Cry Baby Bridge: Truth or Fiction?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

&#8220Listen,” he says.

He wipes a hand across his mouth.

&#8220When Travis Dayton spoke that night, his voice was red.”

I ask him what he meant by that.

The old man shrugs and looks around, as if Travis Dayton were still there. As if it was June 10, 1930 all over again and he was still sitting at the bar, in a long lost honkey tonk outside of Greenville called Sally's, sipping his beer and carrying on a conversation with a long dead friend.

Later, I do some research and find out nothing really spectacular happened that day in the rest of the world. In sports, Lefty Groves and the Philadelphia Athletics lost to the White Sox, 7-6. In Chicago, journalist Alfred Lingle is shot and newspapers offer $55,000 for his killer's capture.

But in Greenville, a pair of murders are committed by a man hardly anyone knew.

On the night of June 10, 1930, Travis Dayton kills his wife. Then he kills his newborn baby.

At midnight, Travis enters Sally's. Someone says hello because at first no one notices the blood. On his face. On his shirt. It layers his clothes like syrup.

&#8220It was so thick on his face that red mist sprayed out of his mouth when he breathed,” the old man offers.

Did he say anything? I ask.

The old man looks around again. Ghosts from the past, I think, creeping around his shoulders.

&#8220He said, ‘it had no mouth but I could hear it crying.'”

Was he talking about the baby?

The old man shrugs once more.

&#8220We saw the axe he was carrying,” the old man says. &#8220But we didn't see the pistol.”

Travis Dayton put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was dead before he hit the floor.

n n n

Once, Cahaba - or &#8220Ghost” - Road had bridges and was all dirt, says Cleve Poole.

Poole and his family have lived on Ghost Road since 1990.

&#8220Nothing strange to report,” says Poole of the mysterious source of so much local legend in and around Greenville. &#8220Lots of deer running out in front cars and dogs howling but that's about it.”

Before Wal-Mart, before Burger King, before Cambrian Ridge and Cracker Barrel and Greenville Motor Company, the far side of Interstate 65 was an undeveloped frontier; a frontier of thick forests where the term &#8220living in the country” applied to just about anyone residing in and around the Sherling Lake area.

And cutting a swath through that forest was Ghost Road. Bumpy, winding, dark and deserted. The perfect supernatural highway where spirits haunt an old country church and a witch with a thousand cats attacks those who dare stop.

And if you turn your car off, roll down your windows and listen, you can hear a baby crying for its mother.

Or so the story goes.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McClendon says he remembered taking trips down Ghost Road, riding his bike on a dare, even those his mother warned him not to.

&#8220The Cat-Lady would get you,” he said. &#8220That's what everyone told me.”

Lucille Williams came from Mobile and Travis Dayton built her the finest home in Greenville. The wedding took place on Sept. 15, 1929 inside the grand home Travis had built for his love. There were three people present; Travis, Lucille and the minister, Franklin Jeffers. When asked later why the wedding wasn't a traditional celebratory ceremony, Jeffers told everyone that the new Mrs. Dayton was shy.

And one other interesting detail: the bride wore a heavy veil to hide her face.

Mrs. Lena Baker, 92, tells me this story and about what was found in the Dayton house after Travis had committed suicide. I found her story on the Internet, doing a search of ‘Cry-Baby Bridge.'

The sheriff and a few deputies went into the house, she says, and came out white. Murder, they said. Blood everywhere. But no bodies.

&#8220They found Travis' car near Sally's,” she says. &#8220The blood trailed out of the car and onto the bridge. They searched the swamp but never found a body - not Lucille's, or the baby's.”

I ask her what she thinks happened to them.

She looks out the window. She asks me to come back tomorrow.

Poole says he actually met the Cat-Lady. Her name was Lynn Brown.

&#8220Somewhere down the line, I'm actually related to her,” he laughs.

When he was a boy, Poole says his grandmother used to stop and visit with Brown.

&#8220There was a kudzu patch and her house was covered in it,” he recalls. &#8220My grandmother would always stop and visit her. She was just the sweetest lady.”

And about the cats? Did she bewitch them into a frenzy and attack people who came near her home?

&#8220She did have a bunch of cats, but she just liked being on her own,” he says. &#8220I'm sure every town has someone people think is unusual and want to label them strange or evil. But she was one of the nicest ladies I knew.”

The haunted church - or Pine Top Baptist Church to be exact - is more of a trick of the eye than any restless spirits wandering its interior, says Poole. Legend has it that switching your car off and pressing your brakes causes the church's lights to blink uncontrollably while pews and chairs are tossed around the inside like doll furniture.

&#8220Before they re-did the church and put in new windows, there was a way you could turn your lights on and have it reflect out of the windows,” he said. &#8220It did look like something was in there. But these are just things someone got started and it sounded good. I think a lot of it is older kids trying to scare younger kids. And it's still going around today.”

What about Cry-Baby Creek? I ask.

&#8220I've never heard about that,” says Poole.


In Greenville, there sits a house where horrible things took place.

But I'm having problems finding it.

75 years later, no one seems to know where it is, or what has happened to it, or if a man named Travis Dayton ever lived here and ever was married and ever murdered his family.

&#8220He did,” is Lena Baker's only reply. She allows me back in her home the next day.

The old man will not talk anymore. He won't even allow me to use his name although he assures me that every thing he has said is the truth. And by the way he grips my arm when I get up to leave, his jaw clenched and shaking, as he looks me in the eyeŠ I am inclined to believe him.

Where did the bodies go? In the swamp? Is that why, supposedly, people still hear the crying of lost baby searching for its mother? Or did Travis Dayton bury them elsewhere, tucking their lifeless bodies away in the backwoods of Butler County where they will never see the light of day?

Questions. No answers.

&#8220It had no mouth,” Travis Dayton told them. &#8220But I could hear it crying.”

Is it still crying?