Dorothy and I are frequently asked if the stories in our book are scary. By and large, we have pretty tame ghosts in Montgomery County: Lily who leaves the scent of lilacs and lip prints, Nanny who helped rock the babies, and Boo who was a playmate for the children of the house; these are just some of the friendly spirits that haunt the County. But there are a few stories that are scary. The Headless Horseman of Game Preserve Road is one such spirit.
Today, the Horseman haunts the stretch of track by the railroad bridge across Game Preserve Road. The ghost presumably predates the bridge, and the railroad, as it is attributed to a Civil War soldier who met an unfortunate end. (The Metropolitan Branch of the B & O Railroad didn’t come through Montgomery County until 1873.) He is also one of the few ghosts with a long, documented history. And so, while I won’t take the time here to tell you all the things that have happened on that unfortunate stretch of track (you can read the book for that), I will excerpt the 1876 article from the Montgomery Sentinel that first introduce me to this fearsome spirit:
The people in the neighborhood of Clopper’s Mill in this county have been very much excited for several weeks past by a mysterious occurrence which transpires nightly about 9½ o’clock upon the railroad bridge over Big Seneca Creek. It is reported by those who have witnessed the strange scene that about the hour named a lantern which is upon a post planted at the bridge is suddenly darkened, the light being entirely shut off and a flame like a flash of lightening shoots straight up into the air while another of a similar character flashes directly across the bridge.
We have not witnessed it as we know not whether it ‘be a spirit of health or goblin damned’ and do not care to trust yourself in the presence of such ‘questionable shapes’ but you who are not afraid of ghosts would doubtless be repaid for a visit to it. We hope that a solution of this affair will soon be discovered and a cause of terror be removed from the superstitions of that vicinity.
Postscript: Reader and local historian Jack Toomey sent more clarification regarding the viaduct seen in the picture above:
The photo used in the story is the viaduct or tunnel that allows Game Preserve Road to pass under the railroad tracks. It is not a “bridge”.
The bridge that is referred to in the Sentinel story was a long rickety wooden bridge that allowed the railroad to pass over the Seneca Creek valley. It was later replaced by a steel bridge and finally a viaduct that exists today. The foundations of the earlier bridges can be found in the woods along the creek.