Dozens of drownings in the nearby Meramec River over the past century cemented stories that the path and its surroundings harbored bad luck. In the 1950s a myth surfaced that a mental patient named Zombie met his end on Lawler Ford Road after escaping from a nearby asylum; only his bloody garments were ever found.

Soon after, the trail earned the nickname "Zombie Road" — a hangout for teens to stage late-night parties. And in true slasher-film fashion, some of those teens allegedly experienced bizarre and gruesome deaths along the trail — including getting struck by unseen trains, falling from cliff sides and even one tale of a high school student who suffocated after huffing cooking spray.

A schlocky 2007 documentary on Syfy titled Children of the Grave earned the trail even more notoriety. In the film paranormal investigators present photos and videos of "shadow people" who stalk the edges of the trail. The documentary claims that these shadow people are the spirits of children who "suffered horrible, horrible deaths down there," possibly at an orphanage or asylum for the mentally ill.

Mark Twain's Ghost's Ghostwriter
Tim Lane
Mark Twain's Ghost's Ghostwriter
Monkey Business in the Lemp Family
Tim Lane
Monkey Business in the Lemp Family

But there is no record of an asylum ever being located nearby, and the closest orphanage, a Catholic home that burned to the ground in 1885, was located several miles away. Newspapers reported no fatalities from the fire.

In 2010 the trail (accessible near Ridge Meadows Elementary School in Ellisville) was paved and renamed Rock Hollow Trail. But that hasn't kept thrill seekers from congregating along the path. Between January and Halloween of last year, St. Louis county police reportedly issued 83 tickets to people trespassing after-hours along the roadway.

Greg Myers, an investigator with the St. Louis-based Paranormal Task Force (and one of the ghost hunters featured in Children of the Grave), says he's starting to think some of the stories surrounding the path — such as the one about a mass grave of children hidden away in the forest — are pure urban myth. But that doesn't mean there isn't a good deal of supernatural activity on Zombie Road.

"Some areas, environmentally, just keep people there for various reasons," Myers says. "Zombie Road is an interesting place. There's been so much tragedy there over the years, you can see why it releases these energies. It could be vortex or a portal to the other side."

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