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Haunted by monkeys? A circus accident led to a haunted bridge in East Texas

Athens has many stories of unusual activity, but few of them are based on fact.

ATHENS, Texas — The scariest story in Athens begins where one road ends.

“Yes, this is the bridge where the tales begin,” said Athens native Elizabeth Perryman, pointing to the spot where Thunder Bridge once stood.

The bridge isn’t there anymore, but Perryman remembers when it was. Growing up, she heard stories that the road leading to the bridge was once home to something that wasn’t human.

A simple search online shows that some people believe the road is haunted by monkeys.

“And so the legend began of Monkey Road,” Perryman said.

A long time ago, the circus was passing through when a wagon tipped over, and monkeys escaped into the woods.

Some monkeys stayed in the woods and rumor has it that some were caught by a man named Reverend Fuller.

Fuller put them inside a cage on a piece of land he owned called Fuller Park.

In high school, Perryman and friends would visit Fuller Park to see what has been described as one of the ‘spookiest places in Athens.’

Today, the park is overgrown and unkempt, but Rev. Fuller’s still there, buried beside his wife.

However, some folks believe there’s something else buried: tunnels.

In fact, they say underneath Athens, there are five tunnels all connected in the shape of a pentagram.

“I like to believe that these things are part of our lore, our town lore,” Perryman said.

Her dad, Chip Perryman, says it’s all a lie.

“I think the only part that’s probably true is the wagon load of monkeys that fell over and got loose,” he said.

After 100 years of passing down that story, things went bananas.

Monkey ghosts, monkey cages and tunnels are stories Chip says a group of high school kids made up 30 years ago.

The monkeys that escaped probably died within a week, which is why there was no monkey cage at Fuller Park. It was an aviary. Rev. Fuller’s wife collected exotic birds.

As for the tunnels? Chip says no chance. The ground beneath Athens is all sand.

“It’s an engineering impossibility,” he said.

However, the legend of Monkey Road, and the tales that came after, have has survived on the internet as well as the local haunted house.

Owner Jerry Spiva has a Monkey Road theme and says customers have added their own “facts” to the story.

“Mr. Fuller was experimenting on monkeys and even experimented on his wife,” Spiva said one customer told him.

“I think we were choosing to believe in it,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth says she doesn’t believe these stories anymore but that won’t stop her from telling them because, she says, it’s part of what makes Athens special.

“I just think it’s good fun,” she said. “Growing up out here, there’s not a lot to do so you want to believe in something.”

Proof that sometimes the scariest thing is your imagination.

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