The passage of time over many centuries has yielded an astoundingly rich treasure trove of haunted places, ghost stories and ghost induced suicides. The treasure trove of haunted places and ghost lore is multi-faceted and multi-hued, thrilling at times, shocking at times, tragic at times, sad at times, with a happy ending at times and much more. But while a lot has become known about why a particular place is haunted and about ghostly manifestations, a tremendous lot still remains unanswered despite researchers, scientists and believers in the paranormal carrying out still ongoing intensive and extensive investigations. It is this unexplained mysterious element that binds all manner of ghost stories and links baffling questions. Perhaps the most baffling is the mystery of haunted bridges.
It is known that places that have witnessed great trauma and violent deaths such as battlefields or execution spots are often haunted as are several hospitals where the suffering of the patients was intense, or crossroads which have been the scene of many accidents and other similar sites. But why would bridges be haunted? In a few cases, legend and later research have linked suicides from such bridges to the reason for them being haunted. In a majority of cases, however, the reasons for a particular bridge being haunted remain a mystery. Perhaps one of the strangest cases is of a haunted bridge in Scotland where dogs kill themselves. Overtoun bridge has long been reputedly one of the most haunted bridges in Scotland. But the latest in a series of stories was a couple of months ago when the International Business Times carried an article , “Heard of Dog Suicide Bridge? The haunted place where dogs kill themselves”, which made startling revelations. It was revealed that 50 dogs have “leaped off this 50-foot, 19th-century bridge since the 1950s for some unknown reason”.
The bridge was designed, wrote Asmita Kundu, by acclaimed landscape architect HE Milner. The construction was completed in 1895. According to another report by UK’s Daily Mail, five dogs flung themselves off the bridge within just six months in that year. According to several other reports, some 600 more dogs are said to have jumped off the bridge from the same exact spot but fortunately survived. In 2005, a collie named Ben jumped off the deadly bridge.
“The bridge has a tragic tale as well”, wrote Kundu. “In 1994, a 32-year-old man threw his infant son to death from the bridge. He claimed that his son was an anti-christ. The kid died in the hospital after a day. Later he tried to kill himself twice, first, he attempted to jump off the bridge following his son and second, he slashed his wrists with a knife. But it is not confirmed whether this incident has any link to the present bizarre incidents. There is one more theory behind it, which says that the dogs might have been lured by the animals hiding beneath the bridge such as squirrels, mice… What is most striking is the bizarre data shows that only long-nosed breeds like German shepherds and Scottish terriers seem to be the most affected by this spooky bridge…”
According to Wikipedia, Overtoun Bridge has attracted international media attention because of the number of dogs who have reportedly leapt from it, often dying upon landing on the rocks 50 feet (15 m) below; the bridge has also been the site of human murder. The only linking factors for this unexplained event are that dogs mostly jump from the same side of the bridge, in clear weather, and they are breeds with long snouts.
It seems “the canine psychologist Dr. David Sands examined sight, smell and sound factors. He concluded that although it was not a definitive answer, the potent odour from male mink urine was possibly luring dogs to their deaths. Author Paul Owens in the book The Baron of Rainbow Bridge: Overtoun’s Death Leaping Dog Mystery Unravelled argues against Sands ‘Scent Theory.’ Instead he offers a paranormal explanation for the dog leaping phenomenon. With 4 decades of personal experience with Overtoun, Owens proposed that Overtoun historically has been cloaked in a blanket of supernatural activity e.g. fairies, presences, spirits, earth energies, and ghosts, which super sensitive dogs are picking up at the bridge. He contends that Overtoun Bridge is a ‘thin place,’ an otherworldly corridor where the spirits and ghosts of the past connect with people in the present. Owens attributes Overtoun’s most famous White Lady ghost, which stalks Overtoun Bridge as the cause of the unexplained dog leaping mystery…”
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals began looking into the bizarre happening but could not find anything conclusive so far and the mystery remains. Curiously, every country in the world has its share, in fact often more than a fair share of haunted bridges. America, for example is known for its Crybaby Bridges. According to Wikipedia, “The name often reflects an urban legend that the sound of a baby can be, or has been, heard from the bridge. Many are also accompanied by an urban legend relating to a baby or young child/children.” In one case, it is said that “if a car is stopped on the bridge and baby powder is poured on the hood, baby footprints may appear in the powder”.
Other paranormal phenomena such as footsteps and the feeling of an “evil presence” have also been reported from these haunted bridges. The Crybaby Bridges span a large swathe in America—Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and several more. In this connection, paranormal investigator Rich Newman’s 2016 book, Haunted Bridges: Over 300 of America’s Creepiest Crossings which covers more than 300 bridges “with eerie phenomenon that span space and time” is an eye opener. “Invisible hands reach out and touch unsuspecting travelers. Residual ghosts haunt scenes of murders, accidents, hangings, and suicides. At some bridges a voice cries out in the darkness that sends a chill down the spine of anyone who hears it…” India too has many haunted bridges with colourful and often spine chilling local legends, which I’ll tell you about in a later column.