around with all of his papers in it. I say that it was obviously very old because the leather was worn and cracked and honestly looked like it came out of an antique shop. It kind of looked like this, only with a much larger square buckle that was located closer to the top of the bag. He sat down in a bit of a huff.

Because I knew I was getting off at the next stop, only a few minutes away, I motioned towards my “B” pass (showing that I’m not going much further) and said “I’m getting off at the next stop if you’d like to switch places now.” This is a pretty common courtesy on the Metra and I’ve never had someone refuse.

Without looking at me, and in a curt tone of voice, he said, “No, I don’t!.”

I turned back towards the book that I’m reading thinking to myself, Jeez… Fine you asshole. Whatever guy.

Three minutes later, the train is slowing down to my stop and I reach up to grab my pass and begin returning it to my wallet. As I’m doing this, the briefcase jerk stands up quickly and turns to the right towards the vestibule where I’d entered. I stand up, put my wallet in my pocket, and then follow him into the aisle wondering to myself where the guy was moving to. My first thought was that he didn’t want to deal with letting me out of my seat, so he decided to shift to another open seat before we stopped. Makes sense, except that when I get into the aisle and look around at the few rows between me and the vestibule - the guy isn’t in any of them.

Ok, maybe he went through the vestibule doors already and is getting off at Rogers Park as well. Perhaps he was just moving towards the doors to beat the crowd. But I look towards the vestibule and the doors on both sides of the area are closed. As I said earlier, the doors are slow to open but they’re even slower to close - staying open for sometimes a full minute before they shut again.

Besides the door being closed, there were also two people standing in the aisle between myself and the door. Looking through the glass in the door, I can see that the vestibule is full of people and that there are several people in the aisle in the rear half of the car waiting to get out as well, behind their closed door.

Ok, weird, I thought… but maybe he went up the stairs to sit in one of the solo-seats up above. Makes total sense, especially since he’s not sitting in any of the other main-level seats and it seemed pretty unlikely that he’d been able to move to the other half of the car as there were so many obstacles (people in the aisle and the two doors). I look up at the second-level seats and most were empty from people getting off at the first stop, and he was clearly not on either side of the second level.

I move forward towards the door, the two other aisle people are still between me and the door but I’m able to move far enough forward to see that he was not standing in either stairway. At this point, I could also see the entire vestibule very clearly and he was not inside that area waiting for the doors.

The train got to my stop, the doors opened, and we all pour out. I look around but I still don’t see him anywhere.

Now, as I said at the beginning of this story - I’m a skeptic and I really do not believe in ghosts or other types of paranormal activity. I have never hallucinated and do not have a history of mental illness. With all of that said, and my story laid out for you, please tell me what you think happened to this guy. Here are the only places he could have gone:

  1. An empty seat somewhere near by. (Nope, he wasn’t sitting anywhere.)

  2. He’d gone upstairs to sit on the second level. (I had a clear view of that level and he was not there.)

  3. He was in the stairwell working his way up to the second level. (He was not in either of the stairwells when I looked. Also, there was at least one other man standing on the stairwell so he would have had to work his way past him to get onto that side.

  4. Maybe he was in the toilet. (No toilet in the car I was on. Some cars have them and some do not.)

  5. He’d opened the door, worked his way past the several people in the vestibule, opened the other door and then worked his way past even more people in the opposite aisle. (Most likely scenario, I guess, but it seems really unlikely given the circumstances. Plus, WHY would he make that kind of move.)

  6. He literally vanished. (Ugh, I don’t like this option but I’m out of ideas.)
    I will say that the two people in the aisle between myself and the door very well could have stood up and moved into the aisle AFTER this guy did, so he might not have had to get past them. However, I’m fairly certain there was at least one person standing in the aisle after we left the Ravenswood stop, which I had noticed in my peripheral vision.

Ok Dopers… Help me out here. What happened. Am I just crazy-pants and imagining things or is there another possibility I’m not thinking of?

Maybe he did all that working between people because he needed the toilet, which was not available in this car? (Also explains his curt manner.)

Hmm. Can you lie down in the seats?

If he bends over to tie his shoe, can he be seen above the back of the seat?

Was he semi-transparent?

I have friends in that part of Chicago and I think I know the apparition you are talking about. His name is supposedly James O’Mallie and his briefcase contains the legal papers for a young soldier killed in the Vietnam War. He is traveling to meet the young man’s parents to pass on survivorship information. When he gets near his stop, he looks in his bag and sees that the name of the soldier is the same as his illegitimate son that was given up for adoption and the age and general geographical area matches. He is so disturbed, he can barely speak and commits suicide at the next stop. His ghost is already dead so it just vanishes when it gets to that point.

