6/26/2017

The Ghost Under The Bridge






Today we are pleased to welcome Marcia Owens-Ward as our guest poster on the Paranormal/Supernatural topic.   Marcia is a retired schoolteacher from West Virginia.  She and her husband, Arnold, likewise a retired schoolteacher, now reside in the Tarpon Springs, Florida area.  Although Marcia and Arnold have no children, they do have three Golden Retrievers named Dolly, Mabel and, the only male of the trio, Abel.  They have one cat named Kida who brings tons of laughs each and every day.  Marcia's hobbies consist of gardening, reading, writing and maintaining a retired schoolteacher blog online.  She and her husband work for various charities on weekends.

 If you have a story to share relating to the paranormal/supernatural, click HERE for details.  Also, to answer many questions, there is no charge for guest posting on the topic of the paranormal/supernatural. 

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To begin, I wish to thank the staff and editors of David's Musings for choosing my story out of the dozens or perhaps hundreds that are submitted to them each month.  My story is rather tame by comparison to some I have read here (shudder!).   But, for whatever reason, they liked mine over all the others for the story of the month.  Thanks again to Nancy, Tamara and, of course, Staff Editor, Charlotte Hensley.  Now, I begin my story.....

I lived in the Mountaineer State (West Virginia to the less informed) all of my childhood and into my adult life until my retirement from the West Virgina School System in 2002.  Like a lot of retirees, my husband and I moved to Florida for the sun, sandy beaches and wonderful diverse cultures we found here.  We love it.  But, nothing will ever take my heart like my home state of West Virginia.  I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood and as an adult.  We lived in the north-central part of West Virginia.  We faced many hardships during my childhood like so many people in my home state.  The poverty level in West Virginia, especially those near the Appalachian Mountains, was as bad as any third-world country.  But, we managed to survive in spite of the many hardships.  My dad did carpentry work and different odd jobs when he could find it.  My mother, in addition to taking care of 5 children and an alcoholic husband,  took in laundry from other people near town.  It was a hard life.  At times, we didn't know if we would have food on the table.  All this hardship made me and my siblings invent make-believe games to provide a temporary escape from the brutal, grinding poverty we found ourselves immersed every day of our lives.

One of our games involved us as being "lost kids" in the wilderness and backwoods of our area.  We would play this game all the time, for hours even.  We were "lost kids" who kept a watchful eye on our home so we did not actually get lost.  Our game would usually end at the Herbert J. Jones Bridge (HJJ Bridge).  The HJJ bridge was one of those country bridges that was usually just one lane traffic.  If you saw another car coming in the opposite direction, you either waited for him to cross or tried to beat him to the bridge.  A lot of wrecks happened this way until they put in lights making you stop so the other car could pass first.  As I said, our "lost kids" game would end at the HJJ bridge.  There were lots of rumors and legends about this bridge.  No one could actually remember who Herbert J. Jones was and why he had a bridge named in his honor.  Nothing in county records had any mention of him.  That should give you some idea of how old that bridge is (It's still there and still one lane).  One of the legends is there is a ghost or apparition that would appear there from time to time directly under the bridge.  It was always a small girl, about 10 years of age according to most "observers."  My mother and father thought it was total nonsense.  My mother was what was referred to as a "Hard-shell Baptist."  I invite you to do a Google search on that to get the true meaning.  She was deeply religious and said many times she thought the HJJ Bridge was the Devil's playground.  That was her answer to the ghost sightings under the bridge.  We were warned to stay away.  Of course, with that warning, that practically guaranteed we would visit that bridge.

