Thelma is an award-winning writer who enjoys writing about the Florida panhandle where her ancestors were pioneers in the early 1800s.
A Southern Ghost Story
Southern storytellers claim there is nothing like a good ghost story to hold a listener's attention, and it is common knowledge that any such story is embellished and twisted at every turn. Add a bride who catches on fire and haunts a "spooky" old bridge in the swamps of northwest Florida, and you have the makings of a story that will hold a captive audience. Such is the tale of the ghost of Bellamy Bridge.
The Legend of Elizabeth Bellamy
Elizabeth Bellamy's story starts off like a classic fairy tale in the old South. A beautiful plantation owner's daughter meets a young handsome doctor. They fall in love and wed on May 11, 1837.
The bride is dressed in a beautiful gown, and the wedding takes place in the mansion's rose garden with the flowers in full bloom. According to some versions of the story, at the end of her wedding vows, Elizabeth added an extra sentiment, "I will love you always and forever. Never will I leave you."
During the reception, she went upstairs to rest from the heat and weight of her heavy gown. She dozed off until she felt a burning sensation on her body. While sleeping, the sleeve of her dress had accidentally touched the flame of a nearby candle. She ran down the ornate staircase with her dress and hair completely engulfed in flames.
"Never Will I Leave You"
Elizabeth did not recover from her burns, and she passed away a few days later. According to the legend, the last words she spoke on her deathbed to her grief-stricken husband were, "I will love you always and forever. Never will I leave you."
Dr. Samuel Bellamy, Elizabeth's husband, never recovered from the tragedy. He became an alcoholic, and 15 years after her death, he committed suicide. The tradition of the time period in that part of the country was to bury suicide victims in an unmarked grave. Many believers say Elizabeth's ghost searches in the night for her dear husband's grave in the swamp at Bellamy Bridge.
The True Story
Researchers have determined that Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy were real people. However, the burning bride part of the legend is not true. In fact, three years after she was married, Elizabeth and her infant son died of malaria. The story surrounding Samuel's suicide is accurate.
Elizabeth's Restless Spirit
So, that explains the history of the couple and their deaths. But what about Elizabeth's ghost?
She was laid to rest in the swamp along the Chipola River, near the site of Bellamy Bridge. Stories have circulated for well over a hundred years that a woman in a long, white gown surrounded by flames has been seen crossing the bridge with balls of fire floating through the air around her. There are reports of bridge visitors hearing the soft and feeble voice of a woman whispering, "I will love you always and forever. Never will I leave you."
The legend of the bride's tragic death by fire has captured the interest and imaginations of people from all over the country. Thousands of paranormal enthusiasts, believers and non-believers of the ghost story, and curiosity seekers have visited the bridge in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ghostly bride.
Mini-Documentary on the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge by Two Egg TV
Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail in Northwest Florida
The trail is located near the town of Marianna, Florida, on state road 162. It is a half-mile hike from the parking area to the bridge. In the daytime, you will see beautiful moss-covered trees, endangered plant species, and birds. Visit during the day to see the bridge and for photographs. But keep in mind, the best time to see Elizabeth's ghost is on a very dark night in the swamp, with all of its spooky sounds, eerie cool breezes, and big mosquitoes.
Location of Bellamy Bridge in Northwest Florida
Trail Through the Swamp to Haunted Bridge
Information for this article was obtained from:
Dale Cox, noted Southern historian and author of Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
Two Egg TV, an internet channel created to share adventures, stories and travels from “off the beaten path” places in the South.
© 2018 Thelma Raker Coffone
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 25, 2018:
Wonderful story and told beautifully. It makes one wonder how these legends get started. Dying of malaria is a far-cry from burning to death after a bride's own wedding. I love historic tales and legends. Thank you for a good one, Thelma.
FlourishAnyway from USA on August 24, 2018:
This was fabulous! I liked how you told the legend and then presented what is known historically. Excellent read!