the lantern of a headless brakeman haunt Hardin
County's Ghost Road?
Or is it just the reflection of distant automobile lights or swamp
Whatever it is, the strange light that bobs along the arrow-straight
road cutting through the Big Thicket forest near Saratoga
has intrigued curious visitors for decades.
The road's origin dates back to the 1930s when he Sante Fe Railroad
opened up the forests with a railroad and began carrying logs, cattle,
oil and passengers to Beaumont.
On one end of the railroad was Dearborn, a sawmill settlement named
for the town's mill superintendent. Another town on the line was named
for Confederate general Braxton Bragg. When the virgin pine played
out and the oil wells stopped producing, the railroad tracks were
pulled up and the right-of-way became a county road.
now, people were beginning to see ghostly lights on the road. The
skeptic hooted and hollered. But the stories grew and going out to
look for the light became a good excuse for young couples to go the
One oldtimer swore a light panicked his team of horses and dumped
him in a ditch. A preacher claimed the light was an omen of the end
of the world. A young man said the light landed atop his car and began
making odd noises.
Some disbelievers insisted that reflected auto headlights were the
source of the light. And there were claims among the scientific community
that the light was simply a gaseous apparition.
But the story generating the most interest was that the light was
the lantern of a brakeman decapitated in a train crash on the old
railroad. According to a local legend, searchers found the brakeman's
body, but not his head, and he still wanders along the road looking
for his head.
No matter what you believe, the Ghost Road Light exists. It has been
captured in photographs, even by no less an authority than the National
Geographic. And writers have listed the road with better-known ghosts
such as the Marfa
good thing when they see one, Hardin
County's tourism promoters these days have embarked on a effort
to set aside the Ghost Road as a landmark and local park.
All Things Historical
23-29, 2001 Column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
courtesy Jim Adams, Jr. , 2011