The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
Technically I think the hiking trail that leads out to the old Bellamy Bridge was closed. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Neither did I let it stop me that there were more mosquitoes swarming in the area than I had ever encountered before in my life. I just doused myself with Deet and kept going. It’s maybe a mile or so walk from the head of the trail, where I left my car, to the ruins of the bridge. The steel beams are still there, but the wooden flooring of the bridge is all rotted away. It is a beautiful, desolate spot. Why had I gone there? Because Bellamy Bridge, located in the swamplands near Marianna, Florida, is the site of one of the State’s most famous hauntings.
First, the legend: Dr. Samuel Bellamy married his young bride, Elizabeth, at the mansion in Marianna in which the happy couple were to spend the rest of their lives. On their wedding night, Elizabeth got too close to an open flame, either a candle or hearth, and her dress caught fire. She fled from the house, her body engulfed in flames, and threw herself into the Chipola River, near the site where, in 1914, the bridge was constructed. As she perished from her injuries, her ghost has been seen at the site on occasion ever since.
Cool story. Very dramatic. The truth is somewhat less so, though no less tragic.
In reality, Elizabeth Bellamy, only 18 years old, died of malaria. Her infant son followed shortly after. It IS true that Elizabeth was buried at a site close to where the bridge now stands. Dr. Bellamy never got over the loss of his wife and child and, despite having a long and successful career, he committed suicide in 1853. The story of the “burning bride” originated from a novel written by Caroline Lee Hentz entitled ERNEST LINWOOD, OR THE LONG MOSS SPRING. Ms. Hentz lived in Marianna, and in her novel the incident in which the tragedy of the burning bride occurred is called Bellamy Plantation. Thus it is that over time people began to conflate the fictitious story of the novel with the real-life tragedy of the Bellamy’s. Folks have largely forgotten the novel, but the story of the burning bride lives on as the ghost of Bellamy Bridge.
Which does NOT mean that Bellamy Bridge ISN’T haunted. In fact, the person I visited the bridge with is something of a “sensitive” and she told me that she sensed the presence not of Elizabeth Bellamy but of her husband, Dr. Bellamy. I visited Bellamy Bridge during the day, and experienced no sightings, but there are many who report having seen strange lights, luminescent mists, and even full-bodied apparitions at the site. Sadly, all I experienced the day of my visit was mosquitoes. It was still worth it, though, to see the legendary site.
But thank God for Deet.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless.
Denn die totden reiten schnell!