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Hardin County TX
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The Ghost Road

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Does the lantern of a headless brakeman haunt Hardin County's Ghost Road?

Or is it just the reflection of distant automobile lights or swamp gas?

Whatever it is, the strange light that bobs along the arrow-straight road cutting through the Big Thicket forest near Saratoga has intrigued curious visitors for decades.

The road's origin dates back to the 1930s when he Sante Fe Railroad opened up the forests with a railroad and began carrying logs, cattle, oil and passengers to Beaumont. On one end of the railroad was Dearborn, a sawmill settlement named for the town's mill superintendent. Another town on the line was named for Confederate general Braxton Bragg. When the virgin pine played out and the oil wells stopped producing, the railroad tracks were pulled up and the right-of-way became a county road.
Hardin County ghost road, east Texas
Hardin County ghost road
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, Augist 2007
By now, people were beginning to see ghostly lights on the road. The skeptic hooted and hollered. But the stories grew and going out to look for the light became a good excuse for young couples to go the woods.

One oldtimer swore a light panicked his team of horses and dumped him in a ditch. A preacher claimed the light was an omen of the end of the world. A young man said the light landed atop his car and began making odd noises.

Some disbelievers insisted that reflected auto headlights were the source of the light. And there were claims among the scientific community that the light was simply a gaseous apparition.

But the story generating the most interest was that the light was the lantern of a brakeman decapitated in a train crash on the old railroad. According to a local legend, searchers found the brakeman's body, but not his head, and he still wanders along the road looking for his head.

No matter what you believe, the Ghost Road Light exists. It has been captured in photographs, even by no less an authority than the National Geographic. And writers have listed the road with better-known ghosts such as the Marfa Lights.
Hardin County East Texas ghost road light
Ghost Road Light
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, Augist 2007
Ghost Road Scenic Drive Hardin County Park  Sign
Ghost Road Drive
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, Augist 2007
Knowing good thing when they see one, Hardin County's tourism promoters these days have embarked on a effort to set aside the Ghost Road as a landmark and local park.


All Things Historical September 23-29, 2001 Column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
Bob Bowman

More on the Ghost Road:

Ghost Light caught on game amera
Photo courtesy Jim Adams, Jr. , 2011
  • Ghost Road Light Caught on Game Camera by Jim Adams, Jr.

  • Bragg Road Ghost Light by Ken & Yvonne Rudine
    Two miles north of Saratoga off FM787 is the beginning of Bragg Road which travels north to FM1293. It is the Ghost Road where the Saratoga Mystery Light has appeared. Peering down this road is like looking in an infinite rifle barrel, that is green trees on top - pink dirt on bottom. This former railroad bed is now a dirt road, 8 miles long by 2 cars wide. Under daylight conditions it takes 30 minutes to safely drive to its junction with FM1293... more

  • The Ghost Road in Hardin County by Bob Bowman

  • The Big Thicket Light by Archie P. McDonald

  • Pollok and a Mystery Light on the Bodan by Ken Rudine

  • Saratoga, Texas

  • Beaumont Hotels - Book ghost road area hotels

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