So what's the legend? It says there was an old woman who lived alone with her cats until she perished in a fire started by troublemaking kids. Now her ghost haunts the road and her cats' descendants roam the area. Really? Not only had I never heard of this ghost story before finding it online, I also had never heard of this fabled woman and her burning house. I will say there are a lot of cats in and around Boltonville. But it's because a lot of people have unaltered outside/barn cats and they roam, littering the area with their offspring. Nothing paranormal about cats doing what nature intended them to do.
The other part of the legend involves a woman jogger who was supposedly killed by a car and she now haunts the road as well. I never heard of this before either and believe me when I say in our tiny, TINY town we would remember stories like this.
Another claim is that the road has parts that are dark even on the sunniest days. Yeah...there's something that gives off shadows like that. Ever heard of trees? There's many parts of the road that have trees growing together above the road. It's almost like driving through a tunnel. Unless someone cuts down those trees, it will ALWAYS be dark there. Again, nothing paranormal about it.
I decided to dig further into these stories. I thought, perhaps I just don't remember hearing any of these stories because they were before my time. So I asked my older relation. Again, my family has lived in the area for generations. I have the family tree on Ancestry.com to prove it. We're all very familiar with Jay Road, or Seven Bridges Road as many of us still call it. My family used to take the road to Lake Michigan. You used to be able to literally drive the road straight to the lake (there is now a private subdivision of houses there, so it no longer goes straight up to the lake). My mom is very familiar with the road after the night she took the family car out on it (even though her father specifically told her to avoid the road because of the rainwater going over the road near the bridges) and got stranded in the stalled car in the middle of a huge puddle (that really was almost a pond!).
Anyways, I ask my family. Not a one of them has heard of any of the claims. One would think that a ghostly legend that has enough notoriety to be featured in a paranormal book would garner enough local attention that every kid would grow up fearing the area that it was set in. This was not the case, though. Finding nothing of interest, I figured it was something that someone made up and posted on Shadowlands to be funny or something. I sort of forgot about the legend and time went on.
Now there's a new rash of Legend Trippers going to the area and posting their antics on YouTube. I was just there this weekend for the local firemen's picnic and brought up the topic again. This time I asked other people as well, not just my family. Again, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. They had never heard of any of it. Even a man who is very interested in history and also has had family in the area for generations had never heard of the legend or of deaths in the area like that.
Which leads us to - are these stories true? I highly doubt there is any truth to them at this time. If anyone has factual evidence (like newspaper clippings that show stories about the two deaths), I would love to see them. Perhaps there is some dark side of Jay Road that even the locals are oblivious to.
How do we as paranormal investigators know if a story is true or not? Well the obvious first place to start is with the facts. We need to find evidence to back up the claims. There is something else that most myths/legends have in common, though. If you spot this in a legend, it would be wise to approach the claim with more doubt than belief. Many state something that would be impossible for someone to know. Have you ever heard something that ended like this: "...and then the man saw a [insert scary monster or ghost here]
I think one of our responsibilities as paranormal investigators is to help people understand how legends are formed and show them what to look for before they believe something without checking into it. I'll admit I question the ethics of groups who spread ghost stories without checking into the claims. It's one thing to have fun talking about ghost stories but it's another to spread the stories as believable events without anything to back them up.
Unless I am presented with some hardcore evidence, I'm not going to believe that Jay Road is haunted and I shake my head in disbelief by how many groups of Legend Trippers head out there thinking they will catch something. My one request if people feel they MUST continue to do this - please be respectful. Don't take video of peoples' personal homes and post it on YouTube, talking about how it's all haunted. Don't horse around on the road, endangering your life and the lives of those around you. And remember that many people, like me, will question your methods if you believe a place is haunted just because someone posted it on the internet even though there is nothing to back up the claims.