I don’t know what exactly draws me back to Sachs Bridge each time I visit Gettysburg. I just know that I feel compelled to drive there and take pictures. Of course, it is a beautiful spot – a covered bridge that was used by the Confederate Army to cross the creek when they withdrew from Gettysburg . But after all, how many pictures can you take of the same place? Well, okay, if you’re a photographer, that’s a silly question! Hundreds in all weather, season, lighting… But really, I’m only an amateur, so why I personally felt compelled to record the bridge over and over was a mystery my boyfriend was obsessing about as he drove through the darkening countryside one evening in the late fall.
Of course, the bridge was supposed to be haunted, so that was definitely part of the draw it had for me. According to the legend, three Confederate soldiers convicted of being spies were hanged from beams in the covered bridge, and their bodies were discovered by Union soldiers patrolling the area. Their spirits were said to haunt the bridge, though other folks claimed they sometimes smelled General Lee smoking his pipe when they were standing on the bridge. I’d actually smelled pipe smoke there once myself, and that was one of the reasons I kept coming back to the haunted bridge.
As we came to the bridge, a chill blasted over my skin in spite of the warmth flowing into the car from the heater. The bridge, usually a friendly-spot, seemed sinister and dark. I felt uneasy, as if a foul presence was on the bridge that did not want us to intrude there.
“I changed my mind,” I said quickly as my boyfriend stopped the car. “I don’t want to take pictures here after all.”
“What?!” my boyfriend practically screeched, staring at me in amazement. “After you made such a big fuss about it? After you forced me to look at every single solitary picture you ever took of this bridge before we came to Gettysburg? No way, honey! I could be back at the hotel drinking beer right now, but no! We had to come to the bridge! Out you get and take your photos!”
He was right, I guess. Silly to come all this way and not take the pictures. But I was utterly terrified to step out onto the bridge! My hand shook as I reached for the door handle, and shook again as I secured my camera. Praying with all my might that whatever dark power was out there would leave me alone, I leapt out the door and aimed my camera practically at random down the length of the bridge. It was completely empty of everything but me and the car as I took several snapshots. But I could feel someone – a very nasty someone – standing right behind me, willing me to leave or die. Their presence throbbed at me in an almost physical way, and my skin crawled desperately. I didn’t dare turn around. I couldn’t. I just whirled my camera around, aimed it over my shoulder and snapped a picture – fast! Then I leapt back into the car before whoever – or whatever – decided to grab me, and gasped: “Get me out of here now!”
My boyfriend took one look at my white face filled with eye-popping terror and got me out of there now. I didn’t stop shaking until we were safely back in our hotel room for the night.
When I loaded up the digital pictures on my laptop computer the next morning, I went immediately to the pictures of the Sachs Bridge, unsure of what I would see. In the first photo, a little boy in period costume stood an arm’s length away from the camera. He was glaring at me with a twisted little face and an evil grin. He certainly hadn’t been there when I took the picture, yet he looked solid enough to be real. The second photo was filled with misty figures that looked like phantoms. Creepy! I shuddered as I looked at them and quickly went to the next photo – the one I took over my shoulder without turning around. I gave a shriek of fear which brought my boyfriend crashing into the room. “What is it?” he shouted, and I pointed a shaking finger at the screen of the laptop. Pictured on it was a filmy dark figure – half-human, half-beast – with blazing orange eyes filled with such menace and hatred that it made my stomach roil. He appeared so close to the camera that he must have been directly behind me. He looked like the Devil.
My boyfriend’s eyes popped and he gasped: “Delete it. Delete it now!”
Yet how could I delete it? I had captured pictures of ghosts on my camera. Was it worth the fright I’d had? I wasn’t sure about that. Still, I couldn’t delete them.
My boyfriend refused blankly to look at the photos more than once, and he swore never to take me to Sachs Bridge again. But I may go back there someday.
-ron ( firstname.lastname@example.org )