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.
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.
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.