The advent of the 1920’s brought about many changes in post WWI America, one of which was the rapidly growing fascination with automobiles. As more people became car owners, the need for roads linking major cities became apparent, and two men conceived the idea to build a ‘super highway’ that would connect all the way from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles California. Construction on the road began in 1926, and there was some indecision at first as to what to number the route. Eventually it was decided after the initial names of Rt 60 and 62 that the highway would be termed Route 66.
The historic route has certainly had its interesting stops along the way, and much of it in Illinois can still be enjoyed along its remains. One of these places is in the small town of Lincoln and it has a history that goes back further than the inception of the “mother road” which runs through this area.
Salt Creek, originally known as Onaquispasippi by the indigenous people, flows into the larger nearby Sangamon River from the southern border of the town of Lincoln. Part of the original Route 66 as well as Route 4 ran through here and much of the red brick pavement of the old highway remains along with what’s left of the Salt Creek Bridge. The two cemeteries on either side of the road that runs just before reaching the hill (known as Cemetery Hill) have been abandoned for many years, but still draw an interest of onlookers who try to retrace the steps of the old Route 66–and the ghosts that may remain.
Salt Creek Bridge (also referred to as “Ghost Bridge”) is only in remnants now, but many of them can be seen by following along what is left of that section of Route 66. Before what was left became part of Illinois Business Highway 55, the stretch of the old road that ran through Lincoln near the two cemeteries became known as “Bloody 66” or “Dead Man’s Curve” because according to legends, wrecks occurred along the curve at the beltline several times a day. These legends gave birth to the many ghost stories that are said to exist there today.
In the findinglincolnillinois.com website, there is a section devoted to the history of Route 66 in Lincoln and the “Ghost Bridge” where conversations and quotes from Illinois state police officers confirm many of the accidents spoken about did indeed occur because of the road’s general design. A sharp curve that grew extremely tight while maneuvering a car through it caused many people looking for a thrill to attempt the challenge–very often ending in fatality.
People that have walked through what remains of the road and the cemeteries have spoken about apparitions, sounds of screaming and breaking glass and the growling engines of vehicles going over a bridge that is no longer standing save for crumbling remains. Are these simply the sounds of a quiet and mostly abandoned area? Nature and the animals of the woods nearby? Active imaginations? Or do the spirits of adrenaline pumped thrill-seekers who met their fate along the curves of the once active road still seek to meet that one last challenge?