Only two days from the beginning of the Tripping on Legends Summer Road Trip, Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano get more in depth with the first leg of the trip through Florida and into North Carolina to explore an area known as the Piedmonts.
The Tripping on Legends Road Trip 2017 has finally actually hit the road…although the first stop is in Florida.
Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano make a quick pit stop in Sanford, Florida, to visit the cemetery behind the cemetery. Shiloh Cemetery is known for an urban legend of a serial killer victim with beautiful hair but no face.
There might be something else there with her though as a man with a like (or a distaste) for Natalie starts to come through loud and clear.
You can contact us with questions, comments, and your favorite legend or tidbit of folklore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re still knee deep in the #hauntedlove project, so we’re especially looking for ghost stories with a love twist.
Feel free to call our new phone number during our lives shows to get involved or whenever just to share a legend you’ve heard to ask a question at ((813) 418-6822.
On day two of the Tripping on Legends Road Trip, Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano hit the great state of North Carolina.
Over the next two days, the Trippers hit up three urban legends from the area known as The Piedmonts. First they look to discover what the true story is at the Devil’s Tramping Ground in Chatham County.
Something decides to kick something out of the Tramping Ground as the Tripper explore the surrounding area…the craziness starts 19 seconds in…
They then head to Durham to search for the headless trainman who walks the grounds near the old Catsburg Country Store.
They close out the marathon day hot on the trail of a white gowned ghost hitchhiker named Lydia. You can look into some of the stories at North Carolina Ghost Stories.
The only motivation more powerful than love is desperation. Put in the wrong situation, a good man will do
things he would never have contemplated.
Love may lift your heart, but desperation lowers it. Too often the two play with each other and
those soaring highs of passion can make one sink even deeper when it isn’t met
by another person. Put in a corner, what would you do? What would you do if it was for love?
It’s unclear what brought the man to the bridge that night, but it was definitely one of the two. He met the old woman by a full moon to purchase a love potion, but we do not know his motivation. There may have been a specific woman he had his eye on or something more economic on his mind. The old woman was well known by that time as someone who was well trained in mixing herbs and concurring the elements to make things happen. No one uttered the word witch. The people in the town were too dependent on her folk remedies and too use to consulting her to use that word, and there was nothing evil in her eye or suspicious in her actions to warrant that tag. She was just an old woman who knew things, much like the medicine men of the Seminole who had been there before.
Listen to the original episode where we discuss the legend..and some crazy love potions.
It’s odd he hadn’t asked about the price before he agreed to
meet her. It was steep. In return for the love potion who would bring
his true love into his arms, all he had to do was give her his firstborn
child. He was infuriated. He grabbed the crone, swearing to anyone who
might have heard them on that night that he would never give up his child. In the struggle, she fell from the bridge and
impaled herself on the cypress tree growing near the banks of the water. He knew what he had done would condemn him,
and who would miss the old woman anyway.
Weighing the body down with stones, he drifted the body out to the
middle of the creek and let the body drop to the bottom and ran for a new town.
The next part of the story gets hazy. Some say her ghost began to appear on the bridge, pointing to where her body lay on the bottom. Others stories say by the time the man left town never to be seen again her body had floated back to the top, revealing his crime. Most of the people who continue to see her don’t care which of the stories are true. They just know she is still seen on the bridge, especially during a full moon. It’s a story that’s been part of Arbuckle Creek long enough to outlast the town itself, and some modern reports say she may have gotten her revenge in death. There’s more than one spirit on the bridge in Lorida, and they may still be playing out a deal gone bad seventy years later.
When we hear a story like this, the first thing we try to do is relate it and see if the story makes sense with the area. A story like the Mini-Lights shouts about the way the neighborhood views itself and its invaders or the story of Oak Ridge Cemetery makes sense given the setting. This legend, while familiar in its elements, seems so isolated that there just might be something to it. While we originally discovered the story on Haunted Places, there were enough whispers about it, and enough odd moments in the history to make it worth going out.
The town of Lorida is itself a ghost town, another victim of the train boom and its own geography. There was obviously something odd going on there before it had been settled. The Seminoles, trying to make their way south during their early period of migration, suffered major causalities trying to cross the lake nearby. They ended up naming it Lake Istokpoga, which means “Lake where someone was killed in the water.” The towns grew up around the body of water, and while those who called it home seemed to enjoy the land while they lived there, it rose and fell in less than a hundred years.
