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Texas | Haunted Places

Under the Milano Railroad Bridge
on the anniversary of
Johnny Horton's death

My name is Mark Camp and I just wanted to share with you my experience of spending the night under the Milano, Texas bridge on November 5, 2010. It was the 50th anniversary of Johnny Horton's death. I'm sharing it with y'all because I first read your article about Horton's eerie demise back in 2010, whilst doing my own research into this strange and tragic event.

A band mate at the time (Michael Shane Borden) had recently written an excellent article recognizing the 50th anniversary of Horton's death for the Lone Star Music Magazine. I was fascinated by the story, especially the connection to Hank Williams and the historic Skyline Club in Austin.

At the time, I was living in the Walnut creek neighborhood of north Austin, just a few blocks from where the Skyline Club once stood (the northwest corner of Lamar and Braker, now a CVS pharmacy). In fact our house was built in 1960, the same year Horton died. Jackie, the owner of Buddy's Place on Burnett, had regaled us with stories of the Skyline Club during it's heyday, even claiming his brother is the one who closed the car door for Hank Williams in the early morning hours of Jan 1st 1953, the night Hank began his legendary final ride.

I had long been a fan of Horton's as well, covering a number of his songs in bands over the years. I was amazed that I lived so close to where both these musical legends played their final shows. While discussing it at rehearsal one night we all agreed to go out to the Milano bridge on the night Horton's death anniversary. We planned to pick guitars and have some beers, etc. I had been through the area before but never explored the bridge, so I went on a scouting mission to make sure it was accessible.

When November the fifth came, the other band members decided they were unable to make the trip. I still really wanted to go but was nervous about going solo. In the end I decided it was just something I had to do.

I headed out at 10 p.m. and arrived at about 11:30. I brought a guitar, a CD player with Horton's complete anthology, a Sony high 8 video camera, and a zoom digital audio recorder. It was a little intimidating being all alone out there under the bridge late at night. The only light source is a lone mercury lamp about 100 yards south of the bridge near a small house. The underside of the bridge is a cavernous space that magnifies, and manipulates sound. The 18 wheelers flying overhead created a loud eerie whine. The freight trains went by about every 30 minutes, and they were deafening. But, by about one a.m. the traffic overhead was light.

I had Horton's music playing at a low volume so as not to attract attention from the locals. (I wasn't sure if - since 911- it was a federal offense to be on railroad property, but I didn't want to find out the hard way). It was unusually cold that night with temperatures just above freezing. No insects at all. I paced around sipping on a Lone Star beer and tried to keep warm. I only had about an hours worth of video tape, so I used the camera sporadically, just for documenting the night. It was just after 2 am when things started to get strange.

It was so quiet out there that you could hear a vehicle approaching from a long way off. That's why I was so shocked when I suddenly saw emergency vehicle lights reflecting onto the ground and buildings south of the bridge, as though a trooper had pulled over on the bridge with his lights on. I instantly assumed one of the locals got suspicious of my truck and called me in, so I quickly stowed the few beers I had and waited to be confronted by the local deputy. As I nervously listened and waited for the approach of someone the emergency lights were suddenly gone. I tiptoed out from under the bridge to look around and there was nothing there. It was very confusing.

Not long after as I sat against the abutment facing east I saw a bright light out of the corner of my left eye. On the north side of the bridge there were sparks falling down over the edge and dissipating in the air like those off a welder, or off of a grinding wheel. It only lasted for a few seconds but it was bright enough to illuminate the ground under the edge of the bridge for a bit. I have no explanation for that. It was silent. I've seen many shooting stars, and once witnessed a meteor streak across the sky, and I know it was neither of those. Just plain weird.

By 4 a.m. I was tired, shivering, and thinking about a warm bed. It had been a while since anything significant had happened, so I figured it was time to go. I packed up my gear to the lonely sound of coyotes howling in the distance north of the bridge.

My arms were fully laden with gear as I walked out from under the bridge and along the embankment towards my truck. As I was walking I heard the sound of an 18 wheeler approach from the west. I absently peered up to see what it looked like when a vehicle went by from that perspective. (The bridge is so tall you can't see the road from down there, just the guard rail) When the truck was perhaps 100 yards away (I kid you not) a bluish ball of light the size of a ping pong ball flew up over the guardrail and down towards me. It came within 16 inches of my face and continued to fall towards my feet where it dissolved and disappeared into the grass.

I swear to God almighty and on my grandmother's grave I'm not making this up. It was clearly a 3 dimensional spherical shape, and glowed with it's own light source. I was so stunned that I stopped in my tracks and didn't move. I wondered if somehow it was a crazy reflection from the guardrail created by the headlights of the truck as it passed. So I waited, and waited, not daring to move. It was no small task as I was holding a guitar case, boom box, camping chair, video camera, etc. My arms and hands were cramping, but I didn't dare move until another truck came by. Eventually one did, then another, and another. NONE of them created any light reflection anomalies. So I put my cramped legs back into motion, loaded the truck, and started the long drive home.

I couldn't get the image of the ball of light out of my mind. It wasn't a hallucination; I don't use drugs. My mind just couldn't wrap it up into something logical. The worst part was I was the only one who saw it, so I didn't know whether or not I should tell anyone.

The 5th of Nov 2010 was a Friday, so I slept in the following Saturday morning to about eleven, and then I decided to review the video footage. I was anxious to see if there was anything I'd caught on video that could corroborate what I saw.

After watching about 45 minutes of footage I was getting discouraged, and then suddenly there it was: While filming my face and talking into the camera (in night vision mode) a bright ball of light comes into view BEHIND me, shoots out of sight, and then ambles back into view again. At the exact moment the light appears I stopped in mid sentence and said "what's that?" and looked to my left as though I'd heard something behind me. I swear it's true.

So, I saw an orb of light up close, and caught one on video as well. That gave me the courage to tell my friends about what I saw, and also the courage to share my story with y'all. I've yet to digitalize the footage..I keep telling myself "I'll get to it one of these days", but so far I haven't. I guess It doesn't really matter to anyone else anyway since I was the only one who was there.

Do I think it was the ghost of Johnny Horton? I have no idea. I don't even claim to believe in ghosts, or to know what a "ghost" is. The only thing I'm sure about is there are a lot of "unknowns" in the world, and whatever was going on under the Milano Texas railroad bridge on Nov 5th, 2010 can be added to the list.

I would also add that I consider every place where people have tragically lost their lives to be sacred ground. I only went there that night to pay tribute to a performer I admired. It was out respect and recognition of his untimely demise, not to exploit it . I hope that if anyone else ever ventures there they do it for the same reasons, and not to make light of it, or disrespect the place. It was a pretty special experience, and I'm very glad I changed my mind decided to go.

- Mark Camp,
April 5, 2015 guest column

Related Story:

The Eerie Demise of Johnny Horton by Clay Coppedge

Daddy's Favorite Song by Sandy Williams Driver
Excerpted from "Haunted Encounters: Departed Family and Friends", Atriad Press, 2005

More Texas Ghosts and Haunted Places »

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