Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge
Opelika Municipal Park
Things looked bleak for the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge on June 5, 2005. Early that morning, a tree had fallen on part of this 105-year-old bridge. The damage was so severe that the entire bridge collapsed into Wacoochee Creek. Located in rural Lee County, Alabama, near the community of Salem, it appeared that this was the end for this last remaining covered bridge in the county. It was one of eleven covered bridges remaining in the state.
Concerned citizens in the area soon began to salvage the parts of the bridge and placed them in storage. Later on that year, ownership of the remains of the bridge were officially transferred to the City of Opelika who, with the help of the local Kiwanis Club and historical organizations, began a reconstruction of the bridge over Rocky Creek in Opelika Municipal Park. The bridge reopened to fanfare in 2007.
For years before it’s destruction and subsequent reconstruction, stories were told about this lonely bridge. Some of the first stories, according to Faith Serafin, Michelle Smith and Mark Poe in their recent book Haunted Auburn and Opelika, were told of Native American spirits reaching up from the waters of Wacoochee Creek towards unwary travelers crossing the bridge at night. Like so many lonely bridges, this bridge acquired a reputation for other spirits over time. (see my recent entry on Cry Baby Hollow in North Alabama)
Supposedly in the 1960s, a young woman was either strangled or hung herself on the bridge. One story involves the young woman asking a young man to meet her at the bridge for a late night tryst. When the young man didn’t show up, the young woman hung herself.
The death of another woman in a fatal car accident added yet another spirit to the bridge. In this tale a young woman is driving along the country road towards the bridge in a rain storm. As she rounded the curve in the road towards the bridge, the car skidded on the slick road and crashed into the turbulent, storm-riled waters below. Her spirit is said to drift along the stream banks accompanied by the smell of burning flesh. I have not yet been able to locate media coverage to corroborate these stories.
Yet one more accident added a spirit to the bridge: that of a young boy. His pitiful spirit often attracted ghost hunters and curious legend trippers who would leave small toys and gifts behind for the child. It is possibly his spirit who has accompanied the bridge to its new location. The authors of Haunted Auburn and Opelika speak of children playing near the reconstructed bridge playing with a young boy that only they can see.
- Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 December 2012.
- Serafin, Faith; Michelle Smith and Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.