The town was first settled in 1910 when people began to settle around the bank of the lake. There was plenty of land to graze and open space, so roots began to be put down. The name was changed from Cow House to Sunnyland to the Hamlet of Istokpoga. The name stuck, but when the Acline came through and started a small settlement to coincide with their rail stop on the other side of the water, people began to get confused over which was which and mail began to get lost. Mary Strokes, who ran the post office at the time, suggested the name Lorida. The town found its footing in farming and cattle and grew as the trains came through and roads began to be put down. The town itself has never become as popular or populated as some of the ones around it, with Highway 98 being the only way in and out of town.
It’s unclear how well the story of the witch is known in the town. It feels too old to really take place during the timeline of the town. Rich Newman in his book Haunted Bridges: Over 300 of America’s Creepiest Crossings dates the meeting at 1945, but when I followed up with him he was unable to remember when he had heard that date. The current bridge was built in 1965, and we were unable to find any concrete evidence on when the bridge became concrete. The legend takes an odd turn though. According to almost all versions of the story, the witch began to be seen on the bridge not long after her death and plagued the town enough for them to try and stop her nightly appearances. A mob formed, traveled to her shack in the swamp, and burned it to the ground hoping that would stop her. It did not work.
That would be enough, but there are other stories that paint a more complex picture of what might be going on there. The woman has been known to mess with people’s radios, appear on the bridge to passing cars, and float over the sight of her murder in the form of ghost lights. However, there have been two other ghosts seen at the spot. According to a follow-up comment on Haunted Places, and echoed a few other places online, a man and a small boy have also been seen there. These two have been known to duck under the bridge and out of sight and play with the poles of people who try fishing there. Could it be that the murder did indeed take the potion from the dead woman and use it? Is he paying the price in death of he and his son being trapped on the spot of the broken deal?
Listen to our recap episode of the trip…
All of this was on my mind when I began preparing a love potion for us to use at the bridge. After consulting longtime friend and witch extraordinaire Marla Brooks, I began cooking up a potion we would use to try and connect with the old woman whose spirit might be trapped there. Using Marla’s advice and a combination of recipes online, I created a potion consisting of red wine, apples, salt, rosemary, and a few other ingredients that were recommended. While I was not able to chant over the mixture while it was brewing like the directions said, I did play old 1980’s power ballads, still being slightly silly about the whole thing. I left it out overnight during a full moon and hoped it would be enough.
In keeping with the connecting theme, I bought three candles were fragrances consistent with conjuring spirits. One was of lilac, another was of cherry, which also related to love and the legend, and a third which was a mix of several of the other flowers and herbs Marla’s book, and another I consulted, had talked about.
By the time we had made it out into the field, things had changed. Perhaps it was the effect of the potion and making it, perhaps it was consulting with Marla herself, but I was starting to see the haunting slightly different. There is a long history of deals made with witches or deals made with the Devil for personal gain in folklore. Rumpelstiltskin had asked for the same payment for his services. They almost all go wrong. Our angle had been to play up the witch aspect of things, but it was more clearly a murder scene we were traveling to. We would use these witch elements as a way to try and communicate with the spirit, making her comfortable and more willing to speak with us, but instead of spending time with the folklore on the witch side of things, we would try and talk to her and see the story from her side.
The moon was low and bright yellow by the time we got to the bridge. Following Marla Brook’s advice, we lit the candles and recited the incantation she gave us, changing the words slightly to match legend tripping and not investigating:
The Witch’s Circle of Protection
Have everyone stand in a circle and one person shall read this:
Guardian s of the North, Element of Earth, I call upon thee to be present during this investigation.
Guardians of the East. Element of Air, I call upon thee to be present during this investigation.
Guardians of the South, Element of Fire, I call upon thee to be present during this investigation
Guardians of the West, Element of Water, I call upon thee to be present during this investigation
This next part should be read and repeated by the participants, one line at a time.
God and goddess, Guardian Angels and Spirit Guides
Be present with us during this investigation.
Bless the circle and keep us protected
No unwanted entities are welcome here
Only pure, divine beings are invited into our space.
The circle will close on its own with the investigation is over
Spirits will return to the light
There shall be no attachments to any of those here tonight.
The Circle is now cast. So Mote It Be. (or Amen)
A small pinch of cinnamon, a petal of rose, the sweet taste of apple, that’s how the love grows. And for those who taste this potion, they shall feel that warm emotion.
