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Texas | Ghosts

The Haunted Bridge
at Green Elm Cemetery

by Bob Hopkins
TX - Green Elm Cemetery Bridge
Green Elm Cemetery Bridge
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
The day was warm for October, but he loved the fall, regardless. The crisp cool mornings and warm afternoons of north Texas were perfect for those exhausted from the scorching summer heat. The year was 1948 and four cattlemen were on their way back to Chico after a trip out to west Texas on a cattle buying excursion. The weather was dry as drought had claimed the land earlier that year, recalled G. E. Francis, age 92 when he shared this story back in 2002.

"We had been driving for hours, stuffed into a dark colored sedan. There was no air-conditioning in cars in those days and the trip had been warm, even for October". The car rattled along the winding road through what was known as "the bottoms," a stretch of roadway that is now under water and encompassed by the north end of Lake Bridgeport on the Jack-
Wise County line. The last leg of the journey home ran from Wizard Wells (now a ghost town) to Chico.

"We had to stop for a nature break. We'd been driving for hours and though we were close to home, we decided to pull over," the driver coming to a complete stop right on the bridge. "We could do that back in those days as you might not pass another car on these old country roads for half an hour or so." The bridge he spoke of spanned the west fork of the Trinity River and was constructed of iron frame and wooden slats.

The four companions exited the car as the sun was just about to set in the western Texas sky. As they finished their business they stood on the bridge taking in the scenery and the cool of the autumn evening watching the vast blue sky fade into orange across the horizon. The bridge was known as the "Green Elm Cemetery Bridge" because of its proximity to an old cemetery located about 500 feet south of the river crossing just beyond the bend.
TX - Green Elm Haunted Bridge
Green Elm Cemetery Bridge
Photo courtesy Bob Hopkins
Suddenly, without warning, a blood-curdling scream vibrated across the air amongst the men with a waling that chilled the soul. The feminine like cry was so loud and startling that they found themselves dumbfounded of its origin. All four were confused about what it was or where it came from. Once able to gather their senses they realized the sound was coming from about 100 feet or so up river.

"We saw this thing", said Mr. Francis. "It floated in the air about eighteen to twenty feet above the river and was moving toward the bridge as if it were floating in unseen flood waters. It was coming straight toward the bridge…and us. I was scared half to death. Actually, terrified in my shoes was more like it. I couldn't move I was so scared and apparently, either could anyone else. We just stood there in complete horror and bewilderment trying to figure out just what this thing was and just what was its purpose. As it got closer we all began to realize that it appeared to be a woman, a Mexican woman, in a white dress…screaming and moaning as if she were in great turmoil, as if she were drowning, being carried downstream through invisible turbulent waters, in mid-air.

I was so scared, not knowing if I should run or hide or just get back in the car. She floated right toward the bridge, wiggling and thrashing about as she went right over it and right over us. She floated on south down the river about 500 feet or so till she got to the bend near the old graveyard then, just like that…she just faded away like a vapor in thin air. We all stood there completely stunned not knowing exactly what to do next. We just looked at each other not knowing what to say. We then quickly got into the car. Everyone was screaming at once with extreme consternation. We just got the heck out of there, still not sure what to make of the strange ghostly encounter."

The men couldn't get away from the bridge quick enough as they realized they needed to calm down and get a grip on their emotions. Taking a while to gather their composures they began to discuss what they had just encountered. Obviously shaken by the incident the four decided they would not tell anyone what they'd seen as they feared friends and neighbors would think them taking to fast liquor or at least, pulling some sort of prank. They simply didn't think anyone would believe them and wondered if they could believe it themselves.

