Bridge over troubled water–Bowling Green, Kentucky

Old Richardsville Road Bridge
Richardsville Road at the Barren River
Bowling Green, Kentucky

N.B. This article was edited and revised 3 February 2019.

Bridges are the centerpieces of numerous ghost stories. They can be symbols of the transition between life and death. Perhaps that’s what also attracts ghosts. In a distant memory, I recall something about folklore stating that ghosts cannot cross water; that would certainly cause problems for many bridge-dwelling spirits, though it does nothing to prevent many bridges from being haunted.

The Old Richardsville Road Bridge is certainly something out of a different time. In proper bridge parlance it is a “three span bowstring arch truss bridge.” The span is a segment of the bridge supported on both sides by piers. Bowstring arch truss refers to the graceful curved iron arches–resembling a bow primed to shoot an arrow–that support each span. Located on both sides of the road, these graceful arches are also supported by another, squarish truss on each span. The deck is wooden and a single lane, which does present some issues for modern automobiles. Aesthetically, the bridge is an elegant marriage of form and function.

haunted Old Richardsville Road Bridge Bowling Green Kentucky ghost crybaby bridge
Old Richardsville Road Bridge, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While the bridge may be somewhat unusual in its architecture, its legend is a version of the far more common Crybaby Bridge Legend. At some point in the bridge’s early history a young, unmarried woman found herself pregnant. Unable to face the shame and scorn that society heaped upon innocents gone astray like herself, she leapt from the bridge to drown in the waters below. Other versions of the story include the woman jumping as she fled an attack, or driving off the bridge either accidentally or purposefully. The legend continues that if one drives onto the bridge, puts the car in neutral and turns it off, the car will be pushed towards the opposite end. I have covered this folkloric archetype in my article on the Kayo Road Bridge in Hartselle, Alabama.

A 2011 article in the Bowling Green Daily News by Jack Montgomery recounts his informal investigation of the bridge legend. Montgomery and his companions tried to get their car pushed across the bridge, but to no avail. He then walked the bridge with a pair of dowsing rods. The rods did respond in three specific areas of the bridge. Other than that, he left with no other evidence of a haunting. Though, Montgomery did note that the wires on the bridge may produce high EMFs which may affect some who are sensitive. In addition, he noticed the creaks and groans of the old bridge which may give the impression of human cries or screams.

A more formal investigation of the bridge was conducted by Kindred Realm Investigations on three days in September of the same year. The first investigation produced no odd results. The second evening produced a single photograph with a possible orb. The third evening produced a few interesting results. The group finally had their vehicle, a large SUV, pulled along the bridge. A short time later, one of the group’s recorders picked up the sounds of singing or humming, as well as conversation and laughter from a female.

The bridge, built in 1889 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, has held up for more than a century, though in recent decades, the bridge has begun to show its age. While the iron has remained in excellent condition, the stone piers and the stone entrances to the bridge as well as the wooden decking have deteriorated. However, the bridge has found a savior in the form of local resident David Garvin. Having been born and raised nearby, Garvin has “adopted” the bridge and financed repairs and restorative work with his own money. If only every endangered historic site could find such a savior!

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