The Bridge was probably the most visited landmark of the Haunted Woods, and probably of the whole county. It was where the spooky stories were told, where the beer and the cheap wine were drank, and where kisses were stolen in the moonlight.
Alias haunted bridge, hangman's bridge, headless bridge, and end of the road, this bridge was well known to many youth who visited there over the years. And as varied as the names of the bridge, so were the stories associated with it.
The Hangman's Bridge, as I will refer to it, was a simple beam-style bridge constructed around the 1960s. For whatever reason, the bridge was built, and a short time later, it was taken back apart. The bridge platform had been removed, leaving only a series of parallel steel beams running lengthwise and spanning the shallow creek below.
The story goes…that a road was to be built straight through the middle of the Haunted Woods. The bridge was the first step. But there were some who did not want the road. The workers would arrive at work many mornings and find that their equipment had been messed with during the night. But despite the distractions, the work continued, and the bridge was finished. It included the beginning of a low-maintenance road that went 100 yards into the woods on the other side. The rest had yet to be completed with construction to begin early that summer.
Two young couples were out joy riding in a convertible after the local prom. Three rode atop the back seat parade-style while the one young man drove. It is assumed he had decided to drive over the new bridge in order to park on the short road on the other side where the couples would have a little privacy. He eased into the turn, but then stepped on it to tease the girls as he headed for the bridge. No one saw the thin piano wire tied from tree to tree in the darkness of that night.
The piano wire struck the three across their necks. It was rumored the head of the driver’s girlfriend had come completely off.
The driver heard a loud scream. He hit the brakes. He did not realize what had happened until he was able to put the vehicle in park and turn around. Never could he have imagined...
Five days later, the young man attended the funeral of his girlfriend. Fellow students said his eyes were bloodshot, and that his cloths looked slept in. That would be understandable based on what he must have been going through. But the students at the funeral had something else to say about the young man and how he acted that day. He talked and carried himself quite normally around the other students, almost cheerful.
After the funeral, he left alone. He didn’t show up at home that night. His parents had an idea where he might be, and officers were immediately dispatched to the bridge. No one would have guessed... They found the young man had hung himself using the same piano cord, in one of the same trees. The cord had been left dangling there because someone hadn’t taken the time to remove it.
Long story short, the county shut down construction on the new road. Workers pulled all the planking off the bridge so no one would ever cross it again. An investigation went on for years, and probably is still ongoing today if you were to find the file, but they never did arrest anyone for putting the piano wire across the road. That remains a mystery.
But, one man thought he knew…
DEAD MAN'S PANTS
Only a few short years later, one of the local bachelors, a short stout fellow who kept beef cows in a pasture within the rolling hills of Haunted Woods, told his neighbors that people were living out ‘in the woods.’ And ever since he discovered them, he said they had been watching him. Their presence had become so frequent now that he was afraid they were going to hurt him.
He always said it had to do with the murder. That’s what he called the death of the young girl. It was a conspiracy theory that he couldn’t let go of, and the subject was brought up in every conversation you had with him, so the neighbors said.
The neighbors encouraged him to call the sheriff. But the middle-aged man feared it would only make things worse. Then one day, the sheriff came to him. He pulled into the drive of the small farm. One of the neighbor's must have called, but no one admitted to it. And no one knows to this day what the bachelor told the sheriff. It's all confidential, and part of yet another ongoing investigation that will probably never get solved. But this is what the people of the area did know:
Later that night, long after the sheriff had been out to visit, the bachelor had gotten into his station wagon and headed south down the road. Maybe just headed to town for a gallon of milk, but he never made it.
They found the station wagon parked alongside the road two miles down from his house with the headlights off but the engine left running. Thirty feet away, and hammered to a fence post with a long heavy spike was the bachelor. Slumped over and deader than a door nail.
(I say that cliché not to be cute, but because the old medieval door nails referenced in "Deader than a door nail" are more than likely the ancestor to the heavy American square nail.)
The bachelor was removed from his perch, and after his funeral had come and gone, so settled the people of the woods back into their routine. It was not until two weeks later that something utterly horrifying was found. Right in the exact spot where the bachelor had been, someone had nailed a pair of the dead man’s trousers to the pole. No one dared remove them.
