October 31, 2005

How can I not write about Sunol's most famous ghost story on this All Hallows Eve? Some call her the White Witch, others the Niles Canyon Ghost. It's a story that has been told over and over from generation to generation and everyone has their own version of the horrid events that took place that day. Some say she was returning home from a prom, others tell of her being a bride on her wedding night. Some say it happened in 1920 others say 1940. We like to think of it as our own ghost story but similar stories are told all over the country. And I still can't figure out the "witch" part. The most common of the haunted stories goes something like this.

While traveling through Sunol at the intersection of Scott's Corner, which is now where highway 84 meets highway 680, a young beautiful bride was on her way to her wedding in a horse drawn carriage when suddenly the horses were spooked and the bride was thrown from the vehicle and instantly killed.

Now the story changes here a bit because supposedly her white ghostly figure appears near a train trestle on Niles Canyon Road every year on February 26, which is still highway 84 but several miles from Scott's corner. They say the woman wearing a beautiful but dirty white wedding dress is wandering by the side of the road looking for a ride.

The tale continues as unsuspecting motorist stop to give her a ride. She tells them that she is trying to get to San Francisco and gives the driver the address. But before the car reaches the Dumbarton Bridge, she disappears into thin air. The scared and confused driver continues on to the address given by the woman and the person who lives at the home discloses the fact that their daughter/niece/sister was killed in the 1920's.

I must confess, as a teenager we all dared each other to travel that dark canyon on February 26 and we never witnessed anything other than the occasional raccoon. But supposedly others have had encounters with this famous apparition.

In my own family I had an uncle, whose tall tales were fueled by his fondness for liquor, who swears he picked her up by the side of the road and yes she did vanish before he arrived at the Dumbarton Bridge. But I don't think he continued on to the San Francisco address.

Another time a friend who lived in Pleasanton was traveling from Fremont through Niles Canyon late at night and saw a strange figure of a woman by the side of the road. My friend knew nothing of the ghost story and while talking a few days later she casually mentioned that she had seen the strangest thing the other night, a woman dressed in a long white gown walking alone at night down Niles Canyon Road. Was it the Niles Canyon Ghost or an imposter?

Others have tried to recreate the mysterious woman by wearing a bed sheet and traipsing over the trestle on the anniversary of that fateful night. In 1950 a group of teenage boys decided to play a hoax and donning a white bed sheet, one the teens climbed the hill to the trestle to wave and try to scare passing motorists.

The local police were soon called and when arriving at the scene they fired warning shots to bring the playful teenagers out of their hiding place. The boys were given strict instructions never to try that dangerous prank again.

Do you believe in ghosts? Several homes in Sunol are reported to be haunted. Could yours be one of them? Happy Halloween!

Around Sunol
Sunol.net Home