Sometimes perilous and almost always remote, rural bridges have long been a staple of local ghostlore. They are places where ghosts of long-forgotten accidents still roam and phantom voices cry out from the water below. At Mysterious Heartland, we have researched allegedly haunted bridges all over the Midwest, but which one will prove to be the most terrifying of all?
10. Sim Smith Bridge
Built in 1883, this 84-foot covered bridge spans Leatherwood Creek along 40N, south of Route 36, about six miles west of Rockville. The bridge used to lay on the path of Pikes Peak Highway, which ran from New York to Los Angeles. According to legend, in 1890 a young mother was carrying her baby home to Montezuma. She reached Sim Smith Bridge at dusk and hurried across. Unfortunately, a rider was driving a horse and buggy quickly in the opposite direction. It was too late to stop when he finally saw the woman, and both her infant and she were brutally crushed beneath horse hooves and buggy wheels. From then on, riders heard the sound of a buggy coming across the bridge, but none would emerge. Local fishermen sometimes saw a horse and buggy enter the covered bridge, but never come out the other side. Still others have seen the figure of a young woman and her baby in the shadows.
9. Washington Street Bridge
Built in the late 1960s, this double-decker bridge spans the Mississippi River and connects the east and west bank campuses of the University of Minnesota. The bottom deck is open to vehicle traffic and the top is used for pedestrians and bikes. The top deck was enclosed during the 1970s. This bridge is rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of all the people who have committed suicide there. In 1972, a University of Minnesota professor named John Berryman jumped to his death, and after being released from the University Hospital, a psychiatric patient also died in a similar manner. Those are just two of the most well-known suicides. Today, some students have reported being followed by ghostly footsteps at night, as well as feeling like they are being watched from the shadows.
8. Edna Collins Bridge
Putnam County, Indiana
Believed to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl, Edna Collins Bridge was built in 1922 and spans Little Walnut Creek along County Road 450 N, west of Glenn Flint Lake. It is the only covered bridge in Indiana to be named after a woman, but it is not Edna Collins who haunts it. In the late 1920s, the story goes, an adolescent girl used to play around the creek near the bridge. Her family lived nearby, and they would leave her to play while they drove into town. On the way home, they stopped at the bridge and honked three times. Usually, their daughter would join them, but on that day, she did not appear. Her father found her body floating in the flooded creek. According to legend, the laughter of a young girl can sometimes be heard near the bridge. If you stop your car on the bridge and honk three times, the girl’s apparition will appear. Some visitors have even seen her ghost sitting in their backseat!
7. Seven Gates to Hell
On or around Lebanon Road are seven railroad bridges, some no longer in use. All of them are heavily coated in graffiti—a testament to their popularity for nighttime excursions. Local visitors have crafted a hellish tale around these seven bridges, which they dubbed the “Seven Gates to Hell.” The legend is that if someone were to drive through all seven bridges and enter the last one exactly at midnight, he or she would be transported to Hell. In some versions, the person entering the final tunnel must be a skeptic. In other versions, no tunnel can be driven through twice in order for the magic to work. Like Cuba Road in Barrington, an abandoned property near Lebanon Road has given rise to rumours of a “death house.” A closed road or driveway is alleged to lead to an old house in which a family was murdered. Moreover, a group of Satanists are said to sacrifice animals and children at the location.
6. Fudge Road Bridge
Fudge Road is a narrow, suffocating stretch of gravel that winds its way through rural Preble County. A steel bridge sits over Aukerman Creek, just north of the intersection of Enterprise and Fudge roads. While easy to discount as just another of Ohio’s many crybaby bridges, other things lurk in the surrounding woods that make Fudge Road Bridge really stand out. According to legend, a young mother discarded her unwanted newborn infant off the bridge. In another version of the tale, the woman’s child was stillborn, or died shortly after childbirth. Distraught, she hung herself from the bridge. Today, motorists crossing Fudge Road Bridge will hear the cries of an infant if they park their car and say “mama” three times. Stranger still, a large beast is said to lurk in the nearby woods. Troll-like, it is believed to find shelter under the bridge and growl as you pass by.
