DARK DISCUSSION BLOG 

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by amy l bennett
paranormal, lit, stay lit

What You Didn't Know About Emily's Bridge

I hate to do this, but I have to tell you about the origin of this ghost story. (I don't hate to do this, I hate when people do a quick googling and call it "research".)


There's a gorgeous little covered bridge in Stowe, Vermont, that's made its rounds through the internet, books, and storytellers over the last couple decades.


Emily's Bridge.


Emily's Bridge, Stowe, VT
Photo from atlasobscura.com

It isn't even an old story, and that should make some people pause to consider its origin. Also cause for pause is how easily debunked it is, with little searching beyond the first page of Google. It seems no one looked at this ghost story with any great scrutiny until several local Vermonters put a regionally famous folklore and ghost legends author to the test in an interview about Emily's Bridge and her tragic backstory.


So, about the bridge itself. If not a haunting ghoulish girl named Emily, then what? Well, officially, the Gold Brook Covered Bridge is what. It spans the Gold Brook, and is locally called the Stowe Hollow Bridge as well. The town of Stowe is as picturesque Vermont as you can imagine, and I'm sure you're envisioning a myriad of fall colors and soft peaks. That's it - that's Stowe.


So, about this infamous Emily. Every iteration of the story ends in Emily having hanged or drowned herself due to despair over a lost love. In some cases, she was to meet her boyfriend at the bridge, and when he didn't show she took her life. In another, her parents discovered her illicit relationship and in forbidding her to see him, she chose to take her life at the bridge. Either way, the trope holds strong: lost or unrequited love, and a young, female suicide. It also happens to be a very apropos set up for a ghost story.



A great website exists called Obscure Vermont, and much of this famous covered bridge's folklore that's been passed around the internet has been covered there in depth by the author, Chad Abramovich. I've perused this site over the last 6 or 7 years now while doing my own digging about legends and strange things in the northeast. It's not very often updated anymore, but the content is a gold mine.


Abramovitch was able to interview a renowned Vermont author by the name of Joseph Citro in 2012, whose multitude of written works are on our shelves with a dedicated research notebook for our ongoing deep-dive into a man-made reservoir with insane (I mean it) activity around it.


The interview.


I don't want to take away from the conversation Abramovich and Citro had, and the original research and blog that went into uncovering the truth about Emily's Bridge, but I can give the TL/DR.


A homeowner close to the bridge by the name of Nancy Wolfe Stead had been dealing with numerous disrespectful people partying at a swimming hole near it for a while. There was likely noise, vandalism and trash left behind, and this bothered her and other locals enough to create a ghost story intended to scare the partiers away. This took place in the 1970's, as the rise of satanic panic and weaponizing the occult against innocent people was on the rise, and The Exorcist and the Warrens were buzzing around the nation's cultural collective hive-mind. Intrigue and curiosity got the better of this ghostly suicide story, and Nancy's intent, combined with its inclusion in local written works over the years, was turned back on her.


People have flocked to this bridge in search of the paranormal, and sure, some of those people have indeed seen, heard or felt strange activity while there. They've been wholly unable to determine a natural source for what they experienced, and so "Emily", though having no record of existing or even a similar story in the area before the 1970's, is blamed.


The caveat to living near an area that has a haunting legend associated with it, true or not, is that there will always be people who seek these places out. Myself and Ryan being no exception - it's exactly what we do. Of course, a ton can be said about appropriate behavior within public spaces and also privately owned land, or ambiguous spaces like roadways and bridges, but those of us who are within the dark tourism community can't police each other. It goes without saying that respect for physical property and deference for local history is of the utmost importance.


What or who the paranormal activity witnessed on the covered bridge is, is another matter entirely. Considering the age of the structure, the running water, and an idyllic location for human habitation for thousands of years, echoes of the past might just be rife with an ability to manifest there. We'll never know that for sure.


As for Emily and the Gold Brook Covered Bridge, she's a manifestation of a resident's mind and the bridge is still a bridge. It's also the oldest covered bridge in the US, just by the way, and yet it hardly gets any recognition for this fact. The legend of Emily's demise is now part of the collective memory of those who know it and who've even passed it along, but Emily herself, for better or worse, never existed.


Now you know.


Thanks for reading,


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I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my other half, Ryan Bradway, we've explored haunts in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
             
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