New After-Hours Policy Instituted for Wildwood Site that Attracts Paranormal Enthusiasts
City officials lock down guidelines for a popular spot that has spawned many a night crusades, as well as horror movies.
City officials set new guidelines for late-night use of Wildwood's Rock Hollow Trail Corridor--good news for those who conduct paranormal research.
The new policy allows visitors to use Rock Hollow later than the typical closing time of a half-hour after sunset.
Joe Vujnich, Wildwood director of planning and parks, said the new policy is consistent with current parks and recreational guidelines that govern all of the city's locations. After-hours visitors will have to pay a $25 permit processing fee and will be required to cover the cost of an off-duty police officer to accompany them.
The new policy indicates city-sponsored events held in park facilities and trail corridors are not subject to the guidelines, unless otherwise directed by city council members.
After-hour users should submit written requests at least 30 days in advance of the intended date of use, in addition to completing a special liability waiver form that will be supplied by the city.
Requests must include the name of the group or individual, the name and contact information for the requester, along with location, date and time, the number of participants, and any affiliations or certifications associated with the activity.
Minors under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult. All other park regulations continue to apply: no alcoholic beverages; no business can be solicited; no trash can be left behind; noise should not be excessive; no defacing of rocks, flowers or native materials is permissible; public motorized vehicles are not permitted on park service roads or trails; and no weapons are acceptable.
Applicants can get their permit reapproved for a later date at no charge if their visit is canceled because of bad weather.
Greg Myers, director of Missouri Paranormal Research and representing the Paranormal Task Force in St. Louis, said his group is keenly interested in the trail corridor portion commonly called "Zombie Road."
Myers said in an electronic message he thought it was a good overall policy. He recommended and provided a sample of an "at your own risk" waiver, which was adopted as part of the new rules to be signed by every after-hours participant.
He indicated that he was interested in working with Wildwood officials to possibly organize and host overnight investigations, haunted night tours, and ghost hunting workshops.
Council member John McCulloch (Ward 7) inquired about whether night hikes from groups such as the Boy Scouts, would be allowed, and if there would be a maximum number of people per group set. Vujnich said groups that followed the proper permit process would be considered, and that city staff would rely on the expertise of the local police team to assess the size of groups.
Vujnich said the city received five requests for after-hour use of the corridor last year. Mayor Tim Woerther said he received two more requests by e-mail. "Given the uniqueness of this city holding, we felt it was best to manage the process," Vujnich said.
The consequence for being caught trespassing on Zombie Road can be a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail if a person is found guilty of violating Wildwood's municipal ordinance, said Capt. Kenneth Williams, commander of the St. Louis County Police Department's Wildwood precinct.
SIDEBAR: What is the attraction of Zombie Road?
The actual name of the unique passageway that initiates so many urban folk legends is Lawler Ford Road. Known as a horse and carriage thoroughfare about 150 years ago, it is no longer marked by its technical name. Starting very close to the Ridge Meadows Elementary School (777 Ridge Road), the 2-mile stretch dead-ends near the Meramec River in the Glencoe community area where Old State Road meets Missouri Highway 109.
Many stories are associated with Zombie Road, but the main legends reflect it being haunted by people killed by trains there, first in 1876 and as recently as the 1990s. Reactions to the place have appeared in books, and it even inspired a 2010 movie documentary, "The Legend of Zombie Road," by Howard Smith and Ethan Terra, as well as "Children of the Grave", as shown on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Other related tales include:
- Ghosts of Native Americans still remaining.
- Settlers who were not buried after dying.
- A boy who fell off the river bluffs, and was left to rot by his friends.
- Several lovers' lane couples who did not live to tell what really happened.
- People getting killed by the trees there.
- Gangsters taking people's lives during Prohibition and the days of speakeasies.
- A patient nicknamed "Zombie" who escaped from a nearby mental facility and was never seen again.
- A Parkway West High School student who was left to die by his buddies in the 1970s after an overdose can-sniffing incident.
- Children and adults who have drowned at the one end.
- Modern day witches and devil worshippers using the area.
Regardless of who shares experiences from physically being at Zombie Road, they all tend to have the common threads of the sense of being watched and followed; strange, shadow anomalies appearing; unexplainable hot and cold spots; sulfur and gun powder smells; orbs and eerie sounds; accelerated battery drains on recording and camera equipment; and the sense of being pushed, touched or grabbed by unseen forces.
One online remark from Internet poster, Ghosthunter 79, says it all: "Everyone who has been to Zombie Road knows the feelings there."