My last venture into the spooky realm might have been eerie, but Bragg Road has always been much more so, mainly because I have seen the light, so to speak. In the late 80s, a few friends and I frequented the sandy eight-mile road, which runs between Highways FM 787 and FM 1293 near the town of Saratoga.
Located in the heart of the Big Thicket, one could definitely lose oneself in the pitch blackness of the forest. Except for the single light that mysteriously shines on occasion. But what is this all about? Let’s delve into the history of this lonely road.
In 1902 the Santa Fe railroad cut a line through the dense thicket between Saratoga and Bragg. These tracks were needed for hauling oil from the Saratoga oilfields, along with logs and cattle. For a long time, just one trip per day to Beaumont and back seemed to be enough to progress this wilderness into civilization. However, perhaps inevitably, the wilderness won and the city of Bragg is all but forgotten.
In 1934, the tracks were removed leaving behind a sandy road, which was used mostly by hunters who inadvertently kept the thicket from reclaiming it. It was around this time that some began seeing a strange light. (Note: In the book Tales from the Big Thicket by Francis E. Abernethy, there was one sighting of the light even before the tracks were removed.)
So what is behind this strange light that has been seen for nearly 80-plus years? The foremost story is that a railroad man was decapitated in a train wreck, so now he holds a lantern high while he looks for his head.
Other explanations include the Mexican cemetery where a foreman, rather than pay his road crew, killed them and kept the money. They were swiftly buried. Now their restless spirits haunt the road.
Whatever the source, there is a light on that darkened stretch. Skeptics will tell you that it is a reflection from car lights, but that would not explain the earlier sightings when there were few cars traveling down or near the road. Furthermore the old Model T’s headlights wouldn’t have shined brightly enough.
Another possibility is swamp gas. I could entertain this theory because of an investigation I was a part of 25 years ago.
In the late 80s, I made numerous trips to Bragg Road. The first was a day trip, and my friends Bryan and Hector tagged along. I only mention this because, after unsuccessfully identifying the road, we stopped at a store in Saratoga where Hector asked a lady where Bragg Road was. She explained to him how to get there and asked why we were looking for it. Without pause Hector explained we were going to a friend’s house that was located on the road. The woman grinned and wished us well. We did find the road and traveled down all eight miles never seeing a house or any sign of life. We had a good laugh over this.
My second trip down Bragg Road was a night-time journey done solo, but I saw nothing, only the blackness of the thicket. Fortunately my next jaunt into the forest did pay off. A few friends and I did see the light. It looked like an oncoming train if you were standing on the tracks. Try as we may, we could never get close to it. The light would flicker and then disappear.
On one occasion Paul Newman and I (Note: Not the actor turned racecar driver turned salad-dressing king) did an investigation to find out just what the light was. We started by removing all evidence of tire tracks at the entrance to the sandy road, followed by all three turnarounds. We figured that if we saw a light then we would have some idea if it was from a vehicle traveling down the road or something else.
As the night progressed, we saw the light several times, but only one vehicle, other than ours, passed down the road. We checked each turnaround and found only one set of tracks. Our investigation ended without a clear answer as to the cause of the light, or if it was indeed paranormal. We did conclude however that the light, at the very least, was not from a vehicle.
Usually when I go down that road, I see the light, except on full moonlit nights. Although the light seems to be far off, I have talked to people who know people who have seen the light close up, but sadly I have never personally met anyone who has done so, nor have I been privileged to witness it in close proximity. So please take the last statement as is.
So if you’re ever along FM 787 or FM 1293 and want a thrill, just turn onto that dark sandy road. You may just see that ghostly train headlight coming toward you. And what a sight it will be.