Mini-Flood 38: Rock Hollow Trail (Zombie Road)

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photograph by Michelle Williams

Better known in some circles as “Zombie Road”, Rock Hollow Trail is a meandering path in St. Louis County that has garnered quite a reputation for what goes on there after hours. We took an exciting opportunity to test the superstitions, and see the trail in a way that is off limits to the general public (in the dark!).

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photograph by James Palmour

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photograph by Michelle Bates

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photograph by Allen Casey

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photograph by Jason Gray

Before getting started, it should be noted that Photo Flood Saint Louis worked with the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department, as well as the City of Wildwood, to receive their kind permission to enter Rock Hollow Trail after dark (most area parks close a half hour after sunset).  A special thanks to Ranger Faser, who accompanied us on behalf of the Department, in order to ensure the Group’s safety.

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photograph by Jackie Johnson

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Joe Rakers

Rock Hollow Trail is a 2.3-mile trail in suburban, St. Louis County that extends between the municipalities of Wildwood and Glencoe.  In recent years, the path (originally gravel) was paved by Great Rivers Greenway, an organization that has worked tirelessly throughout the region to create a system of interconnecting pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians.  The trailhead begins at higher elevation,  but sharply descends as Rock Hollow Trail follows the course of a creek through a valley toward the Meramec River.  Though housing developments exist along the ridge-line of both sides of the valley, the trail feels secluded due to the old growth forest that it cuts through.  Almost from the start of the Trail, the journey is quite scenic, and I imagine that it offers great recreational opportunities for nearby residents at all times of the year.  Ranger Faser offered that Rock Hollow Trail is especially beautiful during the Spring months when a colorful array of wildflowers are in bloom.

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photograph by James Palmour

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photograph by Michelle Williams

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photograph by Ann Aurbach

Though nature is likely the biggest draw to Rock Hollow Trail, persistent urban legends continue to attract visitors after another sort of local wildlife- ghosts.  Zombie Road, the affectionate nickname given to the Trail’s former moniker, Lawler Ford Road, is alleged to be one of Missouri’s most haunted sites.  Tales of experiences along the trail range to include the lingering spectre of a woman struck by a locomotive (when the Road linked to an access point for the nearby resorts at Castlewood), the shadow ghosts of tortured children from a nearby orphanage (none are known to have existed anywhere nearby), and even the spirit of “Zombie” an escaped mental patient (no asylums are known to have existed within the vicinity either).  These stories and others have a long attachment to the area, with some record of the earliest tales being told more than 60 years ago, and are the basis for the many paranormal research expeditions conducted upon the site.  They are also the reason why the police in the area issue so many tickets to trespassers after dark.

Note: One of our members did report catching some strange things on camera, but I will reserve that story for her to tell.

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photograph by Diane Cannon Piwowarczyk

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photograph by James Palmour

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photograph by Ann Aurbach

In terms of the confirmed history of the region, Lawler Ford Road did provide access to both the railroad and the river, as early as the 1860’s.  The access point for the river was significant because it provided travelers through the region with a low-water crossing, and therefore was a strategic crossover point for soldiers during the Civil War.  A ferry operated across the Meramec near this location for a short time as well.  Later, as the resort community grew around Castlewood, the railroad stop here was an alternative to the busier one just outside the resort (beneficial to permanent residents and businesses of the area).  Over the years, the road fell into disuse, and local teenagers began to see the isolation of the road as an opportunity to conduct their “business”.  It is likely that the series of urban legends surrounding Zombie Road are directly attributable to this period; that said, it is true that several deaths did occur in the area resulting from train collisions, drownings, etc.  Some accounts suggest that the road was an earlier path for Native Americans, which is possible given the river crossing.

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photograph by Amanda Hood

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photograph by Sue Rakers

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photograph by Amanda Hood

Whatever your attraction to Rock Hollow Trail, the path is expertly maintained by the County, and offers great opportunities year-round.  So, if you have not been lately, dust off that bike (or EVP Recorder) and see what a visit to Zombie Road can offer you.

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photograph by Diane Cannon Piwowarczyk

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Michelle Williams

MAP:
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