Friday, January 17, 2014

Spook Bridge-What Kind of Crossings Happen Here?

Not far from Valdosta, Georgia there is a location that not many know about outside the area, but is quite legendary in the Lowndes County and Brooks County communities.  The locals began to call it Spook Bridge, a simple enough name, and it stuck.  As the internet and social media become a larger part of our everyday lives, the bridge and its "spooky" legends are getting more attention.  I first read about this legend in Jim Miles' book Weird Georgia. However, as our college has a campus in Valdosta, I began to ask folks from that campus about it and some of them had interesting stories to tell. I felt that it would be worth my time looking in to and possibly posting to the Georgia Mysteries Blog, so here it goes.

The Youtube video above is one of the most visited links relating to Spook Bridge, and it is posted there for you to view. There are others posted on Youtube. As a matter of fact, there seems to be several uploaded by a user named Pat Clendenning.  I would check all of those out.

The bridge has quite an interesting history.  Built somewhere around 1920 near land owned by the Walter Cunningham family, the bridge led to a well-known resort named Blue Springs. It attracted visitors from all over the state to its natural spring called the Blue Hole.  It appears that there were a few drownings at the Blue Springs Resort during the years of its operation, and the wreck of a gas truck back on the bridge in the 1940s took out several dozen feet of railing that were not immediately repaired.  Natural disaster took its toll on the resort when in the late 1940s, a flood washed out the roads leading to the bridge, which made the passage unsafe for travel.  Later, the state built another route and bridge nearby that diminished traffic through the area to the resort, and by the 1970s Blue Springs was no more.  Later in the 1970s, vandals began  to venture out to the abandoned bridge and spray paint graffiti and satanic messages on its sides and railings. Others report that cult activity occurred in the area, particularly at night.  The legend of Spook Bridge, as it began to be called in the late 70s, was born.

Of course, with the bridge abandoned, having a very colorful history, and surrounded by dark woods and a rushing river below, legends and stories did crop up.  A few of the legends that have surfaced and become part of the fabric of Spook Bridge include the deaths of a few people.  One, there is a story that includes a couple who lived in a nearby house.  The legend states that the couple walked along the bridge one day, and the husband pushed the wife off the bridge, leading to her death. I sort of wonder what led him to do such a thing, but the legend does not include that pertinent piece of information. Perhaps the couple quarreled, or one of them was pugnacious in nature, but whatever the case, the wife died. Legend has it that she haunts the bridge and her ghost can be seen trying to climb from the murky waters below to get back on the bridge with her husband. Another legend includes this same couple, albeit the husband kills the wife in their house nearby and then commits suicide.  Their ghosts, as you can imagine, took up residence near the bridge.

Another legend focuses on a high school couple who visited the bridge and wrecked when they ran in to the railing on the side of the bridge, broke through, and their car was swept away by the river below.  A third legend focuses on a school bus full of children that ran off the side of the bridge in to the river below. I have seen very little to substantiate either legend, but I did not look that hard either.  Perhaps you can find it, or the proof that dismisses the legend.  It is also said that people who visit the bridge have experienced what they think are fists and hands pounding on the hood of their cars as they approach the bridge.

Of course, this area is dangerous, and wrecks most certainly could occur on or near the bridge, as it has been washed out in part and is structurally unsound in other places.  The road leading to the bridge has been ripped apart in places, there are rips in the asphalt in the road and bridge, broken glass is everywhere, and there are signs of gang and cult activity in the form of graffiti and paraphernalia left in the area. The local sheriff's department does its best to patrol the area and keep visitors and legend seekers away, or at least in areas where they will not get hurt.  The bridge is known to flood when it rains, as there is a river beneath. If you decide to visit, I would clear it with local authorities first.  As with all legend trips, there is danger involved.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Spooky Georgia: Book Review

