Halloween Ghost Story: Zombie Road

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Graphic by Morgan Glidewell

While many ghost stories consist of a bunch of circumstantial evidence with no real cause, some are a little more factual. The appeal of ghost stories heightens around Halloween when it appears that the supernatural might be brought to life. 

One such ghost story that takes place in our own little state of Missouri occurs in Wildwood – a city just outside of St. Louis. This tale is full of legends, death and some apparent evidence that one may not wish to dwell too long at night on Zombie Road. Originally called Lawler-Ford Road, it was built in the 1860s and follows the train tracks to the Meramec River. The road has since been repaved and is now called Rocky Hollow trail where bikers and joggers can exercise, but many are still wary to be anywhere near the area. 

The trail sits on top of an old Native American burial ground and winds through two miles of dense woods. The trail was also used as a path for soldiers in the Civil War and was the site of railroad accidents and various mysterious disappearances. All of this has created the legends surrounding the trail today. One of the most compelling legends tells of a figure that appears around the railroad tracks. This figure is rumored to be the soul of someone struck and killed by a train. In fact, there was someone who was actually struck and killed by a train in that spot.

Della McCullough was a woman that lived in the area in the late 1800s and was killed by a train on Lawler-Ford Road in 1876. This is the only record from the area of a person being hit by a train at this time so this legend might be true. It’s also possible that others fell prey to the trains but that we don’t have this documentation. Many trains derailed here as the tracks surrounding the area were sharp and often bent. 

The area surrounding the trail also used to be a small resort community that fell into disrepair around the 1940s. Now, abandoned homes line the trail adding to the spooky factor. Some people have said that they have seen figures going in and out of the homes and have even heard someone yelling at them. 

In the late 1950s, the trail and railroad tracks had fallen into great disrepair, and it became a popular spot for young couples to hang out. It was at this time a rumor that many had disappeared without a trace at the hands of a crazed escaped killer nicknamed “The Zombie Killer” began to form – and the legendary name of Zombie Road was born. There is no evidence at all that these killings took place, and there is no evidence that any escapes from mental institutions occurred.  

Today, the trail is closed at night, and you can even receive a fine if you’re caught trespassing. Perhaps the creepiest feature of Zombie Road is that individuals still report seeing multiple shadowy figures, hearing unexplained footsteps in the forest and on the trail and feeling like they’re being watched. The fact that these things are happening today in daylight might lend some credibility to the theory that the area is haunted. 

While there is mostly circumstantial evidence that the area on and around the trail is haunted, the large amount of historical significance, tragedies and abandonment surrounding the area all leads to a perfect concoction for a potential haunting site. The real factual evidence, such as that of Della McCullough, provides a detail that makes one wonder whether every account is true. 

The wooded area is often chilly and dark even during the day and as you think about all that has happened here over the years, you might begin to feel a small chill run up one’s spine. The trail is used frequently during the day, and many who don’t believe in the paranormal appear to not think too much of the spooky legends here. It might just be that when your headphones are in and you’re running along, you don’t notice the dark figure standing behind that tree or hear the footsteps creeping up behind you when no one is there. 

Whether or not you choose to believe that Zombie Road is haunted, I think that the evidence here lends to at least a decent bedtime story to give kids a little wariness about what goes bump in the night. It’s most likely nothing, but what if it’s not? Ghost stories allow us to indulge in the supernatural and let us wonder: What if it’s real? 

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