It was a message, the elders of the neighborhood said. If you see those folks living in the woods, keep your damn mouth shut. And they all did just that. The trousers hung there for better than 20 years. Then one Sunday morning, when the locals headed into town for church, they couldn’t help but notice as they passed the spot: The trousers were gone.
THE HOBO CAMP
By the 1980s, high school kids had been visiting the old bridge on a regular basis. One group of young fellas, who had heard the stories, would repeat them in detail while visiting the bridge in an effort to frighten the girls into snuggling up to them on the cool moonlit nights. One summer evening, when the twilight hung on, the boys went for a hike. They walked the planks, and headed into the woods on the far side. They were surprised to find a fairly well used trail. It gave the young men the encouragement they needed to continue. As long as they had a good trail, it would be hard to get lost, right?
The trail led north, then east, and up and down a few small hills, before climbing to the top of a ridge which the trail followed for quite a ways. The sky tinted a darker shade of blue. It made the boys nervous. They were about to turn back when one of the boys called out, what’s that?
The four of them looked down in the valley to their left and saw several small huts. They were thrown together with an assortment of boards, cardboard, scrap tin and other material, and had faded to the point where they were nearly invisible to the eye in the twilight. Actually, one was more likely to notice the tin cans and other debris, and the blackened ground that surrounded a fire pit nearby. The curiosity lasted only a few seconds. One boy said, hobo camp. Let’s check it out. Another said, we better keep going; it’s getting dark. The consensus was to leave and come back during the daylight.
It was likely farther to backtrack, then it would be to follow the trail and cut toward the road. The sun was setting and they used it as a compass to head south. They stepped out of the woods into a pasture, crossed a fence, crossed another fence, hopped across some wetlands, up one more hill, and stumbled out onto the road. By this time it was completely dark, and those four young men were happy to be out of the woods. They headed west on the gravel road and after walking a half mile, they arrived back at the bridge.
But the story for those four young men doesn’t end there.
At noon the next day, they arrived back at the bridge. They made their way across the beams, headed into the woods, and followed the trail north, then east; exactly as they had the night before. The trail was clear and easy to follow. They made good time in the daylight, and soon they were on the ridge. A couple of them even ran along the top of the ridge in excitement and anticipation. But when the boys got to the area where they were the night before; things looked different down in the valley. There was something down there, but not what they had seen the night before. All of them ran down the hill into the clearing below. There, they saw the remains of what may have been two huts a long time ago but the debris lay flat with the ground. A few food cans were sprawled around but had been there so long they were nearly covered with grass and leaves. There was a fire circle, but even it was so many years displaced that they would not have noticed it unless they were standing next to it. This isn’t the same place, one of the boys remarked. They climbed back up the hill, and followed the ridge farther and farther, all the way to the fence and the pasture they had crossed; still, nothing. They crossed the fence, and then another fence, hopped across the wet ground, and ended back up on the road. All of the boys were clearly disappointed.
They headed west on the road, just as they had the night before. They walked almost a mile before one of them finally said, something isn't right. It took some time to convince them to walk back in the other direction. Could they have walked right past the road to the bridge? It seemed impossible. But they headed back in the other direction anyway. A mile and a half later, they came across the road leading to the bridge. How had that happened? They were much too tired now to go back in and try to figure out their mistake. Or was it a mistake. Maybe it was the woods, or the spirits of the woods that changed the order of time so that their walk the night before was…set back in time. The boys could not answer any of those questions. It was a bizarre occurrence that they would talk about for years to come.
Strange things like this happen all over the world, all of the time. Most often the unexplainable stories go untold but to a family member or close friend. Don’t want anyone to think you’re crazy. Chopski's Woods was well known for those types of weird things to happen. Cars would shut off for no apparent reason. The house on the hill would have a light on in the upstairs bedroom and you’d see kids jumping on the bed at all hours of the night.
Fast forward another 20 years and nothing looks the same; so many changes, so many new houses. One can only wonder if any of the ‘People of the woods’ are still around. Where would they hide? Much the same question asked when talking about Bigfoot. Are they spirit (apparitions) of people from long ago that appear as their energy permits in the universe? Some things we may never know.