An Incident at the Siam Steel Bridge—Elizabethton, Tennessee

Site of the Siam Steel Bridge
Steel Bridge Road over the Watauga River
Elizabethton, Tennessee

An ugly, modern concrete bridge now crosses the Watauga River in the Siam Valley outside of Elizabethton, Tennessee. This crossing was formerly occupied by an impressive steel bridge that was constructed in 1941. Stories, with many historical inaccuracies, have circulated for decades.

Siam Steel Bridge Elizabethton Tennessee haunted ghost
The Siam Steel Bridge, July 2008, by Calvin Sneed. Courtesy of Bridgehunter.com.

The most common story speaks of a time just after the construction of the bridge, when the area was a popular “Lovers’ Lane” of sorts. A young couple was spending time underneath the bridge one night when they were attacked by a vagrant. The couple was stabbed with the young lady dying on the spot, while the young man was able to hail a passing car and climb into the back seat. He was rushed to the hospital where he passed away. According to the story, the police spent more than a year looking for the assailant, but to no avail.

The imminent Tennessee folklorist Charles Edwin Price published an account of this story in his 1992 book, Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee, though some of his details are inaccurate. He dates the murder to the 1920s or 1930s, before the actual construction of the bridge and he provides names for the young couple, Tom Jackson and Wanda Smithson.

In his short, but excellently researched eBook, Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee, researcher and investigator Justin H. Guess delved into local records on this murder only to discover that there were none. He did, however come across the marvelous account of an incident at the bridge experienced by a sheriff’s deputy. This account was published in a HubPages article published in 2008. Bracketed comments are mine.

On July 18th, 1977, the first report of paranormal activity was documented. Beecher Davis, a Gate City, Virginia [in Scott County, about 40 miles north of Elizabethton] sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the Carter County Sheriff’s department around 1:42am in a panic. He stated that he was driving over the steel bridge when the passenger’s side door flew open and then slammed shut. He slammed on the brakes and noticed an indention in the passenger’s seat, as if someone were sitting there. He then caught a glimpse in his mirror of a dark figure that appeared to be wearing a dark cloak and hood. He said that it appeared to be inching closer to the car, but it didn’t look like it was walking. He stated at that point, he got out of the car and nothing was there. He became even more startled at that point and drove off to the Sheriff’s station.

Joey Parsons, the author of the HubPages article, states that this was the first documented experience of some 185 that have been documented over the years. Sadly, he doesn’t include who is doing the documenting.

In recent years, the one lane bridge was deemed structurally deficient and in 2010 was demolished and replaced with a less charming and attractive sibling bridge. It is unknown if paranormal activity has continued at the site.

Sources

  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. com. 2012.
  • Parsons, Joey. “A Great American Haunting: The Watauga River Bridge.” 23 September 2008.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1992.
  • Siam Steel Bridge.” Bridgehunter.com. Accessed 14 April 2019.
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One Reply to “An Incident at the Siam Steel Bridge—Elizabethton, Tennessee”

  1. I am planning to publish an article about this famous bridge and its world famous mysteries in the Swiss American Historical Review in June, 2020. I am doing this because a Swiss American of Johnson City/Elizabethton, Sharon Messer, had a most strange experience while driving over the bridge with her roomates in the 1960s. Her experience revived interest in the ghost and the moving visible spectre which has haunted the bridge since the original murders there in the 1930s. Sharon Messer claimed that as they were passing over the bridge at twilight, she noticed that the seat beside her became depressed, as though someone was sitting on it, although no one could be seen. She really freaked when her roommate, sitting beside her, said that she had noticed the same thing and felt a cold presence in the backseat beside them. This incident revived interest in the mysteries surrounding the Watauga River Bridge, and made the incident of the floating spectre world famous. There have been more than 185 reported sightings of strange happenings on this bridge over the past hundred years. If anyone knows this Sharon Messer, could you please send me her phone number, so that I could ask her about this. I work for the Swiss government, and we would like to know more about this paranormal activity, since several Americans of Swiss descent are among those who have witnessed these strange happenings. If you have any additional contact information about witnesses who have actually seen these strange things on this bridge, or who know how to contact Sharon Messer, please let me know. Thank you so much in advance for your much appreciated help. Dr. Dwight Page, Professor of French and German

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