The Secrets of the Soo Line Bridge

Soo Line Bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Photo by Devon Bell

Soo Line Bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Photo by Devon Bell

[] If you ever feel like taking a nice, peaceful stroll while listening to the wind in the trees and the gentle lapping of water, the Soo Line Bridge is a superb location. It is near downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin and actually across from another reportedly haunted location, which is the old Uniroyal Tire Factory. This particular bridge is very unique, in that it is in the shape of an “s.” It crosses over the Eau Claire River and used to be utilized for trains; now it is a bike and walking trail.

In September of 1890, the Eau Claire Leader stated, “Five teams are being employed today hauling rock stone for the piers and abutments. About fifteen men are getting the bridge timbers ready and it is the intention of the company to lose no time in completing their new depot.” After this structure was used so much, in 1910 the plan was set in stone to replace the wooden bridge with a Warren truss design, however, you can still see the wooden timbers that supported the rails. It was this year, May 3rd, 1910 to be exact, when a terrible tragedy occurred.

A bridge worker named John Murphy from the nearby town of Chippewa Falls, was working on the bridge that day. According to the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, Murphy was, “a sober, diligent man who enjoyed the acquaintances of a large circle of friends.” At about 3 pm, 48 year old Murphy was working on the north end of the bridge, when his co-workers reported he must have lost his grip and plummeted over the side of the bridge, 25 feet to his death. He struck his head between two timbers and died from internal injuries. He left behind his wife Katherine and two daughters, Mary and Anna. His body was taken back to Chippewa Falls and he was interred in a cemetery there.

Back in 2009, I came upon a report from a local resident who posted a short blog and photograph of the Soo Line, and what appeared to be a ball of light in the picture. Upon some research, this person found that a man had fallen to his death. Armed with this information, I went to the local library and ended up finding out more information, such as his name, date of death, and general information on the day he died. My husband had an idea to make a short video on this location, including a short investigation with some historical information, and wanted to put it up on YouTube. This was our first video that we ever did, and we went on to do many more.

This bridge holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. Its serene beauty and tragic past are strong there. Thinking of John Murphy, I hope he has found eternal peace. I often wonder if his spirit is still attached to this structure, or if he may have already simply moved on to the other side. Take a walk across this bridge and perhaps you will find out for yourself.

Devon Bell currently resides in Wisconsin with her husband Tony. Devon and Tony own a paranormal film company called The Haunting Experiments. She has published five books on the ghostlore of Wisconsin and her latest, Haunted Summerwind: A Ghostly History of a Wisconsin Mansion, will be released by The History Press in Spring 2016.

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