They tell me that once he gets to know you, he isn’t rude and will even choose to sit next to you but he still vanishes without a trace and no one else on the train sees him at all.

If he sits next to you tomorrow, then I’d be concerned. :eek:

I wasn’t creeped out, until reading Shagnasty’s post that is. Jeepers creepers! Tell me you made that up just to scare the OP!

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

It might seem unlikely, I’m just a little surprised you seem to think it’s more unlikely than a ghost :smiley:

The train was packed, right? There were people standing in the aisles? Why wouldn’t somebody have sat in the seat beside you that wasn’t occupied? Unless of course it was a ghost that everybody could see. But then surely someone would have noticed the man vanishing into thin air. In a packed carriage I refuse to believe that a ghost that everybody could see could disappear without anybody actually seeing the moment of vanishment (not a word). I’m not really sure what I’m talking about anymore.

Did anybody look at you weird when you talked to him? As if they were thinking “Why is that person talking to thin air?”

Oh my god, maybe the train you were on crashed many years ago, and EVERYBODY ON IT WAS A GHOST EXCEPT YOU. Oh my god. Was anyone listening to Culture Club on a casette walkman?! Did anybody have a shirt on that said “I SHOT JR”?!

On a completely different note, a two-level train! Coooool!

PS Some of this post is meant to be humourous but hidden in it are genuine questions for the OP to try and figure out what happened.

It’s simple.

The train crashed with you on it. You’re the ghost.

The aisles are pretty narrow and the seats were all completely occupied with people sitting, he just wasn’t one of them. I would have seen him if he’d been leaning over.

Nice work, I enjoyed that. I might have to use you as a “source” in future tellings of this story. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, I did put this scenario ahead of “ghost” in my list. I’m sure it’s likely that he did push his way quickly through to the other car, it was just so damned odd.

The train is packed from downtown to Ravenswood but so many people get off at that stop that a lot of seats open up. He sat down just after we left Ravenswood and I don’t know if he got on there or if he’d been standing previously, but after he sat down there were still other open seats in my car.

Oh crap, I got Shyamalan’d!!!

You said he stood up and turned to the right towards the vestibule. But then you were busy dealing with your pass for a moment, so I assume not paying attention. Could he have gone left, away from the vestibule while you were not looking?

This is very possible. I certainly looked down and away as he was getting up. He could have made a U-Turn in the aisle and headed the other way. He probably could have gone the other direction and exited the train to the next car forward. He would have had to cover quite a bit of ground (40ish feet, I’d guess) and still make his way through two doors, but it’s definitely a possibility.

He would have had to cover a lot of ground, but were you even looking for him in that direction? You assumed he went right so that’s the only place you looked.

I recently read a Stephen King story in which* a threesome of ghosts were occupying a park bench in a crowded stadium where any seat was in high demand. No one sat where the ghosts were due to an unconscious aversion. No one could see them, but somehow everyone was still creeped out by their presence, and so avoided the bench.
*Story fudged a bit to disguise it so it doesn’t spoil anything.

ETA: I don’ tthink that’s an original concept either. I seem to remember other ghost stories that had a chair that no one wanted to sit in and stuff.

I did look down towards the other end but it probbaly took me long enough to do so that he was able to “escape.”

I know that he just slipped out of my sight one way or the other. I don’t really think he’s a ghost (don’t believe in them) but it was definitely a weird situation - especially given the odd briefcase he was carrying and the way he was SUCH an asshole towards me… and then seeming to vanish into thin air.

This seems like the kind of situation that would cause the types of “ghost sightings” you read about. If someone believed in paranormal stuff, this kind of thing would only bolster their beliefs.

He got off at Willoughby.

Based on the picture, that’s the same exact train that CalTrain uses on the Peninsula in the Bay Area, in which I’ve travelled dozens of times. I can’t imagine how he got all the way down the aisle to the left without you seeing him.

What I can imagine is that he was in a blind spot on the spiral stairs on his way to sit upstairs in one of the single seats. You mentioned that there was a guy in the way coming down the stairs on your side - what about the stairwell on the other side?

(For the non-initiated, the tiny spiral stairwell as at the end of the small walkway in this picture).

The stairwells were a place that I looked thoroughly. I was waiting for the train to stop while standing just a person’s length behind the stairwell entrance. I had a good view of most of both stairwells, as well as an unobstructed view to the top rows of seats. When the door opened and I was able to move forward, I looked up and into each stairwell to make sure he wasn’t in the blind spot.

Is the ceiling of the train narrow enough that he could have been clinging to the walls on either side above your head? You didn’t look up, now did you?

That’s the first thing they teach you in Ninja Defense School. And a very painful lesson it is.