We set up next to the bridge on the boat launch. As we said the incantation, we poured the
love potion around us, casting a protection circle, saving some for dumping off
For a location so far out in an unpopulated part of Florida
later at night, the bridge was busy. The
loud moaning of the cows around us sounded like ghostly agony, like dinosaurs,
and added to the creepiness of the location.
The longer we were there the more we understood an alligator was tracking
us from the water. Cars flew by,
crowding the road as we tried to cross it.
The reports of the man and boy are centered around underneath the bridge, so we explore a bit. It was covered with graffiti and mold with the alligator close by. We then made our way onto the bridge to try and talk to the woman and dump the remaining love potion on the bridge and into the water where she was thrown and landed.
It’s always hard to take moments of a legend trip and say we
touched the ghostly part of the story.
We do not look for evidence but often get it, but more often than that,
we have only our feelings and impressions to go on. For example, only two times during the trip
did we hear nearby dogs violently bark.
The first was when we cast the protection spell and the second was
before we left and I spent a few moments closer to the water talking to the
woman and the two males. It meant
something at the time, but nothing solid.
Almost all of the old love potions we had explored going
into the trip had made a point of talking about the power of menstrual blood as
a powerful element. As soon as we had
finished the incantation, Natalie, who was at the tail end of her period, felt
a very tangible change in her flow. It
normally would not have given us pause, but the timing and the connection was
too on point for us to ignore.
Then there were the fireflies. Ever since our trip to Mounds State Park
where we had experienced a rash of these insects which led us to a Pukwudgie
encounter, we had become aware of connections to the paranormal and to folklore. When we had stepped into the area where we
were going to cast the circle, three appeared, hovered near us, and then
The other odd thing happened while we were physically on the
bridge dodging the speeding cars as we spilled the remaining potion. While looking across to the other side where
her body was thrown, my eyes played a trick on me. Imagine shining a light into your eyes
quickly and seeing the darkened figure of the flashlight when you close your
eyes or look away. My eyes saw a man
take three large steps before stooping down to a smaller figure twenty feet
away. He looked like that kind of
shadow. I watched this happen three
times before experimenting with the lights we were using to see if I could
recreate it. I couldn’t.
Lastly, we had three odd lights appear, not from the insect
world. We had established that there
were three spirits at the bridge, confirmed to some degree by the fireflies earlier
in the night. At one point when I went
closer to the water, three odd lights appear in pictures Natalie had
taken. Not that odd given that we had
three candles lit nearby, so a camera might pick them up their reflection. However, in a series of pictures taken
seconds apart and without moving the camera, they rise up in the frame with
Most folklore comes from a need. It may be trying to explain something or
trying to teach the history or an important moment to the community. There is something you can track, which is
why they are so appealing to Tripping on Legends. We understand ourselves by understanding the
story. At Arbuckle Creek in Lorida there
is not lesson to learn, no message to the town or reflection of community. There’s a woman on a bridge and a father and
son. There are just a few ghosts and a
story told to explain them. If context
building understanding, you won’t find it there, and maybe the fact you can’t
means the story itself is more truth than tale.
We’re still knee deep in the #hauntedlove project, so we’re especially looking for ghost stories with a love twist.
There’s something to the Name Game, but there are times when a legend plants itself so deep into the minds of residents it forces them to actually name the place for the odd folklore born there. We recently came across something like this with Bloody Bucket Road in Wachula, Florida, a road named after a story which then inspired a story which inspired an urban legend. We’ve also found our way to places informally named after the weird happenings there, like the Devil’s Tree and Thrill Hill. Rarely does a crazy story, known by the people living in the area if not fully believed, make the powers that be change the name of a place to reflect the popularity of a story.
The Devil’s Tramping Ground in Bear Creek, North Carolina is one of those places. As we heard more about the story, given our obsession at the time with all things named after the Devil, we knew if we were going to North Carolina to look for phantom trains and hitchhikers, we were going to have to stop in and see if we could glimpse something unknown and supernatural making circles in the middle of the woods.
It started with a search into an area of North Carolina known as the known as the Piedmonts. While looking for something else, I stumbled upon Craig Payst’s Web site North Carolina Ghost Stories. He has a whole section of his site dedicated to the odd stories from that area, including a weird legend that has gained popularity among the people there over the last few decades. Some of the details were familiar in that way a good piece of folklore should be, but one of the most interesting slants to the story was that the legend was shifting, adapting with the times to conform to changing ideas. As we changed as people, the little tale of a patch of land where nothing would grown changed with them.
