A Houston County Ghost Story
By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – Growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Grapeland, there wasn’t a lot for a teenager to do. The movie theater in town had shut down and there were only so many quarters you could waste on a video game. There were no really cool things like the internet, cell phones or interactive gaming systems to occupy a teenager’s time.
As a result, many Friday and Saturday nights were spent riding around with friends and seeing just how much trouble you could find without really causing any harm. Sometimes, some type of adventure would be discovered and would be talked about for the next few weeks. Sometimes, however, things happened and not one word was ever said.
I guess it was 1982 or it might have been 1981, when a friend of mine named Larry King told me about a place he had recently discovered. It was called Bridgesville and had a population sign which said it had three (3) people. It was a Saturday night and we had nothing better to do, so we decided to take a ride out to Bridgesville and see the sign. I told you already there was very little to do in Grapeland.
We loaded up and took off. To get to Bridgesville, you head west of Grapeland on the Rock Hill Road and just before the paved road ends, you turn to your right. You wind your way along a dirt road make a couple of turns here and there and in about 20 minutes you’re in Bridgesville.
Before heading to the booming metropolis, we summoned our courage and went to Palestine with an ill-doctored I.D. in hopes of purchasing an adult beverage or 12. Lo and behold, we were successful. After we got back to Grapeland, Bridgesville beckoned.
Because he knew the way, Larry was driving. As I mentioned, it’s a pretty fair hike and with adult beverages added to the mix, a pit stop was necessary. We had reached the dirt road and about two, maybe three miles down the road, Larry pulled over.
I got out from the passenger side and as I stepped out of the car, I noticed what I thought was a white colored rock, just inside the fence line. I walked over to it and realized it wasn’t a rock. It was a tombstone.
I was a little startled at first because it seemed very much out of place. It was dark and the overhanging trees made it even darker, but I could tell it was old. I thought I heard Larry say something, but when I asked, he said he hadn’t said anything. He asked what I was looking at and I told him. He came over to see and just shrugged his shoulders. I was a little creeped out by the whole thing but I certainly didn’t want to show it.
Anyway, as we started to get back in the car, I swore I heard a kid’s voice. While I have forgotten a lot as I have grown older, I remember hearing that voice just like it was yesterday. Almost in a whisper, I heard it say, “Don’t go.”
Needless to say, my creeped out factor was now approaching epic levels. Larry got back in the car (I had been there for what seemed like a month) and we continued on towards Bridgesville. Not surprisingly, we found the place and with no offense intended towards the folks living there, it was every bit the let down I expected.
It seemed strange to me, but something about that tombstone stuck in my mind the rest of the night and into the next day. The following day, I was curious if the adult beverages might have influenced what I thought I saw the night before. I tried to convince myself, even though it was a let down, Bridgesville was still kinda cool, and I wanted to see if I could find it on my own and in the daytime.
I made it out there and had no intentions of stopping, but for some reason that tombstone was almost like a beacon. I’ve always been curious by nature. I wanted to see what was on that tombstone, so I stopped and read the grave marker for the first time. The chiseled out letters were worn down and somewhat faded, but what I remember was the grave marked the burial site of a little girl named Sally who died in 1866. I couldn’t make out the date of her birth but it was sometime in the 1850s.
It may have been the wind, but as I stood up I swore I heard the voice again. It seemed to come from behind me. I slowly spun around and in the distance, I saw what appeared to be something small and brightly colored running through the trees.
Realizing I was late for something, somewhere I jumped back in my car and tore out of there, setting all kinds of land speed records for a Ford Mustang II. I swore never to go back there.
You know what they say about the best laid plans? Larry (and probably me as well) had told others about Bridgesville and before long we might as well have been giving tours out there, however I never stopped by Sally’s marker until years later.
One weekend when I was home from college, I was bored and for some reason, Bridgesville beckoned. Off I went, knowing there was no way I would stop at Sally’s grave. I should have known better…..
I hadn’t been out that way in probably two years, but I knew exactly where to look. The area was a little more overgrown and the tombstone was a little more weathered. As I walked up to take a closer look, I noticed what appeared to be fresh flowers and in the distance, a little girl.
She was strange looking which is the reason – maybe – I didn’t run. Looking at me, I heard those famous words, “Don’t go.” That broke my trance and mister, let me tell you, the parents’ Pontiac could fly.
That last adventure, literally, haunted me for several days. Later in the week, I was in the library at A&M. Don’t laugh – it happened. I had learned quite a bit about research methods over the three years I had been in College Station, so I decided to dig a little bit and see if I could find anything about this little girl named Sally.
I learned there was quite a lot of activity in the Houston County area immediately after the Civil War. People were moving in and as the area gained more people, a demand for some type of entertainment arose.
The circus was growing in popularity throughout the nation and several came through the Grapeland / Houston County area. I learned a little girl was found dead in a creek, west of Grapeland, after one of these circuses departed.
Apparently, these circuses had some nefarious characters associated with them. Following one show, several of the circus performers had been accused of theft. The other performers had gone back to where they were staying, west of town, when they were confronted about the alleged theft. The situation escalated and the circus was forced to leave the area in the middle of the night.
According to the legend I had found, the circus left in such a hurry, one of the youngest performers had been left behind. She was named Sally and worked as a clown, along with her parents. The legend read Sally had snuck out of her parents tent that night and no one noticed she was gone until the next day. When her parents realized they had left their daughter behind in their haste to flee the area, they returned to look for her. They discovered her body face down in a creek.
I have gone back towards Bridgesville several times over the years and stopped by Sally’s grave. Nothing ever happened. No voices, no weird looking characters appeared – nothing that is – until Monday.
With Halloween approaching, my boss said she needed a creepy picture for the paper. I hadn’t thought about Sally in years, but some corner of my mind spoke up and said, “I got one for ya!”
Off I went to find Sally’s tombstone, once again. I couldn’t find it at first but when I met a Consolidated Water truck heading the other way down the road, I was forced to pull over and there it was. A little more faded, a little more weathered, but just outside my passenger window, I saw the grave marker.
I got out and was setting up to take the shot, when I heard a soft, far away voice saying, “Don’t go!” I looked up and there she was. Sally was standing back in the trees, wearing her costume and pleading, “Don’t go!”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.