Ghost-busting across the county

By David Talley | Published Saturday, October 29, 2016

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Haunted Things

Growing up in Wise County, everybody has a ghost story.

From the ghost of Screaming Bridge to Sally Bowman’s grave in Deep Creek Cemetery, local kids hear a lot their parents probably don’t know about.

Visiting a supposedly haunted place is a rite of passage for most, with recently-licensed drivers taking advantage of their new-found freedom to journey into the countryside at night in an attempt to scare their friends. Decatur’s not known for its abundance of youth activities – what do you want us to do?

With that in mind, Racey and I set out for a second joint column this month, revisiting our favorite high school haunts and researching a few new ones to add in the mix. There are a few ghost-themed websites with pretty good lists of haunted places in Wise County, so we started there, pooling our knowledge of local lore with online accounts.

Haunted Jaunt

HAUNTED JAUNT – David Talley and Racey Burden investigate the Wise County Courthouse after dark, hoping to uncover some truths behind the building’s ghost stories. They didn’t find anything. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Some were super clear, like the story of the Wise County Courthouse elevator, which is said to go up and down on its own around 2 each morning. Others described bridges, creeks or roads Racey and I had never heard of and couldn’t find, meaning we had no chance of verifying them. One story even hinged around a car wreck on Texas 114 in June 2003, but when I searched in the Messenger archives, I found no record of the wreck, making the tale easy to debunk. Ghost stories are probably better when left a little ambiguous for that exact reason.

We headed out Thursday night with a couple of flashlights and a box of cookies to investigate. Messenger photographer Joe Duty was kind enough to tag along for the first part of our adventure.

It started at the courthouse at 7:30, with County Judge J.D. Clark giving us permission to visit the landmark after business hours. County employee Sharon Curry was kind enough to let us in and stuck around to share a few rumors from years of working in the building. While the upper floors of the courthouse weren’t that dark or spooky, the building’s basement is a strange place I’d like to explore more. Some of the basement doors are rounded at the top and almost all of them are barely 6 feet tall. We found a neat spiral staircase hidden in what looked like a regular closet.

From there, we headed to Oaklawn Cemetery and then Screaming Bridge. These were both places I probably would have been scared of in high school, but thanks to Joe’s constant jokes, it didn’t seem so bad Thursday night.

The Screaming Bridge legend calls for visitors to turn off their cars, place their keys on the roof and honk the horn twice. After a while, you’re supposed to hear screaming. We didn’t hear anything, but the stars looked stellar that far out in the country.

After that, we headed far west to Green Elm Cemetery. According to legend, an angry spirit stays out there, haunting a nearby bridge. After a drive through the town of Wizard Wells and a short jaunt down a single-lane gravel road, we found a cemetery. The sign labeled the property as Wizard Wells Cemetery – not quite right, but we were creeped out enough to unroll the “mission accomplished” banner and head back.

Coming home east on Farm Road 1810, we turned north on County Road 1170 to pass a particularly eerie house I’ve noticed before. As we rolled by, a black cat darted through the yard. I’m not normally superstitious, but that seemed like a good exit cue.

So we may not be ghost hunters. Of the seven sites we visited, we really only spent appreciable time at about three. Throughout the drive, Racey and I discussed topics more related to future job prospects and life plans than haunted places and evil spirits. Now that college is over and high school is long gone, those are the things I’m scared of this Halloween.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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