Curtains of rain slash the dark evening, obscuring a young man’s vision. A flash of white on his left seizes his attention. Realizing with a start that the pale figure is a young woman, he forces the brake down and the car shudders to a stop. She is at the door instantly. He reaches across to unlock it, brow furrowed as he absorbs her mangled white evening gown, and asks how he can help. In a lilting voice, saturated with sorrow, she merely gives her name and address and asks to be taken home. The young man brims with confusion and concern for the silent girl as they drive, but she says nothing. The storm has subsided when the car pulls up in front of the address she provided, leaving a thick fog in its wake, but the young man sees no signs of warmth or waiting inside the shrouded house. Perplexed, he turns to the girl for confirmation, but there is no sign of her. Fear pulses through his body, and he opens the car door with a shaky hand, rising to scan the street for her and seeing nothing. He sprints to the house’s front porch and pounds on the screen door with such fervor that the structure shivers. The porch light glimmers weakly, and he hears a deadbolt sliding open on the other side of the door. Peering out is an old woman. Panic cracks his voice as he begins to speak, but the woman’s expression stops him. “You aren’t the first one this has happened to. Her name is Lydia and she was my daughter,” She explains. It sounds as if she has recited her words dozens of time, but wounds bleed fresh when she looks into the terrified eyes of the boy at her doorstep and reports, “She died in 1923.”
In 1923, traveling Route 70 East between Jamestown and Greensboro, Lydia and her prom date headed toward the night’s celebration. Her date took the curve that led under the bridge too fast and lost control. The car crashed into the structure’s concrete wall, killing her date instantly. Lydia managed to crawl out of the twisted remains of the vehicle and struggle toward the road, though she was severely wounded, her beautiful dress blood-soaked. There she signaled frantically for help from those who passed, but no one stopped so she died there, unaided. The deaths of two young people sent waves of grief through the community of Jamestown. The fierce outcry of citizens led to the correction of the curve and construction of a new bridge fifty feet from the spot where two young lives were cut short, which every high schooler in the Triad then dutifully graffiti’d. In 1924, one year after the fatal accident, the sightings began. A steady stream of drivers report spotting the pale figure or hearing screams at the place she was killed, and a trickle relate tales of driving her home only to have her disappear when they arrived and receiving a worn explanation from the resident of the house, like the young man did. Now, Lydia haunts the bridge, swaying in her luminous dress and beseeching everyone who passes to give her a futile ride home.
Everyone, that is, but me.
I’ve employed every resource at my disposal to lure Lyd into my car. Lights off in Brad’s car, and crouched in the backseat next to Emily, I rode back and forth under the bridge seventeen times. The latter three circuits ended with the car at a complete standstill underneath the haunted structure. We rolled the windows down and called her name. Cleared out the car to make room for her. Assuaged her fears with the soothing voice of Weezy. Made a number of insensitive jokes about drunk driving to enrage her. Concocted an elaborate homage to her, constructed it with masking tape and spray paint, commemorated it on the bridge, and had our efforts derailed by a droopy-eyed sheriff sighing, “Go home and go to bed.” All this and, still, she did not come to us.
So we went to her.
“Bring a flashlight! Weapons! Candles!” Ally instructs over the phone while I fervently throw the items into a backpack. “Wooden stakes! Garlic! Duct tape! Matches! A steak knife!” Later I found out that she was only jesting about bringing a knife, and was subsequently surprised when I brandished a gleaming one as we sailed down the moonbeam-drenched road. My contributions were matched and exceeded my three ghost hunting comrades: Ally, with camera and car; Stevie C, with skepticism; and Brad, with an electromagnetic field detector. “Brad, where did you get an electromagnetic field detector?” I probe. “You know,” he says. After parking in nearby Yorkshire, our quartet crept like kudzu through the dark, oozing around the perimeter, then began our grave descent to Lydia. We snaked through grasping vegetation terminating in an yawning bridge writhing with vines. The cavernous mouth housed inverted pentagrams, crude phallic sketches, and a florid beacon of red splatters high on one curving wall. Cans and clothes crumbled at our feet. We skimmed the edges, wielding the silent EMF detector in the shadows of a looming electricity plant but receiving no sign of our specter. Spotted a cougar, but spirits still eluded us.
The allure of Lydia’s story is simple. The encounter occurs, not be because the person is seeking the supernatural, but because the supernatural sought them. This legend reinforces the belief that haunted happenings are mere happenstance. Her deception, disguising herself as a living person, draws us in. We can’t pin her down, not with knives or conniving, but she can always infiltrate our warm spheres of existence. “She is whatever we need her to be” are Brad’s solemn concluding words on the subject. “If we need a omnipotent benevolent sheperd of wayfaring adventurers, she’ll be that, but if we need a demonic baby eating psycho ghost, she can be that, too.” It’s five in the morning. “I don’t know why we’d need that.” Neither of us have slept. “And I forgot the point I was trying to make.”