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Superstition Surrounds ‘Dog Suicide Bridge’

Friday, March 27, 2020

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There’s a 19th-century bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland, called the Overtoun Bridge; however, over the years the structure has become more popularly known as the “dog suicide bridge.”

Although quite sinister, the bridge has attracted visitors and paranormal enthusiasts alike, and has even inspired a full-length book.

About the Bridge

Located beside the Overtoun House and crossing the Overtoun Burn gorge, the bridge was built in 1895 by H.E.Milner for John Campbell White—also known as Lord Overtoun. The structure reportedly took a year to build and is made of white freestone.

Allan Ogg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a 19th-century bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland, called the Overtoun Bridge; however, over the years the structure has become more popularly known as the “dog suicide bridge.”

According to an opening announcement written in a June 15, 1895, issue of the Lennox Herald, the bridge is described as Scottish Baronial-style consisting of three spans: the center is 32 feet long, while the sides are each 10 feet long.

The total length of the bridge is 135 feet and measures 14 feet wide. The top of the bridge’s parapet wall is roughly 50 feet above the bed of the burn.

However, starting in the 1950s, reports began circulating of dogs jumping from the bridge. While some reports claim that hundreds of dogs have taken the final leap, other sources cite fewer instances. Regardless, for whatever reason, dogs have felt compelled to jump from the structure and at least 50 have died.

Bob Hill and his wife, who are current tenants of a nearby manor, have reported seeing several dogs make the leap since they moved to the property over 17 years ago.

A Scottish woman, Lottie Mackinnon, told The New York Times a story of her own dog: “Something overcame Bonnie as soon as we approached the bridge. At first she froze, but then she became possessed by a strange energy and ran and jumped right off the parapet.”

Luckily, her dog survived.

In yet another story, one dog was reported to have survived the fall, only to return and jump off once more.

Back in 2010, animal behaviorist David Sands traveled to the bridge to investigate the strange epidemic. In a conclusion of his findings, Sands reported that because most cases of the dog suicides were of long-nosed breeds or used for tracking, some kind of wild animal scent could be the trigger.

Additionally, Sands believes the tapered edges of the bridge itself might appear to a be a safe, flat plane from a dog’s perspective.

"I think it's highly likely in all the cases here at Overtoun Bridge that it was curiosity that killed the dog."

Although some insight has been provided to the eerie bridge, many locals still insist that there is something more paranormal to blame.

 “People in Dumbarton are very superstitious,” said Alastair Dutton, a local taxi driver. “We grew up playing in the Overtoun grounds, and we believe in ghosts here because we’ve all seen or felt spirits up here.”

One of the most popular of the ghost stories is that of the “White Lady of Overtoun,” who was the grieving widow of John White, the son of Lord James.

“The lady lived alone in grief for more than 30 years after her husband died in 1908,” said Marion Murray, a Dumbarton resident. “Her ghost has been lurking around here ever since. She’s been sighted in windows and walking around the grounds.”

In a darker tale, some believe dogs try to save a baby who had been thrown to its death in 1994 after the father claimed it was the anti-Christ.

Other ‘Haunted’ Bridges

In 2018, PaintSquare Daily News reported that the Lone Wolf Bridge, located in San Angelo, Texas, was named after local ghosts. According to the Standard-Times, visitors to the bridge have reported seeing shadowy figures and orbs of light, as well as hearing disembodied voices.

There are two popular theories as to how the bridge got its name: one related to a local Kiowa-Comanche chieftain who sought to avoid troops as he went to retrieve his slain son, the other connected to a nearby town.

According to the story of Chief Lone Wolf, the leader was avoiding Fort Concho troops as he went to retrieve his son’s body; these same soldiers were suspected of killing the chieftain’s son in 1873. Lone Wolf was able to retrieve his son, but during the mission, the party was spotted. After the ensuing chase, the mission happened upon a company of cavalry, surprising the troops and resulting in the group stealing 28 horses and making a getaway. In his book The Concho Country, author Gus Clemens named Lone Wolf as the source for the story. (In his version, the chieftain is a Kiowa Apache leader who allied with the Comanche.) In a later article, Clemens admitted he did not have evidence of the claim, but noted that it was likely.

The second theory related to a small local town from the 1880s, named Lone Wolf. The town is largely only remembered now through data from an 1880 census, estimating a population of 884 people. Lone Wolf was likely built close to the bridge, and while a flood in 1882 did some damage, the reason the place disappeared has largely been attributed to a failure to grow.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; EU; Europe; Historic Structures; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management

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