But as human nature would have it, secrets are known to be shared and within a couple of years word of the "Ghost of Green Elm Bridge" began to leak out. Teenagers looking for a thrill and the curious from Jacksboro, Chico and Bridgeport began to visit the bridge in hopes of seeing the specter. Some got just that over the following years, reported Mr. Francis who swore the ghost was the real deal. He said, "I remember every minute of the terrifying event as though it had happened yesterday. A fella don't forget that kind of thing…it stays with you always."
TX - Green Elm Cemetery
Green Elm/Verner Cemetery
Photo courtesy Bob Hopkins
As of 2002, most of the area around the old bridge belonged to the son of G.E. Francis who declined to comment on the story. He, according to his father, has had his share of the spook over the years. He and his wife have heard the screaming woman down on the river several times in the past.

"Back in 92, said Francis, two oilfield fella's got quite a scare down at the compressor station near the bridge. They were working and went to leave long about sundown one evening when their truck wouldn't start. While working on the truck they heard a horrifying scream coming from the direction of the river. I'm not sure if they actually saw her or not but they did hear her because it scared them both something terrible. They high-tailed it on foot and came to my son's house down the road. One of them fella's quit his job right there saying he was never going back down to the river where that ghost was. He was really, really scared from whatever he saw or heard".
TX - Green Elm Cemetery Bridge dirt road
The dirt road leading to the Green Elm Cemetery Bridge
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
Not much is known about the old Green Elm Cemetery (also known as Verner Cemetery), or those buried in it. It is located down river from the bridge on the left side of a right bend in the river among a dense area of mesquite bush and post oak trees. The grave yard is located just on the Jack and Wise County line. The earliest grave in the cemetery is entered in 1870 and the last in 1909. The cemetery is occasionally mowed but mostly un-kept. According to Jack County records, 55 or so graves have been entered into the cemetery with 20 to 30 sadly unmarked.

The life and times of pioneers in north Texas was a very rough road to travel in the mid to late 19th century. Many died from the hardships endured by life in this once savage land. Who knows who or what the phantom could be. What terrible fate had befallen this poor soul? What is it that still holds her to this plane so many years after her death? Did she die in a flood? Did she simply drown in the river? Is she buried in an unmarked grave in the near-by cemetery or is she something from beyond our realm of understanding? We will obviously never know.

Perhaps, however, we could find it in our hearts to say a simple prayer for this specter in hopes she may find peace.

Green Elm/Verner Cemetery is located about five miles down a lonely dirt road that basically turns into a trail eventually ending in the cemetery. The old skeletal remains of the bridge still remain. The bridge was burned many years ago and is not passable. There are no longer roads on the other side anyway. The cemetery lurks just down from the bridge, lonely and isolated, reflective of the lonely soul that haunts it.

If you ever feel brave enough to venture down that lonely road be very mindful and respectful to the present property owners and know that the scream you may hear in those hollows could be your own.

©
Bob Hopkins September 3, 2011Column
TX - Green Elm Cemetery  Sign

Green Elm Cemetery Sign
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea

TX - Green Elm Cemetery
Green Elm Cemetery
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
TX - Green Elm Cemetery  tombstone
Green Elm Cemetery
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
TX - Green Elm Cemetery  tombstones
Green Elm Cemetery
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
TX - Green Elm Cemetery
Green Elm Cemetery
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
TX - Green Elm Cemetery  tombstones
Green Elm Cemetery
Photo courtesy Kay Garsea
More Texas Cemeteries | More Texas Bridges

Forum
Subject: Green Elm Cemetery Story

Dear TE: I loved the story about the ghost of Green Elm Cemetery & the bridge. I discovered that cemetery about 3 1/2 years ago. I found the bridge when I made a wrong turn on that dirt road while trying to find the cemetery. It had a haunted feel to it. Because the latest date on the stones was around the turn of the 20th century, and because most of the graves were those of young people, it seemed to me that something happened to cause the people to abandon that area & the cemetery. I read somewhere that the reason was that they found higher ground around Cundiff. I have attached some photos of the bridge and cemetery for you to post, if you wish.

I absolutely love Texas Escapes & it has enhanced my enjoyment of my many road trips around Texas. Thank you for creating this wonderful and very interesting site.
Sincerely, Kay Garsea, September 04, 2011

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Texas Ghosts | Texas Cemeteries | Texas Bridges
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