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History/Opinion

Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

The Big Thicket Light

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Francis E. Abernethy, Father of Folklore in East Texas or otherwise, has explored the phenomenon of the Big Ticket Light more than anyone, though Archer Fullingim, publisher-editor of the Kountze News, first spread the light's fame.

The Big Thicket Light, a.ka. the Saratoga Light, shows up at night on a seven-mile stretch of road connecting Farm Road 1293 and Saratoga, a former health spa/oil town/Big Thicket gathering area in Hardin County.

The road itself originated as right-of-way for a branch of the Santa Fe line from Bragg Station to Saratoga laid in 1901. The rails remained until 1934, but as the path was a good one, their removal permitted auto and truck traffic access to Saratoga.

Stories of mysterious lights appearing to travelers began while the rails remained, then continued after their removal. Fullingim, apparently recognizing a gift horse when he saw one, publicized the light and naturally the curious flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the ghostly light and thrill a bit in the Thicket-darkened night.
Big Ticket Mystery Light
Big Ticket Light
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, August 2007
Ghost road in daylight
The same stretch of road in daylight
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, August 2007
So what is the light? Take your pick. Says Abernethy, some believe the Big Thicket Light is: car lights approaching Saratoga through the woods; low-grade gas; a reflection or foxfire or swamp fire; or the result of hysterical imagination.

So much for science. Abernethy the Folklorist continues with stories gathered from the folk: the light comes from Spanish treasure, buried but never reclaimed; fire unextinguished from the Civil War, when Union troops attempted to "burnout" renegade Confederates; a decapitated railroad brakeman's light by which he searches for his lost head; a long-dead hunter who carries a fire pan looking for a way out of the Thicket; or....

To see light is to believe it, maybe. But what is the light? For one thing, it makes for a wonderful mystery.


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical January 29, 2007column
A syndicated column in 70 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie McDonald is executive director of the Association and the author of more than 20 books about Texas.



More on the Big Thicket Light / Ghost Road

Saratoga Forum:

  • Subject: Bragg Light Misnomer
    I have lived in Saratoga, Texas my entire my life (36 years) and grew up a quarter of a mile from the end of Bragg Road. Everyone who grew up in Saratoga knows [the local mysterious light] it as Bragg Light, not the ghost light, ghost road light, nothing with the name ghost or Saratoga even mentioned in the name. The light is there and it's not swamp gas as other people try to say because there aren't any swamps around Bragg Road. My granddad was born in 1897 and was raised in Saratoga and always talked about the light. So does my dad, who has spent his entire life here (since 1934). People try to write articles about the road and light, that are not from the area and they get so much wrong about it. Just like it is known that oil was discovered in Saratoga way before Beaumont, but because it wasn't a boom it's not recognized as that. I just wish someone could write a completely accurate article on the Bragg light so it is known that it is there and what it is. My Dad tells me the story of the headless man looking for his head is something that someone from out of town made up and that people that descended from Saratoga never heard of it until they talked to people from other areas. I apologize if it sounds like I'm "going off" on this subject but as someone who has lived here all my life it's irritating to hear people talk and write about things that they don't completely know about. I have a magazine from years ago that featured Bragg Road and was fairly accurate on the article because they did a lot of research from the people around here before it was published. - Thomas Tomlinson, Saratoga, Texas,, May 03, 2007

  • I was born and raised in Beaumont and heard many stories about the "ghost" of Saratoga.... A friend of mine once told me that her car was actually attacked and dented by an unseen force when she was in Saratoga. .... On a double-date, I was taken out there late at night, but nothing occurred. ... I would like to know more of the story (legend), whether it be true or not. ... - Thank you, Rhoda W., January 02, 2002

  • More on the Ghost Road:

    Ghost Light caught on game amera
    Photo courtesy Jim Adams, Jr. , 2011
  • Ghost Road Light Caught on Game Camera by Jim Adams, Jr.
  • Saratoga Ghost Road/Bragg Road Ghost Light by Ken & Yvonne Rudine
    Two miles north of Saratoga off FM787 is the beginning of Bragg Road which travels north to FM1293. It is the Ghost Road where the Saratoga Mystery Light has appeared. Peering down this road is like looking in an infinite rifle barrel, that is green trees on top - pink dirt on bottom. This former railroad bed is now a dirt road, 8 miles long by 2 cars wide. Under daylight conditions it takes 30 minutes to safely drive to its junction with FM1293... more
  • The Ghost Road by Bob Bowman
  • The Ghost Road in Hardin County by Bob Bowman
  • Pollok and a Mystery Light on the Bodan by Ken Rudine
  • Saratoga, Texas
  • Beaumont Hotels - Ghost road area hotels

  • Related Topics:
    Texas Ghosts | East Texas

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