The basics of the story should sound like something you’ve heard before. In the woods near an area known as Harper’s Crossing there is a patch of land where things would not grow. The infertile pattern was in an almost perfect circle, so people said there had to be something sinister and supernatural about it. The first stories, which is said to date back at least two hundred years, tell of the Devil himself cast down, or up, to earth to contemplate what evil deeds to commit against the people of the Piedmonts. Payst attributes this foundation to the strong religious ideas of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who made their way to the State. No reason is given as to why these people should be a target for him, but there he walked in a circle debating and scheming what to do and tearing up the ground as he walked.
There is more than just barren land in the story though. Men and beast avoid the spot for reasons they can’t explain. People who have dared to try and stay there at night have left with terrible visions. It is also said that anything placed in the middle of the circle, living or dead, will be cast out by unseen hands. Some have seen unexplained lights, and like many sites like this one, people have reported seeing hooded figures, either dark souls or Satanic cult members, walking the circle and the surrounding woods.
If that was end of the story, it would make for an interesting tale. But there is more to the story. In the past few years, every trend in the paranormal has been used to explain the site or offer up a backstory for the unexplained. According to Payst and some others who have looked into the stories, over the years the story has shifted to aliens, a witchcraft hotspot, and an ancient Indian burial location. Each variation reflects the fears and the interests of the people who are making the story their own, evidenced by the newer idea that the spot is actually a vortex. Whether to keep the deep folklore alive or just to claim a little ownership in the story, the little patch in the woods transforms itself into what people want.
This, along with the idea of being pushed by unseen hands drew us to the site.
When we got there is a warm summer day with clouds and a slight breeze. It was not hard to find, especially considering the street is named for the legend. We set up a stationary camera to capture the whole thing and walked the perimeter of the circle. It was littered with garbage, convenience store cups, and beer bottles. There was a metal chair set up roughly in the middle and a makeshift fire pit. Someone had been there recently, confirming the Devil’s Tramping Ground as a party place.
We walked a ways into the woods and found evidence of other activity. There were animal bones scattered in different locations, proof of either cult activity or people wanted it to look like there was cult activity. Other than the bones and tarps, there was not too much to the area itself. We spent time in the circle itself to see if we could feel anything trying to get rid of us, but our feet remained firmly planted. Natalie had the idea to make a cross out of some of the local vegetation to see if it would get tossed from the circle. We stayed for about an hour, mainly to say we had been there, and made our way to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.
The original plan was to go back that night and see if we could talk to some of the people who partied there or even interview the dark forces, but we spent too much time looking for the hitchhiking Lydia and were not able to get back. A follow-up the next day revealed nothing else out of the ordinary and our cross was in the same place. In fact, after the being molested by ghostly redheads in Greensboro and getting new Pukwudgie reports in Indiana, the Harper’s Crossing and the Devil’s Tramping Ground felt mundane.
It was not until we reviewed the camera some time later that things got eerie. One of the things I noticed, and we had not talked about it at the time of the trip, was how little time we spent in the middle of the circle. Most of the time we were there was spent trailing the woods, but we seemed to unconsciously avoid actually being where the Devil was believed to walked. It was subtle. We had travelled 1,000 miles and didn’t spend much time in the middle.
You can’t put your hands on that kind of idea or hold it up. It could just be an overactive mind wanting to justify having touched a legend. The camera, however, picked something up which almost defines the eye. At one point the lighting completely changes (perhaps due to the clouds overhead), but then several odd noises are heard. These climax with a clear clanging of metal. At that exact moment, something flies through the frame and out of the circle. We have broken it down and determined it was not a bird and was too big, even in perspective, to be an insect or something else hanging out in the woods. This, mixed with the sound heard right before the movement, leads us to believe one of those beer or soda cans was kicked out of the circle while we played in the woods.
Like the legend itself, there is no clear cut answer to what we saw. The Devil’s Tramping Ground has exist for decades, and if every bit of folklore is born from some truth, there might be more to the story than just some dead vegetation and some odd lights in the woods. People will continue to tell their stories about the place, odd first hand accounts with their choice of background to give it context. The legend will continue because we want it to, but just when you think it’s safe to sit back and think of it all as just a story, a swift kick and clang might happen and make you rethink whether a ghost story, or even a tale of the Devil, has more fact than fable to it.
Natalie Crist and Christopher Balzano went out in search of the Devil’s Tree at Oak Hammock Park in Port St. Lucie.
We’ve got a full write up of the context and what happened coming later this week, but you can catch the two podcasts they did on the topic. The first is a trek down different Devil legends and the second is their field report on the Devil’s Tree.