I heard about a haunted bridge in Danville, Indiana, and although we were only in town for one evening, we managed to grab a few minutes just as the sun began to set to go find the bridge.
We found the huge, slightly Gothic-looking railroad bridge, but subsequent research leaves me a bit mystified about the bridge’s story.
We found the bridge as the light began to fade that evening, but we couldn’t immediately find a place to park by the bridge so I could take photos. Tim dropped me off alongside of the curving road that ran underneath the bridge so I take some photos as he drove around in a couple of circles (yes, that’s my little yellow Focus you see Tim driving underneath the bridge as he wonders where I’ve gone!)
This bridge dates from 1906, according to a date that I spotted carved into the bridge itself.
This impressive arched bridge wasn’t the first bridge at this site, though.
The Bridge Hunter site, which is one of my go-to sites when I research a bridge’s history, reports that the original bridge here was one of two metal truss bridges built in the 1880s.
Two metal bridges, one atop the other, were the “twin bridges” until this cement bridge replaced the upper-level metal bridge in 1906.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to find the existing metal bridge before it got dark and Tim tired of driving around in circles.
So, these were the “twin bridges”…or were they?
Several sources that say the concrete bridge’s “twin” may be another concrete railroad bridge in nearby Avon.
This was the first of many disagreements among sources about these bridges that I found. The stories, fittingly enough, become even more hazy as you begin to look at reports of the bridges’ hauntings.
One story concerns Dad Jones, a worker who sources seem to agree met his death while working on a concrete railroad bridge. Jones, variously described as an Irish immigrant or an African-American man, was pouring cement into a wooden frame for one of the bridges pillars when he fell (or as one source claimed, drunkenly stumbled) into the cement and sank to his death in the drying concrete.
Depending on the source, no one could, or would, retrieve Jones’ body from the cement pillar.
Sources placed Jones at the bridge in these photos, another concrete bridge in Danville that served an interurban line until 1930 (now only existing in ruins), or the concrete railroad bridge in Avon.
The stories say that locals hear Jones some nights pounding on the bridge, screaming and begging for help. Or maybe it’s a ghostly Jones who others see wandering in the woods around the ruins of the interurban tracks—especially when there is a full moon.
Another story involves a woman walking along the tracks with a baby. She either jumped from the bridge with the baby or threw the baby off the bridge before jumping to her death when startled by an approaching train.
A Chinese railroad worker or a boy returning from a late-night date also may have jumped or fell from one of the two bridges.
There are plenty of stories about unexplained muddy figures jumping into the road, unexplained crying or screaming, and ghostly figures along the railroad tracks flagging down oncoming trains in conjunction with this legend.
One of the more easily verifiable stories about tragedy at the big concrete bridge in Danville involves the death of a young teen-aged girl who slipped to her death from the span in 2004.
I can usually decide which is the most plausible of conflicting accounts, but the story of the big concrete bridge, a.k.a. the West Fork White Lick Creek Railroad Bridge, certainly has me flummoxed.
The West Fork White Lick Creek Railroad Bridge is an open-spandrel bridge with concrete arches. The span, built in 1906 for the Big Four Railroad on a line just southeast of Danville near present-day Highway 36, is 275-feet-long.
The bridge, with its crumbling concrete, makes me wonder if, like definitive answers to its mysteries, will someday also be lost to history.
Want to learn more about Danville and see some historic photos of the West Fork White Lick Creek Bridge? Check out Danville (Images of America) by Jeffrey Baldwin and the Hendricks County Historical Society.
© Dominique King 2013 All rights reserved