The serene community of Hutto is home to some of the scariest stories in eastern Williamson County.
Both the old and new bridges over Brushy Creek along Jake's Hill Road have inspired chilling tales told by those who have experienced inexplicable phenomena during the last half century - and as recently as four days ago.
Motorists traveling along south FM 1660 may catch only a passing glimpse of the Hutto City Cemetery as they commute to and from work every day, but some who have taken that turn onto CR 137, especially at night, have told eerie tales of ghostly apparitions and mysterious occurrences on and around the bridge.
Jake's Hill Road is named for the man who at the turn of the last century lived on the hill on which an iron and wood bridge was constructed. That man was Nelf Jacobsen, but everyone called him "Jake," according to Sue Holmstrom, a lifelong Hutto-area resident who lived just one mile from Jake's Hill when she was a child.
Holmstrom's father told her about Jake and how he took small cedar limbs, fashioning them into handles and attaching weeds to make brooms. On Saturdays, Jake would throw the brooms over his shoulders and ride a mule into the city of Hutto to sell his wares, Holmstrom said, reading from notes she had written down from conversations with her father.
"My father told me that tale many, many times," Holmstrom said.
Holmstrom cannot recall ever meeting Jake and thinks he died before she was born. Jake's granddaughter visited Holmstrom only a few years ago, she said, trying to determine where her grandfather had been buried as she had not been able to find a marked grave.
As a girl, Holmstrom and her sisters and friends would go down to Brushy Creek near the bridge and gather fall leaves and stretch berry branches to make holiday wreaths and decorations. Just west of the bridge, children would find all kinds of arrowheads at what must have been at one time an Indian camping ground on the banks of the Brushy, Holmstrom said.
Etched into her memory are the sounds made by vehicles crossing the wooden slats of the old bridge.
"It rattled it so much," she said. "We lived like a mile from there, but we could here it when cars went across."
Mystery surrounds the history of the original bridge and rumors still circulate of suicides that may have taken place from its iron rails, but Holmstrom doesn't know if any of those are true.
She does, however, know that three boys were killed near the old bridge on March 10, 1950 when the driver of the pickup truck in which they were riding lost control as they approached the bridge and the boys plummeted to their deaths down a steep Brushy Creek ravine.
Even after the old bridge was demolished and a new one built, the area has been a destination for those seeking spooky, spine-tingling thrills.
The story of the Jake's Hill bridge can be found in an index of haunted places on Shadowlands.net, an Internet collection of more than 8,500 such stories from around the country.
On the Web site, the following is said of Jake's Hill:
"To this day if you go out to the bridge and turn your car off and put it in neutral, ghosts push you across the bridge away to safety from Jake (the bridge is flat). And if you put flour on the back of your car you can see the handprints from them pushing your car."
One Pflugerville resident writing on Shadowlands.net, tells of his experience on the bridge.
"The bridge is reportedly flat and it certainly looks so," he writes, "but if a person positions his or her car straight down the middle of the bridge on the far east side, turns it off, and puts the shifter in neutral, the car will roll, creating the sensation that it is actually being pushed. It works almost every time. I know; I've done it on numerous occasions."
The writer tells the story of his first encounter with the unknown, which took place as he was driving north on Jake's Hill Road. Just after passing the small cemetery that is tucked away on the east side of the road, he and two friends were crossing the bridge when they noticed lights in the rearview mirror.
"I glanced up in the mirror and, sure enough, could see four distinct blue lights tailing us," he writes. "I rolled down the window to check the door mirror and saw the lights right behind us. It's really funny how your mind works in these kinds of circumstances, trying to force recognizable forms on unrecognizable things. I looked and looked and looked, and, despite its efforts, my mind could not make the lights conform to anything familiar; there was no faint outline which might betray the crossbar of a pick-up, or the interior of a small car. There were only lights."
After the lights quickly disappeared, the man became convinced they belonged to a ghost truck.
"Who knows?" he wrote. "If apparitions can take the shape of people, why not cars?"
Only four days ago, Hutto resident Jamie Church and her husband Nathan decided they would drive down to the bridge as a Halloween jaunt to scare their 13-year-old daughter Brittany and her friend Megan.
It was nearing the witching hour Saturday night when the car made its way along CR 137. Brittany and Megan urged Jamie and Nathan to let them get out and walk across the bridge, Church said, but upon seeing a ghostly form ahead in the road, the four quickly locked their doors and cautiously proceeded.
Church said a thick fog could be seen off to the left of the roadway, the area where an iron trestle of the original bridge still stands. The apparition took human form, but was not recognizable as male or female and hovered above the ground, Church said. As their car continued slowly across the bridge, the apparition drifted toward the middle of the road and then appeared to turn and look directly at them, she said.
"It scared us to death," Church said. "I don't believe I will ever drive on that road ever again."
Neither will her husband, she said.
"We couldn't sleep," Church said Monday. "I couldn't sleep again last night. I was up until almost 2 a.m. this morning.
"Bad things happen there," Church said. "It was just an out-of-this-world experience that I will never forget."