Measuring the creep factor

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, October 29, 2016

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Haunted Things

As a 14-year-old girl in Wise County, nothing intrigued or scared me more than Screaming Bridge.

I can recall driving out there (courtesy of a friend’s mom) during a sleepover and going through the whole ritual to summon the Screaming Bridge ghost – parking on the middle of the bridge, rolling the windows down, turning the car off and getting out, putting the keys on the roof and honking the horn. The only screams we heard were our own as we ran terrified from the fog starting to roll across the bridge.

I haven’t been out there in a while, but it was one of the first stops on David and I’s “haunted Wise County” tour. We spent most of our time at the bridge laughing at the graffiti obviously left there by middle schoolers trying to be edgy – “WEED” was a common one.

Rest in Peace

REST IN PEACE – Nighttime is not really optimal for visiting cemeteries, as Racey Burden and David Talley discovered during their tour of “haunted Wise County.” Messenger photo by Joe Duty

I admit to feeling a little disappointed that the terror I felt there as a kid didn’t hold up. That’s not to say I didn’t experience a few scares on the rest of our trip.

David and I composed a pretty decent list of spooky Wise County spots earlier this week, intending to go out at night and just see what we could see. The courthouse on Decatur Square was at the top of that list.

Is the courthouse creepy? Undoubtedly. It’s an old, creaky building with dark corners and pictures of angry-looking, long-dead judges all over the walls. Is it haunted? I don’t buy it.

We walked all over the second floor, which is where the majority of the ghost stories seem to originate. The thing that scared me most ended up being the shadows cast by a fan someone left on, and a picture of Rick Perry grinning with dead eyes.

Our next stop was Oaklawn Cemetery. I’ve written about this cemetery and how much I love it before; it’s right down the road from my house and I walk there during the day often. With the sun out and the bluebonnets blooming, it’s a peaceful, pretty place. After dark, I would not recommend roaming around there.

The Waggoners (as in Waggoner Mansion) are buried there in the cemetery’s only crypt, which is the kind of structure you want to avoid even in daylight. David and I walked right up to it, close enough to read the nameplates on the door. Creepy? Yes. Haunted? I don’t think so.

Then came Screaming Bridge on County Road 3250, which was a slight disappointment. Old timers swore up and down the bridge was haunted, but only when the old wooden structure still existed. Now that it’s concrete, no spirits reside there.

We ventured slightly out of the county next, looking for Green Elm Cemetery and its corresponding bridge. The bridge is rumored to be haunted by a woman in white who drowned under it years ago. We were trying to find the cemetery, which Google Maps placed near Runaway Bay, and somehow ended up in Wizard Wells.

Wizard Wells, being mostly abandoned, freaked out David and I more than any other location had thus far. Our map took us down Green Elm Road, a one-lane dirt path that wound past deserted buildings and houses straight out of horror films. It also took us to Wizard Wells Cemetery, which is apparently in the middle of nowhere. We did not leave the car, so it may be haunted, but we couldn’t verify that.

A few other places on our list also ended up being duds – because we couldn’t find them or didn’t feel like driving anymore. I would recommend a few spots we didn’t get to – basically any Wise County cemetery, especially the older ones like Aurora’s or Deep Creek, for a something-is-watching-you feel.

If you want classic scary, there’s always Waggoner Mansion in Decatur. You can’t get inside it, but you can drive up to it like David and I did and marvel at the Hitchcock-esque building. Maybe you’ll even see the light that occasionally burns in the tower window.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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