Finding Inspiration in Strange Places

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I’ve always been one to find inspiration in the strangest places, so with my debut novel, The Legend of the Light Keeper, releasing next month, I decided to pay tribute to the road that inspired my series.

Yes, Ghost Road really exists. I didn’t just make it up for my book, though I did take a few creative liberties. It is fiction after all. So when I was building my world I had to fudge the actual layout of the town a bit to make it all work. The legends are all real to my area too, and though they all don’t take place directly on Bragg Road, it certainly gets readers thinking about the history of places and that was kind of my point.

Bragg Road in Southeast Texas is located 1.7 miles north of the intersection at FM 787-770 and spans eight miles to FM 1293.  For years the dark, spooky road has been a mystery steeped in legend and rich history from the days of oil booms and industrial growth in the area. The road was originally built as a branch off the Santa Fe railroad that was used to carry supplies and people from Saratoga to Beaumont daily.

When the industry supply gave out, the branch was abandoned and the tracks were pulled up, leaving an eight mile road that is straight as an arrow and flat as a board. This landscape causes an optical illusion when car lights shine in the distance from the 787-770 end.  Two lights so far away will appear to be one. This is best seen if you enter the road from the 1293 entrance. However, many will argue that isn’t the only light you’ll see.

Hundreds of claims have been made over the years from people seeing the Light flying over their heads, over their cars, and even chasing them down the old dirt road. I have heard stories of the Light burning atop car hoods and shooting up into the air. Such tales have encouraged visitors and now the road is a scenic drive complete with information stations that tell its history.

If you ask anyone that’s been in the area a while, most will have a story to share about it. What I find most fascinating is that out of everyone I’ve spoken to about the mystery, no one ever debates whether the Light exists, but rather what it is.

Scientists have done experiments over the years and their best guess is swamp gas. Many will debate the swamp gas theory based on their own experiences, though, and that’s how urban legends are born.

The most popular legend is that a brakeman for the railroad was decapitated while on the job and has since been roaming the road swinging a lantern to find his head. The “headless man with a lantern” story is popular across the United States to explain many other ghost lights, leaving many to wonder how can a headless man “look” for anything. So yeah, it’s a popular tale, but a little silly.

Other explanations have been thrown out over time, but I say, let it be. The fascination is in the mystery. What we have is a good excuse to take a drive on a Saturday night and seek that rush of adrenaline that only fear of the unknown can bring. So what if what most people see are headlights? I’ve seen them. It is obvious what they are to anyone who is familiar with the road and its layout, but I have to agree with the few who know that there is another light out there, one that cannot be easily explained. I believe that, because I’ve seen it for myself. Join me next week when I share my own personal story of seeing the Bragg Road Ghost Light!

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