A few miles southwest of Syracuse, New York, just down the W. Seneca Turnpike from Onondaga Community College, Cedervale Road winds its way downhill along a narrow creek. At this point, the woods close in on the road from both sides and lights are few. On Halloween night, travelers negotiate the tight turns on this road in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the “Phantom Bride of 13 Curves Road.” According to some accounts, this legend may stretch back to the days of horse and buggy.
Locals say that at some point in the past, a newlywed couple was driving a buggy down this road in the dark after the ceremony (or perhaps the reception). Unable to maintain control of the horses around the tight curves, the husband and his new bride were thrown from the open seats and broke their necks against the rugged terrain around the creek bed. As the 20th Century wore on, the horse and buggy became an automobile in the minds of storytellers. The story, however, remained essentially unchanged, with some variations. Some say only the groom was killed, and the bride’s ghost appears searching for her former beloved.
Ever since, dozens of witnesses have claimed to encounter the ghost of the bride, still wearing her wedding dress. Some have seen her standing in the woods alongside the road, others have reported her wandering the side of the road with a glowing lantern, and still others reportedly struck the phantom when she threw herself in front of their cars. Sometimes the bride appears mangled and bloody. She has also been known to appear in the backseat of cars, only to vanish as mysteriously as she appeared. Some particularly daring motorists turn off their headlights and creep down the road in near darkness (we do not recommend you do this).
One local man, who lives on Balcomb Mill Circle at the top of the hill before the road begins to curve, has added fuel to the fire every Halloween by hanging a very convincing skeletal bride between two tall maple trees near his driveway. The “bride” holds a white bouquet and wears a crown of light blue flowers on top her veiled skull. Translucent fabric flows in every direction. It is easy to see how some motorists, driving down the darkened road at night, would get quite a scare when their headlights fall on this (fake) phantom.
There are many, however, who insist the ghostly bride of 13 Curves Road is very real. According to one eyewitness, “While making our way around the sixth curve, a dim glowing white shape appeared in the road ahead of us. It slowly made its way from the left side of the road to the right. When it got right in the middle of the road, it stopped and turned towards us. It was about the height of an average woman, but it was not very well defined––it was more of a staticy blur than a clear image. It did have a red glow up near where the head would approximately be on a human being.”
This legend is similar to others told around the country, including “Bloody Bride Bridge” in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, indicating that it may be a migratory legend. A migratory legend is a legend that is found in many different places at many different times. It may attract some localized details, but it retains a central narrative. The age and popularity of the story, however, suggests that it may be a good candidate for the origin of this particular tale. So far, no one has confirmed whether a deadly accident involving a bride and groom actually occurred along Cedervale Road, but perhaps some mysteries are best left unsolved.