June 25, 2015

The Haunted Bridge

Southeast of the Kansas town of Emporia, a one-lane metal bridge from 1907 connects the shores of Cottonwood River. Its official name is Rocky Ford Bridge; however, locals refer to it more as Bird Bridge, after a Lutheran minister Thomas Bird allegedly murdered his wife here in July of 1983. He was later convicted for it, as well as for killing his lover's husband. A story about the case ran on the front page of the LA Times and inspired the 1987 CBS film "Murder Ordained." Since then, myths about ghosts of the dead appearing around the bridge at night have wreathed the place. So, I went to investigate...

In daylight, the location is interesting to walk around, explore, and even have a picnic.

Rocky Ford Bridge near Emporia, Kansas

Nothing hints at the dark history nowadays. But how is it after dark..?

I didn't find out until later. I thought about capturing the ghosts of the bridge during one night last winter; alas, being busy at work, I struggled to find time to realize this idea until yesterday. Finally!

I had a photo composition in my head, which allowed me to go lightweight; I took just a torch, a camera with one lens, and a clamp to attach it to the bridge. At first, I also took a dark hoodie so I wouldn't reflect any light. However, I abolished this plan just after I opened my doors: it was around 9 pm, yet the temperature was still in the high 90s Fahrenheit. Not cool, since I wanted to reach the place from Emporia on a bike.

Night gravel biking near Emporia, Kansas

The bridge is about nine miles from the city, and roughly half the distance is on gravel roads — a bit wonky with my narrow slick tires. Moreover, I got covered in a thick dust layer every time a car passed by, and let's face it: the flat horizons can't match the scenery of decent mountain biking. Still, I was in charge of my pace, and the open sky felt amazingly relaxing. I could burble my favorite songs without getting weird looks from the city, think about life, and set my mind on a positive attitude.

Once I arrived, it was already dark, so I began working. A quick test shot, and... ghosts started to appear.

Test shot, right.

I left my camera capturing a long exposure and went around the bridge to look for ghosts. The road had some traffic even in the late hours, so on occasion, I had to interrupt the workout to avoid some confusion.

Haunted bird bridge near Emporia, Kansas

Can you spot hands on that column? That's me hoping that the driver won't see me and freak out and that the giant spider, which just landed on me, isn't a Brown Recluse.

But it didn't take long, and I had what I came for.

ghosts of the bridge

here it is. ghosts of the bridge.

Cycling back, the roads were empty, and I didn't have to use lights all the way to the town as the moon was strong enough. Fruitful evening, it was.


Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you can find my other posts in my Blog Archives.

Further info: Kraft, S. (2004) Who Killed Sandy Bird?, Los Angeles Times, 2 May.

Update: The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020. If you are curious about the structure, the Kansas Historic Resources Inventory published interesting details about it.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Projects, Stories


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