Weirdness magnet that I am, I often find myself confronted with things that I simply cannot explain away (ask me sometime about the jet fuselage that nearly crushed me in a tent during a sleep-out one summer). Fortunately there have been witnesses on hand for much of it, so my sanity – and credibility – tends to remain untarnished. Still in all, I constantly marvel at some of the unusual experiences I find myself wrapped up in…
One such experience occured two winters ago, during my annual trek to deliver my mother to and from her snowbird perch in sunny Florida. I was visiting family in Niagara Falls for a few days, and thought I would take the opportunity to overcome boredom by stopping by the infamous Central Terminal, in Buffalo. In its heyday, the New York Central Terminal was a key railroad station, designed by architects Fellheimer & Wagner for the New York Central Railroad. A magnificent Art Deco structure, the seventeen story building was an active hub from 1929 until its closing in 1979. Abandoned and in a state of ruin, the facility fell prey to vandalism, decay, and break-ins. Now under renovation, the station is well-known in paranormal circles for its reputed haunted activity. Several ghost-hunting expeditions have recorded unique activity, and the Central Terminal now stands as yet another tale in the tome of the supernatural in western New York.
So one chilly morning in December I embarked on a quick trip over to the station to try to sneak a peek inside and perhaps chat up a few of the workers about any potential experiences with the great beyond they might know about. Buffalo is roughly a half-hour trip from my mother’s home in Niagara Falls, so I had just enough time to get my adrenaline pumping without becoming too fanboy giddy and making a fool of myself. My mother was along for the ride, and relayed several stories about the station and its history. Apparently the building was at one point owned by a relative, but he couldn’t handle the financial burden and it passed hands (wish I had known this THEN – I imagine I could have had some really key access to the building at that point, maybe even an opportunity to spend the night!). Sufficiently stoked, I arrived at the terminal around 11AM, to find construction equipment blocking my entrance. I circled the block and found a spot to park, then pulled up the telephone number to the station in my cell and called to inquire about entrance. A friendly woman with a rather distinct voice answered the phone, and I asked if I would be able to enter for a brief visit, that I had at one point lived in the area and would love the chance to take a look around. She then curtly replied that there had been a major roof collapse inside days earlier, and that under no circumstances was anyone allowed inside. I asked if she had an idea of when they would begin to allow visitors inside again, and she then said they did not allow visits from the general public. Disappointed, I pulled away from my parking spot and proceeded to visit a few of the local shops to kill time and prevent the trip from being a complete waste.
It was in a small poster shop/gallery that the story began to grow mysterious. The shop had a small poster on display for an event at the terminal, and I asked if the owners had ever been inside for a tour. They told me that just two nights earlier they had attended a fundraiser for the station, and helped promote the event. I then asked if the roof collapse had occurred before that, and to my surprise they were unfamiliar with any roof collapse. They felt that something of that nature would have hit the news or at least the local gossip mill, but they had not heard of such a mishap. Maybe it had happened last night, I thought, and continued with my browsing. The next day I got on the road and didn’t give it a second thought.
Three months later I was reminded of my inability to get inside the terminal, and thought I would make another call to inquire about the possibility of a brief interview or any opportunity to purchase remnants from the terminal during its renovation. Certainly they could spare a doorknob or somesuch for a disappointed visitor. Much to my surprise the same friendly woman with the distinct voice answered the phone. I asked about any potential artifacts and she explained that everything from the terminal was a part of the terminal’s history and would not be sold off or made available to collectors. She directed me to their website for answers to more of my questions, and was about to dismiss me when I mentioned my visit the past December. I asked if the roof collapse repairs were complete, and if anyone was injured during the incident.
“Roof collapse? We haven’t had any roof collapse.”
I sat silent for a moment, and then proceeded to relate to her the details of our conversation three months earlier. She politely let me know that they have regular events and tours at the station, and that there was definitely no roof collapse around the time I first called. Were I not absolutely certain that this was indeed the same woman I spoke with originally, I would write the whole experience off to the wrong person answering the phone the first time and misinforming me. But there is no doubt in my mind that the same voice answered that phone each time – giving me two very conflicting versions of the story. Hmmm.
I hope to revisit the Central Terminal next year when I’m back in western New York – more eager than ever to explore this enigmatic part of Buffalo history. Who knows what I’ll hear when next I call to inquire about my tour…if I dare call at all!