As the Halloween season once again approaches, many of us begin to feel an excitement as the temperature drops, the leaves begin to change and the world of summer is coming to an end. In the spirit of the season I decided to investigate a famous local haunted location called the Old Richardsville Road Bridge.
The bridge, according to the placard on the Bowling Green side, was built by the King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1889. According to an unsubstantiated legend, a ghost phenomenon stems from an alleged suicide by a young woman who found herself pregnant and unmarried. Her ghost is said to haunt the bridge and will push cars left in neutral across the bridge. Many claim to have experienced this odd phenomenon and various groups have held investigations and even brought in surveyors to examine the amount of grade on the bridge, which rises about five feet from the Bowling Green side to the Old Richardsville side, creating a difficult push for anyone alive or deceased. By the way, there are at least forty similar stories associated with bridges throughout the American landscape. Bridges, by being structurally between worlds, so to speak, are natural places for paranormal phenomena to manifest in our collective consciousness.
Recently, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, my wife and I set forth to check this bridge out for ourselves. We were joined by two friends of ours from Bowling Green. I must add that all of us have, in the past, participated in various paranormal investigations. We brought with us our digital voice recorders to capture possible disembodied voice phenomena, called EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomena. I also brought my copper divining rods, which I have used for years to detect sources of water and household electrical problems, as they react to the presence of electromagnetic fields. Please note that I am not saying that the rods will detect a “ghost,” as some people earnestly believe. All they really can do is detect electromagnetic fluctuations or anomalies. They are sort of a first alert to the presence of something, not to its actual characteristics or an identification of its source.
When we reached the bridge, the first thing we tried to do was to get the car to roll across the bridge by the alleged force. We took off the brake, shut off the motor and put the Honda Civic in neutral. We waited and even tried asking the spirit to help us to cross the bridge. Absolutely nothing happened and the car did not move. I am not saying that others have not had this experience, only that we could not make it happen this time.
Next, I started a slow, steady walk across the bridge on foot with the divining rods. They remained motionless until I reached one spot about forty feet from the Bowling Green side. I stopped and watched as they crossed and twirled. I stepped back two steps and they returned to a motionless position. As I moved back onto the spot, they began to react again, so I stepped two steps forward and they became motionless. My wife and our friend “Sky” began EVP sessions, asking if there was anyone who wished to say anything to us. They employed digital recorders for this purpose. Usually, no voice is heard at the time of the recording, but appears later as one listens to the playback. After we returned home, I put on headphones and listened carefully to our recording; however, there was nothing but our voices and the sounds of a beautiful autumn day.
While my wife and our friend were engaged in this task, I slowly made my way forward across the bridge once more, and discovered three more locations on the bridge with anomalies, another being at the end of the bridge on the Old Richardsville Road side. It would be interesting if others with more sensitive equipment could go and repeat this test. I worked my way back across the bridge and began to examine the structure and surrounding area for possible non-paranormal explanations. Any mature, responsible paranormal researcher does this as a matter of course, to eliminate any possible “natural” cause of the phenomena before ever considering a paranormal source.
I discovered several physical problems with the bridge that makes it difficult to investigate for paranormal phenomena. First, the bridge creaks and squeals as people and cars travel over it. This can create a false positive experience of a scream or cry, which some folks have reported. Secondly, there are a lot of electrical cables and overhead wiring that can contaminate the readings of equipment like the K2 meters and Gaussmeters that one sees so often on the myriad of television shows that purport to investigate paranormal phenomena. Expensive Gaussmeters exist that ignore power lines, but most affordable ones are affected by the presence of electrical wiring and create false-positive experiences. The cables on the left side of the bridge are effectively at shoulder height, and the presence of such wiring has long been known to have an impact on equipment and on people if they are sensitive to its presence. If high electromagnetic fields exist, they can create what is commonly known as a “fear cage effect.” As an example, if a lot of wiring is over your head, as it is at the bridge, it can create an electromagnetic atmosphere or “fear cage effect” in certain people, causing them to become anxious, paranoid, feel like someone is watching them, and a “fear cage” even can cause auditory and visual hallucinations. These physical factors appear to be present at the Old Richardsville Bridge and hence, it remains a difficult site to investigate. Please understand that I am not dismissing what others claim to have seen and heard. I only offer the possibility that other factors could be at play at this particular location.
Whether you believe the legends about the bridge or not, it remains an interesting place to visit and a valuable piece of Warren County history. I hope that someone will begin to address the condition of the wooden planking soon, as it is in serious need of renovation. Have fun exploring our wonderful city and region, and keep your hearts and minds open to the possibility of the miraculous. Happy Halloween!
About the author: Jack Montgomery is a librarian, author and Professor at Western Kentucky University where he handles bookings for musical acts in University Libraries, Java City coffeehouse. Jack has also been a professional musician since 1969 and performs with a celtic quartet called Watersprite. Visit him at MySpace/shadowdancerjack or on Facebook.