“The grave is but a covered bridge Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!” ~~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poinsett Bridge, Greenville County, SC
The GHOST PRO team completed an investigation of Poinsett Bridge in Greenville SC in December 2008. The bridge is historically significant as it is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge in South Carolina and is the focal point for numerous tales of unexplained lights, eerie sounds, lost Indian burial mounds and slave lynchings. It was one of three structures on a toll road that ran from Charleston, SC through the upstate to Asheville, NC and is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, of poinsettia fame and first president of the SC Board of Public Works during the early design and planning phases. Various sources credit the actual design of the bridge to Robert Mills, a native Charlestonian and renowned American architect who designed the Washington Monument, the US Treasury Department building, and the University of South Carolina as well as other equally imposing edifices in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Columbia. Abram Blanding, a gentleman directly descended from Mayflower pilgrims and with marital ties to European aristocracy, became acting commissioner of the board in 1820, the year of the bridge's actual construction. In that capacity until 1822 when the board was abolished and a Department of Public Works was founded, of which he was appointed director, he remained until 1827 when he retired into private law practice.
Poinsett Bridge is an amazingly beautiful structure spanning 130 feet over Little Gap Creek. Protective side walls rise in a series of stone steps, though the most prominent feature is a 14 foot high pointed gothic arch. Sitting just a few yards off the side of Callahan Mountain Road below Camp Old Indian in northern Greenville County, the site evokes a sense of pristine remoteness and eerie solitude amid rugged foothills and dense mountain laurel. The weathered old grey stones have borne well the passage of 189 years, evincing only small signs of repair, most notably the occasional addition of sand to the original roadbed (now a hiking footpath) to prevent erosion and some mortar patching along the foundation beneath the arch for the same. Part of the 120 acre Poinsett Heritage preserve the site is remarkably free of defacing graffitti and tourist litter, though regrettably this may soon no longer be the case, as plans move forward for enhanced visitor access.
Historic record and local folklore variously attribute the construction labor to slave gangs and friendly Indians who may have been the remnants of the Catawba, Creek and Cherokee tribes who had inhabited the region for centuries, until 1755 when a treaty ceded land east of present day Greenville to incoming white settlers. By 1776 Indian uprisings had precipated the driving out from the upstate the remaining various tribes and the following year a treaty was signed ceding the rest of the land to the state. This scenario most likely accounts for the lost Indian burial ground legends.
As those ancestorial grounds were being taken over, the settlers brought with them the superstitions of their Scotch, Irish, Welsh, German and British forefathers. Appalachian culture is rife with tales of haunted hollows, supernatural creatures and paranormal occurences. One such stock story deals with "corpse lights". Often described as flickering or flitting flames or balls of light of various color and intensity, old-timers swear that these are indicators of spirit activity in and around areas associated with death or tragedy such as cemeteries or scenes of accidents. Though skeptics and scientists alike have offered both denials and explanations as original and natural as phosphorus deposits or decaying vegetation emitting the luminousity known as "foxfire", this investigator can not help but draw a comparison to the much debated New Age phenomena known as "orbs". The characteristic description of orbs is markedly similar to that of corpse lights, the main difference being that orbs are not usually apparent to the naked eye. Non-believers attribute the cause of orbs to dust, moisture, bugs, faulty camera equipment or film (or photographer), light reflections and so forth.
On the night the Ghost PRO team conducted their investigation, none of the preceding natural causes were in evidence as it had rained roughly 36 hours earlier, heavily enough to settle dust, yet sufficient time had passed that no moisture lingered in the air or on the surrounding landscape. It was a windless night, very cold, the temperature hovering around 36 degrees Farenheit, negating any air-borne debris or bothersome insect swarms and mid-December is typically not the season for lightening bugs or drifting pollen clouds. Though the area is wooded there was no evidence of massive amounts of accumulated decaying vegetation or open mineral deposits, yet several investigators noted random lights in the vicinity of the bridge and along the surrounding hillsides. Both red and white, these lights were not large, nor lengthy in duration, lasting only a second or two, and appeared singularly, not in pairs or groups. As previously stated this area is remote. There are no residences, streetlamps, communications towers, or lighted signage within an appreciable distance to account for the phenomena witnessed. The infrequent traffic on the steep and severely curved two lane road announced its approach by sound well in advance of the appearance of headlights. No other visible anomalies were noted during the investigation, but of approximately 400 photographs taken that night, roughly a quarter exhibit some type of phenomena. Subsequent analysis show a predominance of orbs, both singular and multiple, of varying shape, size, color and density. Further a rather substantial unexplained mist of man-sized proportion and shape was captured on film at the same time an investigator reacted to an audible external noise. The team was under a voluntary no smoking ban on site, and later attempts to re-create the mist through filming cigarette smoke proved a failure with regard to cloud size, shape, color and density. Photos of exhaled breath condensation in the cold air that night also ruled out another possible explanation.
Additional equipment utilized that night corroborated more anomalies. Two different non-contact digital thermometers registered fluctuations in temperature ranging from -1*F to 60*F while the ambient air stayed at 36*-38*F. Dowsing rods, though not given any scientific credence, were in use and were both observed and filmed indicating directional readings. In several photos the rods appear to point toward an anomaly. Motion detectors with audible alarms were in place and the team was aware of their placement so as to avoid accidental activation. Several times they went off, and photos were taken that show orb phenomena at these times. An investigator with developing pyschic gifts experienced tactile physical sensations that were observed and documented by other team members. Later examination of these photos also reveal multiple anomalies.
In three separate EVP sessions documented on a digital voice recorder, various team members verbally attempted to establish communication with any intelligent entities present. Questions designed to elicit a response included requests for names, life information regarding marriages and children, work, likes or dislikes, whether there was an awareness of time or its passage, a connection to the site and the underlying reason, or a sense of unfinished business. During these sessions which lasted a total of an hour and thirty-five minutes, the investigator who had experienced the physical sensations received an impression of the name "Abraham". Additional research revealed that Abram Blanding, the commissioner during the bridge's construction, was given the birth name "Abraham" which was shortened to the name Abram which he was more commonly known by. During later EVP analysis a clip was extracted that responded "Willie" to a question about children's names. Mr. Blanding's eldest son was William Blanding. Additional clips reveal an unexplained chattering that seems responsive to investigators' requests for interaction. Photos taken at this time document strong orb phenomena. A final clip holds a singular anomalous sound similar to a human heartbeat that completely overrides the ambient sound. Within moments team members make note of a perceived external physical stimulus, which is corroborated once again with photographic evidence.
Despite the overwhelming amount of activity the P.R.O. team experienced and documented at Poinsett Bridge, we can not with 100% certainty declare the site haunted. We can state with conviction however that we believe it to be a place of highly elevated paranormal occurences. Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, the P.R.O. team advises a visit. We're sure you'll be touched by its historic and haunting beauty.
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Photos & Clips:
Janet's Album with commentary
Mariel's Album with Commentary
EVP clips from Poinsett Bridge investigation
The clips include: An unitelligible muttering (Class C) ~ captured at Poinsett Bridge beneath the arch. No one was present at the time, nor near the digital recorder when captured; the name Willie; an unexplained loud chattering heard over our discussion; and a chilling heartbeat.