Saratoga, Texas - Bragg Road
The kindness of strangers
More Ghost Hunting in Texas
"Yep, you seen those ghost lights for sure," said the man in the blue jean jacket.
"Them lights show up and car batteries just lose all their juice. Car won't start and some mighty scared folks have to sit here in the dark waiting on the kindness of strangers. This ain't no road to be out on in the middle of the night either."
Indeed, there we had sat waiting, battery deader than a door knob. The three of us girls had decided the evening before to ride out to East Texas to see the Ghost Lights of Saratoga, Texas. The lights were rumored to be swamp gas or maybe ball lightning. Some say the bobbing light is a lantern being swung by a headless man searching for his head. But the lights we saw were different. They came right up on the hood of my 1977 red Monte Carlo and scared the bejesus out of our young bodies.
Back in the 80s, the most fun anyone could have in Polk County, Texas and the town of Livingston was to take off and start driving elsewhere. One could head up to Tyler, Texas, but that was usually a day time trip as they close up their sidewalks just as early as the Livingston ones.
One could make a run to Houston, only a couple of hours away. Houston is certainly a fun, sin-filled city, but we had done that and bought the t-shirt. It was still too early in the year to drive to Galveston and spend the night camping on the beach.
We could have gone west to Huntsville, but no one wants to be in a prison town after dark.
I said, "East Texas is ripe for a road trip and I'm dying for a look at those ghost lights. Remember, we talked about doing this, so let’s go.”"
I might have worried that dying to see ghost lights is an odd turn of a phrase. Three young white girls in a Chevrolet could be easy pickings for those redneck Klan boys that live out in the swamps and bayous near Jasper, Texas. People have been known to be drug behind pick-up trucks until they are dead. That was definitely not the kind of lights we were looking for.
LeeAnn had the directions and was riding shotgun in the front. I drove and another friend, Nell, rode in the back. The car rode and drove like a dream. The camping supplies fit nicely in the spacious trunk. It was our plan to stay out all night if need be.
We started out from Livingston an hour after dark. After an hour on the road, the full moon rose in the East. The land is flat and the moon looked really huge. Hoping we would see some even brighter lights kept us on the road.
In what seemed like no time, we were making the turn onto Bragg road, rumored to be the site of the Saratoga Ghost Lights. It's on the dirt road running north-south starting at the south end at a bend on Farm-to-Market Road 787 that is 1.7 miles north of the intersection of FM 787-770, near Saratoga, TX and ending at the north end at Farm-to-Market Road 1293 near the ghost town of Bragg Station, if you ever want to go there.
The consensus was that one should just turn off the car and wait for the ghost lights to appear. We parked about a mile into the dirt road bounded on both sides by tons of thin, sparse trees. The road is super straight, narrow and made of dirt. I'm pretty sure that the fields around the road turn straight into swamps when the rains come.
As young, legal age ladies are want to do, we began to drink some beers and gossip over the men of Livingston. LeeAnn was married to a fine upstanding highway patrol officer who was one of the most handsome men in Polk County. Nell was single. I dated regularly, but had no serious prospects at the time.
I was the first to notice the small white light in front of the car. It seemed a very long way off. I pointed it out and we watched until the light grew brighter and brighter. It even seemed to split into two lights. Then just as we decided it was another car on this old abandoned road, it passed us, the locals inside pointing and laughing at us as they drove slowly by. Continued.....
We laughed at ourselves.
We went back to drinking and talking. After about another half hour of jawing about the circumstances we had found ourselves in at such a tender age, we spotted another light way up the road coming our way.
"You know, for an old dirt road, this place sure gets a lot of traffic," said Nell.
"It's probably the local make out spot," I replied.
LeeAnn chimed in, "I gotta pee".
"Well, as soon as this one passes, just jump out the side there," I said.
We waited for the light to get closer. It was really traveling slow like. The color seemed different too. Eventually, we decided, "That aint no car"!
The light began to bob and weave across the road, steadily getting closer and closer. It still seemed far away, but it seemed close at the same time. It was an odd visual puzzle.
About the time we decided to get the hell out of there, the light bounced up on the hood of the car. It looked like a small glowing ember and it was headed right for the wind shield. That did it! I reached for the keys, scared out of my wits, and tried to start the car for a rapid getaway…. Nothing. No sound whatsoever came out from under that big, long hood. Not a click or a bang or a clack. We were stranded.
"Oh crap! It's going to get us," we all said in unison.
The light softly and smoothly traveled up and over the car, down the back window and out over the trunk. Then it just kept on going down the dirt road for as far as our eyes could follow. I think we all gasped when the light finally disappeared.
Shaking and scared, I tried again to start the car. There was absolute silence from the engine and us. We just sat there thinking we might not make it through the night. What the heck was that thing? We lit cigarettes all around and pulled some more on our drinks. LeeAnn finally found the courage to step out and pee. We went with her.
Another bright flash of light up near the telephone pole made us all jump back in the car faster than a rabbit running for cover. Probably that ball lightning I thought to myself as I locked the door. Why locking the door is going to keep any kind of ghost light out is beyond me.
After sitting on the lonely road another two hours, we finally see another light approaching from the north end. It looked like a car. We got out and prepared to flag that sucker down. The people in the car sped right on by looking every bit as scared as we were.
"Do you think we'll last until morning?" Nell said.
"Sure we will, it's just swamp gas or ball lightning. Nothing to be scared about," I said as my hands still shook.
LeeAnn said, "At least Barry will send out the highway patrol if we're not back by morning."
As it was almost dawn, that seemed like a likely scenario.
Finally, another light came into view. After a few minutes, we figured out it was another car. We were wrong.
It was a pick-up truck with a couple of drunk red necks in it. We flagged them down anyway.
Blue jean jacket got out of the truck and walked over to me. He very politely asked if we needed assistance.
"Heck yeah, I said. Got any jumper cables?"
He laughed and dug them out of the back of the truck. They hooked us up and then showed us to the best 24 hour Waffle House in East Texas. They bought our breakfast and sent us on our way. To this day, I will never forget the kindness of strangers.