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
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
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.
|The same stretch
of road in daylight
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, August 2007
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.
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
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
courtesy Jim Adams, Jr. , 2011