Esther Hale: The Bride at the Bridge
Sprucevale, Ohio. Beaver Creek State Park
There are of course several versions of this tale. Many blend the tale of Esther with the Legend of Gretchen's Lock because they took place within approximately 1/2 mile of each other.
The tale of Esther Hale, also known as the Bride at the Bridge took place in a small canal community known as Sprucevale. All that is left of this area is an old Grist Mill (Hambleton's Mill), an old building and the remains of two locks on the Sandy and Beaver Canal.
When the community was alive and busy Esther Hale was to be married. In the book "Spooky Ohio" (1995) and "Haunted Ohio II" (1992) Chris Woodyard describes the story:
"On the morning of August 12, 1837, Esther Hale hummed happily to herself as she put on her white dress and veil. It was her wedding day. The table in the parlor was decorated with flowers and vines. The cake was in the kitchen, covered with cheesecloth to keep off the flies. The wedding was set for ten in the morning.
But by half past ten the groom had not arrived and the guests and parson were beginning to fidget. At half past twelve, they climbed into their wagons and drove away. The messenger Esther sent could find no trace of the bridegroom. His cabin was deserted, said the man, and the ashes in the stove were cold.
"When Esther's friends tried to help her to bed, Esther shook her head, the tears running down her face. Finally they left her alone in the dark by the window in the parlor. When they returned the next morning, the curtains were drawn, as if for a funeral. They were never again opened in Esther Hale's lifetime.
"All Summer Esther moved like a ghost through the house. In the kitchen, beetles tunneled through the cake. The wedding flowers withered under the spider's veils in the parlor. Esther's friends coaxed her to eat and drink a little, but when they tried to get her to change her dress or remove the wedding decorations, she flew at them with claw-like fingers. Finally they left her alone.
Broken hearts kill slowly. Four months later, a neighbor noticed that the door to Esther's house was open, banging back and forth in the December wind. He told the sheriff and the doctor who took a party of men to the dark house. Snow had drifted throughout the house like a white shroud.
"Esther was slumped over the parlor windowsill, her veil over her face. Someone held up a lantern. The doctor drew back the shredded lace. Esther had been dead for several weeks. When they saw the horror beneath, they silently covered her over again. She was buried so, shrouded in her wedding clothes.
"But burial did not put an end to Esther Hale. It is said by the locals that you can still see her, dressed in white, looking for her bridegroom on the bridge over Beaver Creek in Columbiana County. She waits there every year on August 12, a hideous figure in tattered white satin and lace. And if she touches you she will become young and beautiful again----but you will die."