by Tim Gilmore, 6/19/2012
Greenbriar Road from Mandarin into Fruit Cove and Julington Creek toward Switzerland is a long drive for bored Englewood kids. They make the drive because Greenbriar Road also goes by the name of Ghost Light Road, where the Ghost Light or Greenbriar Light follows you in your car. Their friends have said a strange, uncanny ball of light appears out of nowhere and follows you, sometimes hovering over your car as you drive the deserted road at night. The story is that an 18 year-old crashed his motorcycle on Greenbriar Road and was decapitated by the support cable of a telephone pole. Maybe it’s even his head that hovers eerily behind your car at night. Supposedly the sheriff’s office hired scientists to study “the phenomenon,” though no one in the sheriff’s office knows anything about it and no scientists have put their name to it.
In the 1950s or ’60s, someone on a motorcycle died racing along the road. So now what you do is you drive down the road, you park your car, and you watch your rearview mirror for the single headlight of his motorcycle. It comes closer, closer, then it disappears. Then when you look in front of you, you see the taillight of the motorcycle speeding away.
Sheriff’s deputy says he took his wife out there when they were dating. Ghost Light Road’s a good makeout spot. Something about fear and desire. Spooking yourself out and making out, he says. Man, that was a long time ago. People have been going down Greenbriar looking for the ghost for more than 40 years.
The light appears behind you at a distance ranging from 25 feet to 300 feet. Sometimes the light moves up and over your car, but it never passes. Somebody’s ex-girlfriend once said the light is the headlight endlessly searching the road for the rest of the motorcycle. Somebody else said the light is the driver’s head searching endlessly for his body.
It’s a long way to drive for bored kids from Englewood, a car-centered mid-20th century neighborhood bounded by Philips Highway, Emerson Street, University and Beach Boulevards. Nothing could validate their weekends more than a contemporary headless horseman, but they don’t expect to see anything. They’ve heard so many stories. Still, there’s no way this empty road in the night in the tall pines can measure up to all the ghosts in Public School Number Four overlooking Riverside Park. But they use a tank of gas, and they drive out, and they see what they see. And they do see a light, a small light, far away, which slightly curves and quickly disappears. It lasts for three seconds, tops. If this light is a ghost, it isn’t a very scary one, and nobody in the car wants to make out with anyone else in the car. Must be another road back there, through the trees, must be headlights from seldom cars on a hidden highway.
If you explained that the Greenbriar Light came through the trees from the headlights of cars heading west on County Road 210, and if you said the light disappeared through the tops of the trees when the westbound car on County Road 210 rounded the banked curve where Greenbriar Road began…
It’s a long way back to Englewood, but there will be something ghostly in the headlights at night on the gray streets with their gray fast-food joints. Yesterday’s fast-food buildings have become today’s Ying’s Takee Outee and Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant and Karam’s Mediterranean Grill. What’s open this time of night? Let’s go get some eggrolls. Or find a Taco Bell drive-thru, grilled steak soft taco, burrito supreme, nachos bellgrande, spicy chalupa supreme. Ghosts have failed to satisfy them tonight, and in their place, only eggrolls, Crab Rangoon wontons, or spicy soft tacos can momentarily fill the void.