Spooky Georgia: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore by S.E. Schlosser is one of a series of books in the Spooky Series written by the same author with Globe Pequot Press as the publisher.  Schlosser is a researcher and frequent writer about American folklore.  Her series of books gives a decent account of interesting legends and tales of the supernatural in the various states she examines.  Potential readers should not be fooled by the title.  Not all of the tales recounted by Schlosser are spooky or hair raising in nature. In fact, there are a number of Native American legends included. The most interesting of the Native American tales told in the book is that of the Nunnehi.  According to legend, these are beings that inhabit Blood Mountain and are there to help those travelers on the mountain who have lost their way, are hurt, or feel frightened and confused.  Of course, there is much history and folklore already associated with Blood Mountain, as it is the location of one of the most intense battles between the Cherokee and Creek peoples of Georgia, the two leading historical tribes in the state's history.  The beings, often called "the immortals," are a part of Cherokee Indian legend, and have found a place among the many Native American tales associated with the tribe.
Schlosser, who also traveled part of the state in search of folklore and legend to include in her book, divides the text in to two parts, one solely dedicated to ghosts and hauntings, the other dedicated to good and evil presences in other forms.
One tale in particular that interested me was titled "On the Tracks," and is credited to the city of Lawrenceville, a city located in Gwinnett County in the Atlanta metro area.  As most of my readers know, I have published the only book on record about the legend of Sasquatch in Georgia, and that will most certainly explain why I was drawn to this tale.  As a matter of fact, as I pored over the table of contents in the book, I spotted that entry quite quickly, and I turned immediately to it and read it first. I won't spoil the story here, but I will definitely say it is one of the better ones in the book.  I must confess, I did not quite get to this account when writing Bigfoot in Georgia; however, Ms. Schlosser did, and she even read my book, as it was used as a source in her book.
I really enjoyed the book, especially since it was a Christmas gift from my dear mother, but there were a few things I feel the author missed.  One, she recounts the tale of "The Meanest Man in the South." This story is a very popular one in Georgia history and recounts the story of the Walker Family.  The tragedy centers on the death of the Walker son, Josiah.  However, the author, who makes sure she puts the name of the community from whence these legends arose on the opening page, credits this story with the city of Midgeville. As a native Georgian, having lived here all my life and written extensively about the state and its history, I would know if there was a place called Midgeville. To my knowledge, there is not.  In actuality, this legend stems from the antebellum capital of Georgia, Milledgeville.  Of course, this could easily be a typing error, but it appears over and over in the story. That weakens the book, in my opinion, as the city itself (Milledgeville) is not a city that lacks importance in the state and its history.
I really enjoyed the fact that many of the tales were told as they are related in legend.  This is specifically true in tales like "The Old House" from Cairo, and the aforementioned "On the Tracks."  I also admire that Schlosser traveled to places in Georgia, particularly Savannah and Atlanta, to personally research the state's folklore and legends.  Schlosser also seems to have immersed herself in the study of legend and lore for most of her life.  In addition to checking out this book, I would also encourage you to take a look at her website.  The link is below.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee by Michelle Smith

I realize I haven't posted much in 2013. Let me rephrase that. I haven't posted ANYTHING in 2013, but I am working on changing that this year.  Recently, I ran across a great book on Georgia legends, myth and folklore. The title was published by The History Press, and it is Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee.  Author Michelle Smith has done a fantastic job relating the plethora of legends associated with the Chattahoochee River that borders Georgia and Alabama.  In her book, she talks about Native American legend, folktales from local peoples, stories from history, and African American folklore stemming from the days of slavery.
Smith was educated at Auburn University, a fact I do not hold against her. (Dawg fan and alum here Michelle; you have to understand.) Her background is in the field of criminal justice. She is also an experienced historical and paranormal researcher who actually is involved with a paranormal research team near her home.  In addition to this title, it is my understanding that she has also assisted with other titles published about Alabama ghost stories.  The History Press has those titles as well.
So what makes the book a worthwhile read in my opinion?  First, it is definitely "right up my alley."  Any work on folklore and legend is worth my time reading it, particularly if it is about Georgia.  Second, it is chock full of legends and folktales I had never heard or seen anywhere.  While there are a few that I have seen here and there, most were new to me.  The story of Hugging Molly, the Wampus Cat, the Tie Snakes that are rumored to live in the Chattahoochee, and the Nunnehi, are all mystifying.  Third, Smith sprinkles bits and pieces of history in her story telling.  As I have always known and stated, good folklore stems from history, mostly local history, but history nonetheless.  Reading about legend and folklore never should leave you wanting for more local history, and Smith's recounting of the many legends and pieces of folklore from the Chattahoochee Valley certainly does not.
There are a few things that could have helped improve upon her work. There are a few places where her historical facts are either the result of typos or a confusion of dates.  For one, she mentions the federal government and their deal with the State of Georgia in 1763. I think that is supposed to be 1793 or possibly 1803.  There was no "federal government" or State of Georgia in 1763, as this was the end of the French and Indian War and a good 13 years away from the Declaration of Independence, an even longer 24 years until the Constitutional Convention that brought us the Constitution of the United States.  However, this is not an error that would derail the value of this work.  Still, I very much recommend selecting this one for your personal library.