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 the bridge.
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 disappeared.
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 precision.
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.
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