5. Hell’s Bridge
Algoma Township, Michigan
This bridge is somewhat unique in that it was exclusively designed for pedestrians. Located in the woods off of Friske Drive, just north of 12 Mile Road near a dirt turnaround, the bridge allows hikers to cross over Cedar Creek (which feeds into the nearby Rogue River). It is, basically, supported steel mesh with no guardrails. Over the years, this spot has developed a sinister reputation. Local legend states that, at some time in the distant past, a man named Elias Friske murdered several children and dumped their bodies in the creek, claiming, “The Devil made me do it.” Visitors report encountering unexplained temperature drops, seeing a misty figure, or hearing the sound of children crying and splashing in the water. Also, if you stand on the bridge at midnight, you will supposedly hear the Devil scream in triumph.
4. Airtight Bridge
Coles County, Illinois
Designed by Claude L. James and built in 1914, Airtight Bridge spans the narrow Embarras River in rural Coles County and was long known as a drinking spot and a hangout for rough characters. That all changed on the pleasant Sunday morning of October 19, 1980. According to newspaper reports, two men from rural Urbana spotted the body of a nude woman about 50 feet from the bridge as they drove past. The body was missing its head, hands, and feet. After an extensive murder investigation, no killer was ever located and the identity of the victim remained a mystery for years. Ever since then, an aura of mystery has surrounded the bridge. Locals say it earned the name “Airtight” because of the unnatural stillness encountered while crossing it, or because early automobiles would stall on the steep hill leading to the bridge if there was more air than gas in their fuel tank.
3. Bloody Bride Bridge
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Locally, this stretch of County Highway 66 is known as “Bloody Bride Road” because of a tragic accident that occurred there long ago. Although local law enforcement agencies deny the incident took place, according to popular memory, a bride and groom were driving home from their wedding when their car spun out of control on this concrete bridge over the Plover River east of Jordan. Both were willed. Years later, a local police officer struck a woman wearing a wedding dress with his squad car. When he got out to investigate, he was startled to see the bloody figure of the woman in his backseat. Others have seen the bloody bride standing on the bridge in the rain. According to legend, if you stop your car on the bridge after midnight and look in your rearview mirror, you will see both the bride and groom sitting in your backseat.
2. Black Tram Bridge
Formerly located along Upper Blackwell Road over Big River, the area around this bridge has long been described as “ominous” and “creepy.” Visitors claim it gives off an evil vibe that matches the old, creaky steel bridge known as “Black Tram.” According to legend, there was a Judge named Blackwell who used to hang people from the bridge. If you can find it despite road signs that appear and disappear, you might be chased off by a ghost car. If you park your car on the bridge and flash your headlights three times, the ghost car will appear. Visitors have also seen a young couple wandering down the road. They vanish upon approach, and are said to have been killed in an accident in the 1950s. The area is also believed to be home to a group of Satanists attracted by its negative energy. Recently, the original steel suspension bridge was torn down and a concrete bridge built in its place.
1. Terror (Tara) Bridge
Webster County, Iowa
This secluded rural bridge allows traffic to pass over a railroad that used to run past the town of Tara. Tara is long gone now, but strange tales remain. These stories date back to the 1800s, when a frustrated farmer cursed the winds and was struck down dead. Since that time, locals have reported being chased by a howling ghost rider. The area became known as Dead Man’s Hollow. A large, hairy creature or wildman has also been reported under the bridge and in the nearby woods. More gruesome is the story of a woman who took her children to the bridge and waited for a train. As it passed, she tossed them onto the tracks one by one to be crushed to death. This accomplished, she jumped off the bridge and met her own fate. According to local legend, if you stop your car on the bridge and leave it unlocked, the woman’s ghost will drag you out and throw you onto the tracks below.
If you like this article, you will love Michael Kleen’s book Legends and Lore of Illinois
The Definitive Collection! The Legends and Lore of Illinois is an exciting and informative look at Illinois ghostlore. Join the Fallen as they visit some of the most haunted places in the Prairie State – Will they unlock the secrets of the unknown, or will they unwittingly unleash shadows from the darkest recesses of our imagination? Get ready to explore infamous places such as Bachelor’s Grove, Airtight Bridge, Resurrection Cemetery, Winston Tunnel, the Seven Gates to Hell, Manteno State Hospital, Axman’s Bridge, and many more!