Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lacey Bridge - Linden, TX

It will never cease to amaze me how we will manage to create, amongst however many differences and inherently dissimilar environments, patterns and similar stories and pieces of folklore, miles and minds apart.

I have seen throughout America, especially in rural Appalachia and further in the Midwest, what appear to be similarly patterned or cut pieces of Small Town, USA: a small intersection of a main street, a handful of antique stores along the spectrum of ready-for-business and abandoned, and a single movie theater with a marquee marked up, still by all accounts within the domain of the nineties and against all odds clinging to semi-relevance and just-dodging insolvency.

Of course, this odd uncanniness of familiarity is not limited to physical locations. The stories we tell, after all, can all be reduced down to a handful of skeletons. Beyond that, in the realm of the macabre and chilling, it is probably easy to iron out the framework of what makes horror horror and why urban legends remain told. It seems to me that every place I have been to has a "Cry Baby Bridge," and I visited the one hidden away in East Texas one American summer afternoon.

The story is simple, sad, and has been told. You have heard it: a young woman is either in an accident or viciously murdered. In some versions, she has an equally innocent child with her who is then lost to this world. Now, decades later, you can still hear them wandering the mists below the bridge late at night. In the few versions of the tale I have found regarding this particular bridge, there does not appear to be any malice in her presence. Just a spooky location with a tragic, if ambiguous, history.

For better or worse, we were not at Lacey('s?) Bridge at a haunted hour and had instead visited during a mild summer afternoon. It was nonetheless a location out of time.

I had remarked almost immediately that it reminded me of a condensed version of the beloved stretch of lost highway in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Although not abandoned and condemned, the faded color of its material and the stark contrast of graffiti set it aside as something different. Another facet of this outing involved the "Witch's Tabernacle" -- again a piece of folklore that seemed to exist in various forms across the country (and world) with varying degrees of drama and paranormal influence. After our walk across the bridge, we quickly scanned the surrounding area and did not see any easily accessible (due to growth) paths down to the creek below. The murky, swamp-like area was not very welcoming, but, to be honest, also not all that enthralling or worth an investigation. That is not a condemnation of the area; in fact, the murky water's existence was probably the exact reason for the bridge having been built in the first place.

Driving another quarter mile up the road, we found a pull-off trail that terminated in a small open field surrounded by trees. Not wanting to encroach on anyone's private property (or maybe due to the scattered shotgun shells we found) we realized that there was nothing else to uncover regarding the bridge or any hidden old church and returned to the road. I had noticed that there was a quiet hunter's perch watching over the field on the way out and somehow this small piece of civilization provided a silly ounce of comfort. It was purely a recreational area, however private or otherwise, and not some macabre killing field for an unwritten horror story with plot-points rapidly filling in with bouts of imagination and wandering, listless anxiety.

The Witches' Tabernacle held your archetypal features of urban legends: witches round up in a manic hysteria and murdered, the ground they were buried at then cursed, more or less, and something still lingering to this day. While the cemetery we found did not have any of these haunted hallmarks (at least visibly, during the day), the age and history speaks for itself. We found a few graves still marked with Confederate flags and various pieces of ancestral offerings. I believe the earliest grave marker we found dated the site to at least the early-to-mid 1800s. There were also whispers of an old church that had actually succumbed to a fire and other structures on the property, but these were not visible, or at least obvious to us. It was a quiet, if slightly unkempt, old cemetery.

I was met, once again, with that odd, but comfortable, familiarity to my own neck of the woods and portion of the country (namely, the winding countryside and towns that had sprung up and drifted away in the woods of Pennsylvania). I had learned about and visited many places important to the American Civil War in my youth and it is always interesting to see these local pieces from the "other side," removed from the haze and appropriation of modern politics and misuse. Regardless of the symbolism and hate that still exists and is leveraged from this lingering blemish on our history, it happened, and we we should not pretend it did not occur on our own soil.

One way or another, many of these grave markers lay in ruin, even those not prominently displayed as related to the war effort or era. The cemetery was not very big and certainly not ornate.

Even if the only tinge of absurdity comes from the fact that Confederate flags are still manufactured and sold (and bought), and not from anything in the realm of paranormal, our outing was a worthwhile endeavor, and I am appreciative of my opportunity of visiting. If there is a long-gone coven of witches, or a dearest Lacey still holding her child and bewildering passersby, and they had wandered these grounds long after midnight, following each and every rule of folklore, then I sincerely hope that they have found peace, or, at least, eventually will. That is all we can ask for.

Further reading:

Above Top Secret - Forum

Yahoo Answers

Kacy Tillman - Blogspot