Screaming bridge… I had heard about it during high school but paid little attention. The story seemed to come up from time to time in class. South of town there is a bridge that goes over an old railroad bed that sits in a deep ravine. The bridge lays in the beginning of a sharp curve to the left, in the midst of the curve an old house sits on your right. It’s a stately old place left alone for quite a while, looking abandoned by its last residents.
Legend had it that a woman lived in the house and that a train had hit a child under her care across the street from the place a hundred feet or so north of the bridge. The procedure you were to follow was two fold, first you were to stand on the bridge at midnight, look to the north and you could see a ghostly figure come out of the woods, stoop down as if picking something up and move back into the woods. The second part involved going into the house and looking on an old mantelpiece in one of the rooms, if your picture was on the mantel, you were being sought out by the evil spirits that inhabited the house and were, quite simply, marked for death. But, as I said, I paid little attention to it.
One night we had gathered to play a game. Somehow conversation turned to the house and bridge. Eric, it seems, had not only been to the bridge but had also been inside the house. It was one of those moments when eyes shifted from person to person and a decision was made without any verbal communication taking place. We jumped up and began to collect the necessary equipment one needed when going on a ghost hunt, flashlights and a bb gun. Eric filled us in on the layout of the place while we made our way through town. He told us about the house and the times he had been inside, we were beginning to get scared and excited at the same time. He told us about seeing different people’s pictures on the mantel, and how the ghostly figure looked when it moved. Heading south out of town we turned left onto the road where these evils dwelled and made our way up its snaky path for a mile or so, then came to the curve and there it was. We parked the car on the right-hand side of the road just before the bridge railing connected with the ground. I took a minute to let the setting wash over me when I stepped out of the car. It was one of those steamy Georgia nights when you could see the humidity and actually smell the color green, a fine film of moisture developed on your skin as soon as you left the air-conditioned comfort of the car. All manner of night creatures could be heard around us as we stepped onto the span. The construction of the bridge told its age, by any modern standard it would be labeled rickety. We examined the structure and looked in both directions at the railroad bed some thirty feet below us. Randy informed us it was near midnight and we lined up at the rail on the north side of the bridge to begin our surveillance. Eric called out the countdown ‘til midnight as we waited, holding our breath, for something otherworldly to occur. It became evident that nothing was going to happen after fifteen minutes of silence. We laughed and breathing became easier, assuring ourselves that we knew all along nothing was going to happen anyway. You couldn’t help but feel that we were somehow relieved. We looked at the railroad bed and made silly remarks and challenges to whatever ghosts held forth in the area.
When the bravado died down a bit the inevitable discussion started. Should we or should we not take a stab at the house… I, personally, was up for a trip to waffle house to enjoy a bowl of Bert’s chili, or perhaps a nice greasy plate of steak and eggs. Eric seemed all up for the adventure, Randy was game, my brother seemed noncommittal and I was along for the ride, admittedly I did want to go in, but was afraid of the legal ramifications of our actions. Eric decided our fate as he walked toward the house, we silently fell in lock step behind him and I got my first good look at the place as we broke through the brush at the edge of the road. It was a two-story affair with a wide front porch. Painted white, though a bit moldy and graying, it seemed a miniature version of a classic antebellum plantation house. We stood silently staring at it until Eric moved forward. I was the last in line and got a little nervous watching the wisps of fog rising from the grass envelope the three people in front of me. We reached the front porch and crossed it toward the door, various creaks sounded as we made our way. We all looked at the doorknob as Eric reached for it… it was locked. We then made our way around the left side of the house toward the back. The smell of slight decay and wet earth permeated my senses as we walked up the back steps and entered the screened in porch we found there. The back door stood slightly ajar and opened with some prodding from Eric. We had entered the kitchen. There was a smell of wet plaster and neglect hanging in the air. Some of the cabinets still contained cans of food. Making our way to the left we entered a hallway that seemed to run the length of the house, to our right was a bathroom, to our left was the front door at the end of the hall. Two rooms were off the left side and one on the right, toward the front of the house. In the bathroom there was a claw foot tub and toilet sitting up on a pedestal, the toilet had the same blackened interior you always see in horror movies. We faced the front door. A set of steps was to our left, so we headed up stairs first. On the landing it was clear that you couldn’t get to any of the rooms up there because there were hundreds of lidless mason jars set all around completely covering the floor. Finding this disturbingly strange we made our way back down and into the two rooms on the left hand side of the hallway. In the room closest to the front door we found the famed mantelpiece. There were indeed pictures of people sitting on top of it. Some of the people we knew from school. We determined that these were left as jokes since most of them were wallet sized school pictures just propped against the wall. Everywhere there was an inch of dust and the decaying smell you usually find in mausoleums. We then made our way across the hall to examine the last room in the house; Eric unlocked the front door and peered out as we went by. When you entered the front door it would be the first room to your left that we wound up in last. There was a rug on the floor, too thick with dust to make out any pattern, a pipe extending from the wall facing the door, where a heater of some sort was once attached, and a richly carved thick table sitting to our left in the corner. Eric headed toward the window across the room; I headed to the table. Further examination showed it to be a piano; on top of it were several opened letters. I picked one up and began to peruse it; I said, “listen to this” and began to read the letter out loud in a normal tone and volume. Randy and my brother were standing directly behind me, one on one shoulder one on the other as I held up the flashlight to read the letter. The letter was written from a daughter to a mother, thanking her for letting her children have an extended visit with their grandmother. As I continued to read, Randy and my brother began a whispered conversation and moved even closer to me. After a couple of minutes their close proximity and increasing volume began to annoy me. I turned around with the intention of saying – “Would you guys move back and be quiet!”… All I got out was “wo…” They were both standing on the other side of the room from me!!!! Their flashlights pointed in each others faces, a look of complete terror stricken across each one. Eric was still by the window; we looked back and forth with comprehension dawning on us that we were not making the sounds we heard. Imagine a person whispering, unintelligible, growing louder by the second, the sound seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, no definable source. Randy and my brother both ran for the front door, quickly followed by Eric, I wasn’t going to run, I wanted to find out what it was… but my body began to move of its own accord…. And I wound up being only half a step behind the rest. We stood in the front yard breathing hard and cussing loudly, wondering what in the hell that was. We went back to the house once, months later, with another friend after telling him about the experience. But on that trip the only untoward thing to happen was the policeman that came around and had us sit in his car as he checked the place for damage, informing us that “If anything gets broken around here in the future, we will be coming for you guys first!”….
I have seen and heard many strange things before and since that night, but to date that is the only thing that I can not put a sensible explanation to.