Haunted legend of Lydia’s Bridge ghostly hitchhiker has roots in real history

Most North Carolinians know the story of Lydia’s Bridge in Jamestown. However, many have mistaken it for the old graffiti-covered railroad bridge that goes over Main Street, completely unaware that the real Lydia’s Bridge was shut down decades ago and sits buried in kudzu roughly 50 yards away in the overgrowth.

The real Lydia's Bridge in Jamestown is one of North Carolina's most well-known hauntings.
The real Lydia’s Bridge in Jamestown is one of North Carolina’s most well-known hauntings.

And while the legend of Lydia, the hitchhiking ghost of a young woman wearing a white gown who appears beneath the bridge where she died so many decades ago, is quite well-known – many don’t realize the legend is rooted in a real-life tragedy that occurred beneath that bridge in the 1920s.

Historians and paranormal experts alike have long tried to solve the mystery of Lydia, matching the folklore of the “vanishing hitchhiker” with old records of car crashes and deaths along the haunted route.

But how did the real history of Lydia get lost, and why is her real bridge now closed to traffic? Is it because too many people saw her spirit along the roadside?

The legend of Lydia’s Bridge

She’s known as the Vanishing Hitchhiker. The Lady in White.

The story begins with a young man driving down a winding road through Jamestown late at night. It’s well after midnight on a foggy night, and his eyelids are growing heavy as he makes the trek back to High Point.

Through the rainy mist he just barely sees the ghostly white figure of a pale woman in a white dress, standing beneath a curved bridge and waving her long thin arm in the air. He pulls over to give the mysterious hitchhiker a ride.

He makes small talk with the woman, who answers his questions in solemn whispers and seems hauntingly sad. Her home is in High Point.

When they arrive at her home, he gets out of the car to come around and open her door – but when he gets to the passenger side, she’s gone.

Assuming she had simply rushed into her home, he goes to knock on her door to make sure she got inside safely. Knock. Knock. Instead of the ethereal Lydia, a very old woman answers the door.

Confused, he asks if Lydia is inside.

“Lydia’s been dead for years,” says the old woman, her eyes filling with tears. “She was my daughter. And it seems like she’s still trying to get home.”

Back in 2013 Lydia's Bridge was visible from the roadside.
Back in 2013 Lydia’s Bridge was visible from the roadside.

Annie L. Jackson died beneath that bridge in 1920

Most urban legends and ghost stories have roots in real history. But as years pass, those roots get twisted up and gnarled into a ghost story that’s not quite true, but not exactly false either.

Several years ago, a duo of paranormal investigators named Michael Renegar and Amy Greer dug up the history behind the legend. In their book Looking for Lydia, they take readers through dusty newspaper clippings that lead them all the way to the grave of “Lydia” herself.

Her name was Annie L. Jackson.

Article about the crash that could have started the legend of Lydia's Bridge in the Greensboro Daily News in 1920, courtesy of Newspapers.com.
Article about the crash that could have started the legend of Lydia’s Bridge in the Greensboro Daily News in 1920, courtesy of Newspapers.com.

According to a newspaper article from June, 1920, “Miss Annie Jackson, a young lady of this city, met almost instant death last night when riding in an automobile that turned turtle on the High Point Road about three miles from High Point.”

The crash happened around 10 p.m. when the driver lost control on a slippery road during a sharp turn. The car, it seems, flipped over, causing Annie’s head to be cracked against the concrete.

Two of the other occupants of the car were also injured, a man named Mr. Cross and a woman named Miss Nettie Lethco.

Article about the man arrested for 'Lydia's' death in the Western Sentinel in 1920. Courtesy of Newspapers.com.
Article about the man arrested for ‘Lydia’s’ death in the Western Sentinel in 1920. Courtesy of Newspapers.com.

The driver, a man named Hutchinson, could not be found after the crash. It seems he may have run away in hopes of avoiding legal trouble – because a few days later he was arrested for reckless driving leading to the death of Miss Annie Jackson.

Born in 1885, Annie was around 35 years old, and she worked in a cigar factory. She had been living in a nearby hotel while working, and had only been there for a few months. Her parents also lived locally.

The authors of Looking for Lydia believe Annie’s middle initial, which they report was ‘L,’ might be where the name Lydia originated.

Today, Annie is buried in Holts Chapel Cemetery in Greensboro. A photo shared on her Find A Grave page provides an idea of how she may have looked. There’s also a photo of her grave site, and information about her family.

After the tragic death, people began claiming to see the ghostly hitchhiker appear beneath the bridge – which was still in use at the time. Years later, however, the road beneath the bridge would be re-routed to go beneath a new bridge – leaving the real Lydia’s Bridge to disappear beneath the overgrowth.

By July 2018, Lydia's Bridge was completely hidden behind overgrowth and trees.
By July 2018, Lydia’s Bridge was completely hidden behind overgrowth and trees.

Lydia’s Bridge abandoned, replaced by a modern bridge, scheduled to reopen after decades

Lydia’s Bridge was built in 1916, just a few years before Annie Jackson’s tragic death in 1920.

According to officials, the original Lydia’s Bridge was abandoned for decades after a new bridge was created around 100 meters away. The overgrowth and curtains of ivy almost completely obscured the bridge where Annie Jackson died so many years ago – giving it a permanently eerie and mysterious vibe that made it perfect for urban legends.

However, after decades of being overgrown and abandoned, Lydia’s Bridge will soon have new life.

According to town officials, a new pedestrian walkway is slated to open by late November, allowing the public access to Lydia’s Bridge. They hope to begin offering programming and events around the bridge, honoring both the legend and the history that has deep roots in their town’s past.

The town worked hard to ensure the bridge would be saved, rather than filled in and lost to history. They worked alongside the railroad to save the bridge and make it safe for pedestrian traffic.

Will the new foot traffic scare the spirit of Lydia away? Or will it only make her memory and legend stronger in North Carolina folklore and history?

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