This pastoral scene of horseback riders and Ohio's Everett Road Covered Bridge may look serene by the light of day, but nighttime brings a more unsettling experience for the bridge's nocturnal visitors.
Covered bridges were particularly prevalent in Ohio's early history. The first covered bridge appeared in Ohio in 1809, and the state had over 2,000 covered bridges in the 19th century according to a National Park Service sign we saw near the bridge.
The Everett Road bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in Summit County (south of Cleveland and near Akron), and the lonely bridge apparently has at least few otherworldly stories to tell.
Mystery shrouds the construction of the bridge spanning Furnace Creek in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Farmer John Gilson and his wife went out to visit friends one winter night in 1877, but found fording Furnace Creek to get back home especially treacherous because a winter storm caused rising water and ice to block their regular route. The couple used an unfamiliar crossing, with farmer Gilson leading the horses across the stream. Mr. Gilson and the horses lost their footing, Mrs. Gilson fell into the water (presumably from a wagon drawn by the horses), and the horses' weight dragged Mr. Gilson into deep water.
Mrs. Gilson survived the accident. Mr. Gilson did not, with his body discovered a few days after the tragedy.
Some stories date building of the Everett Road covered bridge as following the Gilson accident, and as a response to farmer Gilson's death. There are no records confirming the bridge's construction date, but the bridge's truss style (patented by Robert Smith in the late 1860s) and the fact that few wooden bridges were built after iron became popular for bridge construction by the 1880s, suggests a construction date not too long before, or after, the accident.
The construction of Everett Road in 1856 yields an even earlier spooky story.
Road construction workers found a burial mound during their work. The hexagonal limestone-block-lined tomb contained skeletal remains and some Native American items belonging to the Hopewell Culture.
Hopewell Culture refers to ancient native civilizations in Ohio and other areas in eastern North America primarily 1500 to 2100 years ago, and Ohio has several significant mounds and other earthworks attributed to these peoples.
The bridge builders of the 1850s had no real concern for the historical significance of their find and politely built their bridge over part of the burial mound.
Many nights, a ghostly hitchhiker reportedly lurks along the road between the native burial site and the covered bridge.
A flood damaged the bridge in 1913, and a spring storm completely destroyed it in 1975. The local community rallied to raise money for a historically accurate reconstruction in 1986, and the area ghosts reportedly continued to make themselves at home at the rebuilt bridge
One Cleveland-area couple conducted several investigations at the bridge and at nearby burial places. They detected supernatural activity on several occasions, documenting their findings in photos and audio tape. Their photos show numerous orbs and fogs in and near the bridge, and the audio supposedly reveals electronic voice phenomena (paranormal sounds resembling human speech).
Did the ghost hunters hear someone saying "help me" or "danger" while visiting the apparently deserted bridge at night?
We visited the bridge one sunny spring day, unaware of its spooky past.
Horseback riders were out enjoying the day on a nearby bridle trail, and we wandered all around the bridge taking photos without sensing a hint of the supernatural.
Is the Everett Road Covered Bridge haunted? I sure don't know, but I thought the spooky stories surrounding the bridge merited retelling this Halloween season!
© Dominique King 2009 All rights reserved