The Saratoga Light #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. It’s been a while since I did a Mystery Monday post. This topic has been on my mind for a while, so here goes.

Bragg Road, the sight of the Saratoga Light (Creative Commons Photo)

The Big Thicket is a heavily forested area of Southeast Texas. It’s a high biodiverse area with at least eight ecosystems, over 160 species of trees and shrubs, 800 herbs and vines, 340 types of grasses, and a large diversity of animals.

Some of the earliest known permanent settlers were the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in the 1780s, although nomadic Native Americans hunted there prior to that time.

Like many places, the Big Thicket has its share of legends. The most famous I know of is The Saratoga Light.

Sometimes referred to as the Big Thicket Light, this ghostly phenomenon periodically appears at night along a stretch of dirt road in Hardin County.

Old Bragg Road was originally a seven-mile railroad bed for the Santa Fe line. It ran from Bragg Station to Saratoga and was operational from 1901 through 1934. The bed remained and became a well-used road through some of the densest woods in the Big Thicket.

Entrance to the Ghost Road (Creative Commons Photo)

People began reporting sightings while the tracks remained. In later years, various accounts had varying colors and characteristics, however, all agreed a ghostly light of some sort frequented the road.

Some said the lights were cars traveling along the road to Sarasota, others thought it was swamp gas, or foxfire. Some even attributed the sightings as figments of active imaginations.

The more romantic explanations came from stories of local history. Mysterious lights have long been associated with buried hidden treasure. Some believe Spanish Conquistadors cached a treasure of gold in the thicket but failed to return.

Other legends say the light was a tiny amount of fire that remained after the Kaiser burnout. During the days of the Civil War, Confederate Captain James B. Kaiser flushed out Kansas Jayhawkers by starting a fire.

Another story claims a railroad man was decapitated in a train wreck. Searchers found his body, but not his head. Legend claims his body still roams the area looking for the lost head.

One tale claims the light is a spectral fire carried by a night hunter who was lost in the Big Thicket. He wanders, unable to rest, attempting to find a way out of the mud and briars.

Other people give a story of a Mexican Cemetery. According to the story, a crew of Mexicans were hired to help cut the right of way and lay the tracks. Supposedly, the foreman didn’t want to pay their wages, so he killed the men and kept the money for himself. He buried them in the dense woods, and now their restless spirits haunt that piece of ground.

Perhaps the most famous legend is that of a man who sold his farm and everything he had to work as a brakeman on the Saratoga line. After the Santa Fe railroad decreased the number of runs, the man lost his job and had no prospects for another one. He died shortly thereafter. His lonesome and troubled spirit still walks the railroad bed with his brakeman’s lantern, looking for the life he left behind.

32 comments

  1. Wow…there’s so much I don’t know about Texas. What an incredible story, Joan. We’re hoping to take a road trip to San Antonio when the virus lifts and life returns to “normal”. When that magical time arrives, I’d like to stop by Big Thicket. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so looking forward to returning to normal. My husband and I were just talking about wanting to visit New Braunfels (which is near San Antonio).

      San Antonio is a great place to visit. As my brother once said, “Tyler and Longview are East Texas. Midland and Odessa are West Texas. San Antonio and Austin ARE Texas. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mysteries like this are so much fun! Our newspaper had an article on Sunday about Fort Wayne neighborhoods that were built on Indian burial grounds and all of the skeletons and trinkets that people stole while contractors dug for basements and pipelines. Ugh! And none of them thought a thing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is terrible! Some people have no respect. Several years ago, a neighbor’s son found a couple of arrowheads in our field. My brother and a friend had plowed it to plant peas. There’s no telling what’s buried beneath us.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As many times as I have visited East Texas, I have yet to go explore this phenomenon. Thanks for posting about it, because it is something I intend to fully explore at some point. I’ll give you a shout and we can check it out together! 🙂 Thanks, Joan! I love things like this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love any folklore related to light manifestations, Joan. It’s one of my favorite type of legends, if not favorite. I’d never heard of the Saratoga Lights before. This is fascinating stuff. As freaky as I am about not stepping foot in a haunted house or partaking in a ghost walk, I would drive a road where balls of light were rumored to appear. Erm, as long as someone was with me, LOL.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m considering a trip there once the weather cools. Funny thing, my husband watches a show about Texas game wardens called Lone Star Law. Last night there was a segment about a hunter getting lost at night in the Big Thicket. He was safe and didn’t report any mysterious lights.

      Like

  5. Sounds like there are as many “explanations” and tales about these lights as there are about the equally infamous Brown Mountain Lights. I based my 4th Wake-Robin Ridge book, The Light, on those, and I’m certain you could write a wonderful book that included some of these tales, too. Go for it! I know I’d read it, for sure. 🙂 Great post, Joan. It really stirs the imagination. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I do hope you work this lore into a story. Stuff like this fascinates me. Great post, Joan.

    BTW, I kept reading this as “Sarasota” and couldn’t figure out how Florida and Texas were sharing a mystery. Duh. (I finally got it. Obviously.)

    Liked by 1 person

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