As previously stated, the ghost was said to be a 10-12-year-old girl who appeared under the bridge according to people who claimed to have seen it.  If you remained silent enough, you could hear her say, "Mama, Mama....I want my Mama" over and over again until she would vanish. That was heartbreaking to even think about.  We were told she would appear in the wee hours of the morning.  I would imagine this was about 1 to 2 AM.  That was my thought from hearing all the stories about the ghost under the bridge.  One day, my mother announced to all of us, that she and my father would be going to a church retreat for about 3 days.  I was told since I was the oldest (16 years of age, when a lot of girls were married and had at least one child) I would be held responsible for the care of my 4 younger siblings.  This didn't sit well with my 14-year-old brother who felt he should be in charge since he was the oldest male (If he were to say that to me today, there would be a terrible argument about sexism).  We were given plenty of food (as much as could be considered plenty back in the day) to eat and survive with for those 3 days.  If there were any problems, we were to run over to Mr. Hollinger's house for assistance since he was not going to the church retreat due to a sick wife.  I could see no problems with any of this.  Of course, this didn't take in consideration of me and my siblings feeling free from our parents for at least 5 years.  We were going to do what we wanted within reason, of course.  As I'm sure you may have surmised, the first thing on the agenda was to go to the Herbert J. Jones Bridge after midnight to see if the ghostly little girl would appear.  I quickly agreed if everyone would go to bed early to get a few hours sleep.  Everyone quickly agreed.  Everyone was excited because this is something we never dared try with our parents at home.

I woke everyone up about midnight.  I decided that my 5-year-old sister would stay with my 10-year-old sister, Sarah, who did not want to go.  This, as you can imagine, caused confusion and anger.  My 14-year-old brother, Arthur, and my 12-year-old sister, Carla, would go with me to the HJJ bridge.  I gave strict orders that the two remaining behind would stay in bed.  If they came out, then they would get the whipping from me that they ordinarily would get from Papa.  That basically got their attention, which is exactly what I wanted.  I did not want to go through the woods, in the dark, looking for lost siblings.  In fact, I was having second thoughts about this entire adventure to the HJJ bridge.  But, I knew if I backed out, there would be a revolt from my 14-year-old brother, Arthur. I did not want that since he was always challenging my authority.  So, the three of us left our home at about 1 AM in the morning.  It was about a 20-minute walk usually.  But, since it was dark (albeit with a three-quarter moon), we took our time.  It took 30 minutes to get to the Herbert J Jones Bridge.  It had rained the previous day so the current was swifter than usual. I threw a rock into the water to get a gauge on how fast the water was flowing.  It was really flowing fast and I was really worried for our safety now.  I warned both Arthur and Carla to stay away from the water's edge.  Arthur immediately felt his 14 ear old manhood challenged.  "I'm tired of you telling me what to do all the time, Marcia!  I'm only 19 months younger than you.  So, stop telling me...." And Arthur suddenly stopped in mid-sentence (good thing too since I had a scorcher of a reply ready).  I looked at Arthur and was about to ask him what was wrong when I heard it.  "Mama, Mama...where you at, Mama?  It was just above a whisper.  I'm thinking, we haven't even been here five minutes and we hear the little girl under the bridge?  What are the odds of that happening?  Some people have been coming here at this time and heard nothing for years and years.  We just stumble upon this ghostly voice by sheer coincidence.

All three of us are now frightened.  "Let's go home!  Let's get out of here, Marcia!" Said my suddenly not-so-brave 14-year-old brother, Arthur.  "Shutup!  We're here now, so just be quiet!" I whispered to him a bit too forcefully.  Carla tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look under the bridge.  At first, I thought it was a moon-lit shadow from a bush on the shore.  But, as my eyes adjusted, I realized it was indeed the ghostly figure of what appeared to me to be a 10-year-old girl.  I told Arthur and Carla to stay there because I was going to get a closer look.  Carla wanted to go with me.  Arthur suddenly didn't mind me telling him what to do.  I approached the little ghost girl (I hope that does not sound insensitive, I honestly did not know what to call her) with a great deal of caution.  I did not want her to leave.

