The Stories of Seven of America’s Most Haunted Bridges

Cross over to the other side.

As a nation, we're collectively obsessed with haunted bridges.

Though the most famous may be New York's Brooklyn Bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate, almost every state in America has dozens of haunted bridges. Why do these modes of transportation lurk in so many of our minds? Perhaps it's because bridges often carry us over bodies of water or across great heights, meaning that we have to put our survival in their hands as we ride over them. Although we know consciously that they'll keep us elevated, maybe we can't help but think of what might happen if the boards break and we go crashing into the river below, or if we were to slip and drive over the edge.

Also, bridges are shadow-cloaked and easy places to hide, and so they've often been used as locations for murders or other illicit activities. They're wooden and concrete spectators to hangings, deaths, suicides, and escapes, and are often coated with graffiti and neglect. They're places where the boundary between the human world and the natural one grows thin, and maybe because of this, we can't help but suspect that the boundary between the realm of the living and the dead might grow thin around them too. The old trope of the imp, troll, or ghoul lurking under the bridge might relate to this, as do many of the upcoming legends, which may or may not be grounded in truth—but which certainly reveal truths about our inner paranoias and deepest fears.

1. Bunny Man Bridge, Fairfax Station, Virginia

Atlas Obscura

This Virginia bridge is shrouded in urban legends, but they all actually stem from a true story. According to a Washington Post report, on October 18, 1970, a couple was sitting in a car near the Colchester Overpass when a man wearing a bunny suit and brandishing a hatchet ran out and threw his weapon into their car window. A week later, a private security guard spotted a man on the porch of a house near the bridge, still clad in the bunny suit. When the guard approached him, the man said, "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."

The hatchet-wielder was never found, but his threats spawned a multitude of disturbing legends. According to one, the bunny man was an escapee from a nearby lunatic asylum who hid out in the woods and left a trail of gutted bunnies in his wake until one Halloween night, some teenagers ventured out into the forest—and were found gutted just like the bunnies.

2. Goatman's Bridge, Denton, Texas

Texas Hill Country

The story of Goatman's Bridge begins with an African American entrepreneur named Oscar Washburn, living in the 1930s in Denton, Texas. Washburn became a successful goat farmer and was soon known around town as the "Goatman." When he hung a sign on the nearby bridge that read "This Way to the Goatman," it provoked local Klan members, who stormed Washburn's shack and hanged him on the bridge on one dark night. But when they looked over the bridge, according to legend, Washburn was nowhere to be seen, and the noose was empty. This made the Klansmen even more angry, and they went on to set fire to Washburn's shack, killing his wife and children.

Naturally, the Goatman's bridge is still viewed as haunted by many locals and folklore-lovers. Travelers have reportedly spotted glowing eyes peering through the trees and have caught glimpses of Satyrs and goatlike beasts. Another legend says that before Washburn, another African American man named Jack Kendall was lynched near the bridge and still haunts it today.

Some legends say that the Goatman and his ghostly coterie only spirit away people with the blood of slaveowners or Klansmen in their veins. The bridge (and the legends that surround it) is a reminder that the atrocities of the past cannot be cleansed away with time. "If history is the self-congratulatory narrative of a community written by its victorious elite, then our ghosts will often problematize and haunt such tidy romanticisms of back in the day," writes Shaun Treat of why these kinds of legends and ghosts persist in our minds. Even if there are no real ghosts, America is certainly a deeply haunted land.

3. Sachs Covered Bridge, Pennsylvania

Wikipedia

This legendary scarlet bridge was built in Pennsylvania before the Civil War, but according to legend, three confederate soldiers were hanged there after deserting the troops during the Battle of Gettysburg. Since then, passersby have recorded cannonball sounds, ambient screams, mysterious fogs rolling through the bridge, and even full-on ghosts dressed in traditional military uniforms. Clearly, the ravages of war can live on long after a peace treaty has been signed, burrowing into DNA and passing along threads of trauma far into the future.

4. Emily's Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

Emily's Bridge

Vermont's Gold Brook Bridge is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a girl named Emily. There are a lot of different legends about how she might've died, most involving some kind of love affair gone wrong. According to one, Emily was supposed to meet her lover on the bridge, but when he failed to appear, she hung herself from the rafters. Another one says that Emily was supposed to marry her groom, but when he didn't arrive at the wedding, she took her family's wagon out to find him. She whipped the horses into such a frenzy that when the time came to make the turn onto the bridge, she failed to do so and the wagon went crashing into the stony river below.

Actually, there aren't any official records of Emily's existence. The legend first officially appeared in the late 1960s, in a story by a high school student who said he'd summoned a ghost named Emily while using an Ouija board on the bridge. Since then, visitors to the bridge have reported contacting a girl named Emily, hearing screams, seeing a girl dressed in white, and hearing the sounds of dragging or splintering.

5. Hell's Bridge, Kent County, Michigan

maps.roadtrippers.com

The star of this eerie fable, Elias Friske, isn't real—but he's such a chilling bogeyman that he may just haunt your dreams anyway.

In the mid-19th century, a bunch of children went missing around Kent County, Michigan, and townspeople requested advice from an elderly man named Elias Friske. The old man told them that the abductions were the work of demons. Later that day, the townspeople left their children in Friske's care while they went to search the woods. When they returned, the townspeople discovered that Friske had killed their children and left their bodies in a nearby river underneath what is now known as Hell's Bridge. He told them that demons made him do it.

Today, visitors to Hell's Bridge report all manner of paranormal activity, from strange orb sightings to floating nooses.

6. Seven Gates of Hell, Collinsville, Illinois

Hunters of the Unknown

Apparently there's a portal to hell in Indiana, by way of Collinsville, Illinois. Legend has it that if you go cross the Seven Gates of Hell Bridge at night, you'll pass through (you guessed it) seven gates, and then you'll reach the door to Hell, where you'll be pursued by hellhounds. Legends say that the bridge is haunted by spirits of devil worshippers who used to use the bridge for their rites.

Though the legend about Indiana's Seven Gates of Hell Bridge doesn't have much basis in fact, there are dozens of bridges across the country that are said to be portals to the fiery realm of the damned. California's Bridge to Nowhere in Azusa is supposed to be a portal to Hell, and New York's Hell Gate is a famously haunted bridge.

7. First St. Railroad Bridge, Marysville, California

If you cross this bridge, be sure that you have a rosary or protective talisman with you. If not, according to legend (and to the advice of some local psychics and tarot readers), the bridge is populated by shadow people who will try to pull you away into the demon realm. Eerily, these shadow people are the ghosts of those who were spirited away before. So be careful, unless you want to spend your afterlife abducting travelers forevermore.

According to one urban legend, a husband and wife were walking unprotected across the bridge when the husband was pulled forcefully away, and he started screaming that the devil had a hold of him. He was able to escape...but he still has the scars.

Once you start looking for it, you'll realize that according to our myths and legends, America is literally riddled with portals to other dimensions.

Read More from Journiest

Subscribe now

Related Posts

If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.


Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.

Travel

5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

Pexels

Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

Pexels

The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

Pexels

Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

Pexels

Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

Pexels

It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

💀💀💀💀💀/5

Every Hell House in America

realitypod

In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

💀💀💀💀💀💀/5