Local Legends: Crybaby Bridge

The following article is presented for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research and is not a final authority on the subject. 

Welcome to Freaky Friday.  Today our topic is paranormal.  Folks who love ghost stories usually love legend tripping.  Legend tripping, the practice of visiting notorious or haunted places, gives the ghost story credibility.  Doesn’t it?  Let’s visit Crybaby Bridge and see.

The story of Crybaby Bridge is tragic. A woman was driving with her kids on a rainy or foggy night. Unable to see…or in too big of a hurry…or just because she was nuts, she veered off a bridge and into the deep water below. The woman and her children drowned.

On nights when the moon is just right…or if you honk three times… or if you flash your headlights, the cries of a baby can be heard.

The variations separated by ellipses indicate more than the fact that I’m a bad writer.  The variations are part of the Crybaby Bridge legend.  As luck has it, there is a crybaby bridge in just about every town in America…and possibly in Canada.  The telling of the legend differs from region to region.

Since I’m from Texas, I’ll share a few Texas Crybaby Bridge stories. At the end of this post, I’ll invite all of you to share the Crybaby Bridge stories from your part of the world.

Dekalb, Texas

History — A woman who lived in the countryside surrounding Dekalb was speeding home from the store. She had her three babies—triplets, of course—in the backseat with the groceries.

The woman was hurrying because she’d run into a friend at the store and had stopped to chat. She knew her husband would be upset if he arrived home from work and she didn’t have dinner on the table. She drove fast in hopes of beating him home.

The young mother lost control of her car and crashed into the creek. The woman was removed unconscious from the wreck and rushed to the hospital where doctors worked hard to save her life. They were unsuccessful.

Right before the woman died, the woman asked what had happened to her babies. The sheriff’s office rushed back to the scene of the wreck, but the woman’s babies were never found.

The Haunting — Stop on the bridge and turn off the car’s engine. Honk the horn three times. In the silence following the horn’s blare, a baby’s cry is heard.

Location — Numerous country bridges around Dekalb.

(Story from Ghosts of East Texas and the Pineywoods)

Lufkin, Texas

History — A woman in her baby died in an auto accident after driving off the bridge over Jacks Creek.

The Haunting — Visitors to this bridge hear the baby and/or the woman crying. Some visitors have reported finding a child’s handprint on their car after visiting the bridge.

[Note: The latter sentence combines the crybaby bridge legend with the Ghostly Handprints legend.  In other parts of the US, the Crybaby Bridge Legend might be combined with the The Boyfriend’s Death legend.]

Location — County Road 54B (AKA Boxcar Road) in Angelina County, Texas

(Story from “All’s usually quiet on Angelina’s ‘Cry Baby Creek’” by Jessica Cooley, The Lufkin Daily News, 7-24-11)

Mineola, Texas

History — In Texas’s pioneer days, conflicts between the American Indians and the settlers were part of life. In this telling of Crybaby Bridge Legend, a group of settlers ambushed a tribe of Indians–which included women and children–and killed them on a bridge.

The Haunting — Drive onto the bridge and turn off the car’s engine. Roll down the windows. The cries of the women and children as they were massacred can be heard.

Location — The area is identified by trees that resemble and Indian Chief’s headgear and face.

(Story from Shadowlands.net)

Port Neches, Texas

History 1 – Sarah Jane was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War. She was betrayed and had to escape in a covered wagon. The wagon ended up overturning in a creek. Sarah Jane was shot as she tried to save her baby.

An alternate version of this history has Sarah Jane as the wife of a confederate soldier. With Union soldiers invading the area near Sarah’s home, Sarah Jane hid her baby in a basket under a bridge. After hiding her baby, Sarah Jane hanged herself rather than face the Union soldiers.

The Haunting — The ghost of Sarah Jane can be seen along the roadside. She might be carrying a lantern as she looks for her baby.

History 2 — A woman tired of suffering at the hands of her abusive husband finally left him. The husband committed murder/suicide by jumping off the bridge and taking the couples’ young daughter with him. Overcome with grief, the mother committed suicide as well.

The Haunting — Drive across the bridge at midnight. You will hear the mother calling “Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane” as she searches for her lost daughter.

Location — Sarah Jane Road, Port Neches, Texas

(Story from Shadowlands.net and “The Many Legends of Sarah Jane Road” by Ashley Sanders, The Port Arthur News, 10-30-07.  To read about the real Sarah Jane, click here.)

Now that we’ve had fun looking at the variations on this legend, let’s look at what folklorists have to say.

Maryland folklorist Jesse Glass traces the Crybaby Bridge legend associated with Westminister, Maryland to the internet. In 1999, the Crybaby Story was “seeded” on various internet sites. Since then, it has become truth in the minds of legend trippers. Read more here.

Mark Opsasnick, an expert on Urban Studies, traces the Crybaby Bridge legend associated with Lottsford Road in Prince George County, Maryland back to the 1950s.

The legend of Lottsford road was probably influenced by the area’s known reputation as a dumping ground for murder victims. Though Mr. Opsasnick doesn’t attempt to explain the high occurrence of Crybaby Bridge legends across the US, his research gives us an idea how a story like that can take root and spread.

Read more of Mr. Opsasnick’s research here.