 I got to within about 20 feet I estimated.  "Hello, little girl.  Why are you under this bridge on this cool night?" I asked.  It appeared she turned her head to look at me.  It was difficult to really tell if she did due to the darkness and her almost transparent form.  "I want my Mama.  I can't find her.  Can you help me look?" Asked the little ghost girl.  My heart just broke into a million pieces when she asked me that.  First, I was amazed I got a sentient answer from this spirit form.  I never believed in ghosts since my mother thought they were of the devil.  But, how could this be from the devil, this little girl who does not seem to know she died long ago?  "I know where your Mama is.  But, first, you have to tell me your name, little girl," I asked.  For about two minutes, I got no answer.  Then, I heard the little ghost girl say, "Rachel."   I asked her for her last name and got no answer for that.  "Where is my Mama?  I want to go home.  Please help me" Said Rachel (I will be referring to her as Rachel now).  I found myself crying now.  There is no telling how long this little girl has come under this bridge, asking for her mother.  I could not judge her clothing (or what passed for it).  But, it appeared to be from a long time ago.

This child, this one-time being wanted nothing more than to be with her mother.  I have felt heartache during my life.  Losing my mother was devastating and losing my beloved sister Carla at the tender age of 21 to Cancer was equally devastating.  I could barely talk for weeks at end over Carla's death.  But, this episode with the ghost girl, Rachel, was deeply troubling to me then and now many years later.  I summoned all my courage and wits about me to try to help this little ghost girl, Rachel.  "Rachel....Rachel, I want you to listen to me now.  I want you to tell me if you see a bright light.  Do you see a warm, bright light, Rachel?" I asked with tears coming down my cheeks.   At first, for several minutes, she said nothing.  Her form was still there.  But, I knew we were running out of time.  I asked the same question again.  A couple of minutes and nothing.  Then...."Yes....I see a nice light." Said Rachel.  "I want you to walk to that light, Rachel. It will not hurt you.  Your mother is there waiting for you!  You must go to her," I said to Rachel as I choked back my tears and gasping of a heartache for a long dead child.  Rachel seemed tentative.  Scared?  I don't want to seem callous.  But, this little ghost girl was scared.  Perhaps she did not realize she was dead.  I urged her to walk toward the light.  She seemed to look at me....and turned to her left....and disappeared into eternity for all I knew at the time.  My sister Carla came to me crying and put her arms around me (she will always be my little angel, oh how I love and miss Carla!).  She helped me back to where I had told them both to stay.  Arthur was still in the same spot I left him.   

We safely made it back to our home.  Sarah was sound asleep with our precious 5-year-old sister in her arms.  I looked at Sarah and realized it could have been her under that bridge.  But, for the Grace of God.....I don't know how to explain it.  Our parents made it back safely.  I give all my siblings credit, they did not mention anything about our adventure until years later when we were all out of the house and on our own.   I would talk about that late night adventure with my late sister Carla sometimes when we both were up late at night and couldn't sleep.  I kept thinking about that little girl, little Rachel.  I did do some investigating around town and at the library.  I didn't have much to go on.  I didn't have the last name of Rachel, no year she was born and died, no relatives names.  Not much of anything.  All I found was conjecture.  The only Rachel I found listed in any county records was a Rachel Lownes.  This Rachel was 11 years old and died of the Cholera epidemic that took place back in 1931.  But, she lived a good 15 miles from the HJJ bridge.  That doesn't sound like much today.  But, in 1931, that was a trip that lasted most, if not all day long.  I'll never know if that was the Rachel under the Herbert J. Jones Bridge.  It doesn't explain why she appears under the bridge either.  It pains me to even type this part.  The not knowing will always bother me for some reason. 

I have to believe that Rachel did go to the light and that she did find her mother there waiting for her.  That's the only way I can reconcile this within myself.  I do feel in my heart and I honestly believe, Rachel did find her mother in that warm, welcoming light.  I say that because no mention has ever been made of another sighting of the ghost under the bridge since I told little Rachel to walk to the light that cold early morning so long ago.  In my mind, my sister Carla, little Rachel and her mother are together watching over me as I type this story. 

Once again, I thank everyone at David's Musings for allowing me to post my story here. 

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