Reapers’ Portraits: December 1867


I was in Victor’s studio when she came in, greeted me by name, and asked Victor to have her portrait taken. While I did not know the reaper, I knew what she was. With her permission, I remained as she sat for her photograph. When all was done, she and I spoke for a short time.

She had been active during the war, of course, and more than once she had seen me on the fields of battle. Many of her brethren had. They often spoke of who would have the pleasure of reaping me, when the time came, but even they were unsure of when that time might be.

It is not easy to sit and chat with an incarnation of death, but this reaper was exceptionally pleasant, and I was sad when she informed us that it was nearly time to go. When I asked where she as headed, she smiled.

“I’ve several trains to catch, Duncan,” she informed me. “First, I must get to Cleveland, Ohio, which will take a few days. Then I shall head east again.”

“By rail?” I asked her.

“Rail indeed,” she said with a wink. “I will be traveling toward Buffalo. On the New York Express. Remember that. Remember Angola as well. Do you know it?”

“Only in passing,” I told her.

“You will know it better soon enough.”

I helped her into her coat and walked with her to the train station. Once there, after she had purchased her tickets, she smiled at me. “You will remember it?”

“The New York Express and Angola.”

“Very good. Perhaps I will see you someday, Duncan, but if not, do not think poorly of your reaper when it is your time.”

I told her I would not, and once she was aboard her train, I returned home.

On December 19th, I learned of what would be known as the Angola Horror. A pair of cars from the Buffalo bound, New York Express derailed in Angola, New York. One of them burst into flames, trapping 49 people and burning them to death.

To this day, I have not forgotten.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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