Thursday, August 25, 2011

Escape from Lydia's Bridge | Haunted Greensboro

Can you survive Lydia's Bridge?
Since 2004, I've written about Lydia and her legendary bridge in Jamestown. Today Shannon and I returned to update the legend, and see how this ghostly tunnel is holding up.

For the last eighty-eight years, a ghost named Lydia has been apart of Greensboro folklore, urban legend, and myth, mostly due in part to a single haunted bridge and tunnel erected in 1916 in the little suburb community of Jamestown. Lydia, who in real life was name Mary Lydia Jones, became such a folk hero in America that in 1966, D.C. based bluegrass band, The Country Gentlemen, immortalized the Lydia Bridge Ghost Story in the song "Bringing Home Mary".

I was driving down a lonely road on a dark and stormy night, When a little girl by the road side showed up in my headlights, I stopped and she got in the back and in a shaky tone, She said, "My name is Mary and please won't you take me home".

There's no escape now. 
It's been several years since I last returned to Lydia's Bridge, and I felt it was time to return to this ghostly place that was a part of every young high school student's rite of passage growing up in Greensboro. If you went to Ragsdale, (a high-school) then you likely spent at least one night with a bottle of spray paint, tagging Lydia's hollow grounds.

Jamestown is a community that houses more than one Ghost tale, as it is also home to Guilford Community College (GTCC), which used to be a isolated medical facility designed to quarantine patients with untreatable afflictions in the middle of no where. The head-doctor's house currently still stands at the forefront of the property, and is said to be haunted by the patients whom were medically experimented on.

But the most notable of all Ghost legends is that of a high-school student named Lydia who died in 1923, in a car wreck at the site of what is today an abandoned train bridge. While many versions of the Jamestown Ghost exist, the most popular version is that...

 Lydia was on her way to her high-school prom with her date one rainy night. Her haphazard date, driving too fast, came upon the sharp curve in the road approaching the bridge and lost control, slamming the vehicle into the opening of the tunnel in a spectacular crash. While her date died immediately, Lydia stumbled out of the car bleeding in the rain, and attempted to waive down any vehicle that may have came by. Passerby's assumed she was just another hitchhiker, and passed her by until she eventually succumbed to the injuries sustained in the accident and died on the side of the road. 
Imagine the road, from how Lydia's bridge looks today.
When news of Lydia's death hit the citizens of Jamestown in the following days, they replied with outrage, and demanded that the curve in the road be corrected, and thus,  they built the adjacent bridge directly to the right of the current one forever straightening the road, or as we say in legend, righting the wrong path.
Though it was enough. Lydia still in anger at the people ignoring her hitchhiking pleas that night, has left her to haunt the road ever since. Legend says that on rainy nights under the full moon, if you travel down into the old tunnel, you can see Lydia in her luminous blood stained prom dress trying to get a ride. Some people have suggested she's merely trying to make it to her prom.
The light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn't know what to expect as I left Geology class today, and decided to go visit Lydia. It has been a few years since we actually endeavoured into the tunnel. In 2009, a project to double the railroad tracks over the top of Lydia's Bridge came to Jamestown and I worried the modifications may have permanently destroyed Lydia's domain. Oddly enough, there is now a plaque on Lydia's tunnel indicating the work that had been done. A rather odd place to put such a marker, since the only people who will ever see it is teenagers, thrill seekers and ghost hunters.Perhaps it's a "wink" from some transportation engineer to all of us, that something here is sacred.

The original railway was built in 1916.
As with previous visits I wondered if there would even be access to it, but the recent construction has actually made it more assessable. Another sign, a Lydia lover perhaps was behind the reformation. I of course approached it from the traditional access point, via Yorkleigh Lane. The reason this is important is because the stone road that leads through the power station is almost exactly where the old US 70, (High Point Road) would have been. In fact it's this very path that you walk, that re-traces the steps of Lydia's fateful last moments.



Pieces of Old US 70-A, the "Old Road" leading into Lydia's Bridge.

The housing tract in the background sprung up after the road was rerouted around Lydia's Bridge. I wonder if you must disclose that your house was built upon the area's most famous ghost story when it comes time to sell?
"No Ghost Here!" Are you sure?



At last I reach the entrance to the tunnel, and I stop to consider the possibility of some crazed homeless person foaming at the mouth, running out and attacking me with a hubcap, and who wants to eats my flesh. Likely they'd be some former college student who cracked under the pressure of the high educational standards at GTCC. I proceeded with caution.
Perhaps the last thing Lydia ever saw in this life.

I am now inside the most haunted overpass in North Carolina. It is without a doubt much less scary to come during the day, than at night, but you still get a sense of time gone by as you step into its near-century old walls. How many people have come before me, simply because of the Lydia story?


Lydia's Bridge as of 2006,
 before re-construction.
Evidence of local graffiti artists and homeless visitors are the closest I will come to confirming the legend of Lydia and her ghost today. Folk tale, fairy tale, or real life ghost, it appears Lydia, or Mary will be around for generations to come who wish to partake in this timeless hitchhiker ghost story.

Lydia loves.

1 comment:

  1. I live in Jamestown and went to Ragsdale High School. I always walked the railroad tracks to school and often to church further down the road. Cant tell you how many times I've walked by that bridge at night. I still get the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.

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