Monday, February 20, 2012


The Legend: Conduct a search and you are sure to find entries like this: " The real "Cry Baby Bridge" is in....(Kiefer, Schulter, Catoosa, Oklahoma City, and there are 3 more "fake " ones in Kellyville.) The OKC road has been completely re-routed, and the bridge is no longer standing. The original legend goes like this: Legends states that if you go there you can sometimes hear, or see, the woman looking for her baby in the form of a glowing soft blue light. " -- See Shadowlands, or numerous other sites that lifted their information in total from other sites.

Despite some postings like this on various websites this is one story that has to be re-evaluated with facts. Debate on the web as to the location of the "real" Crybaby Bridge in Oklahoma totally ignores the folkloric root of this tale. It is in folklore that the meaning and identification of the bridge must be found.

The story of the Crybaby Bridge always begs the question, which one? Such bridges have been identified through local legend in almost every state from New York to Ohio to Oklahoma and a few further west. Since the story did not originate in Oklahoma all claims that the "real" bridge is in Oklahoma are untrue.

Experts have seen that in the western versions, there is an apparent relationship to the Hispanic tale of La Llorona. This old legend tells of a woman who drowned her children to be with her young lover, who in turn deserted her. The contemporary case of Susan Smith comes to mind as a modern example of just the same type of tragedy. This source tale may date back to pre-colonial Mexico and may even refer to an early native deity.

In these crybaby bridge tales a frequent motif is the (a)shamed daughter rejected by her father, (b) baby and woman died (either through cold or through drowning), and listeners are encouraged to remember the tale as (c) a memorial to lost innocence.

An old Irish folk song may have helped shape the development of this legend. in modern times. “Mary of the Wild Moors” is a haunting tune that has the elements of the shamed daughter, the infant baby, the rejecting father, and the lingering cry heard in the place of their death on the cold stoop of the cottage. It is moody and haunting making it a memorable tale. 
Although, many areas have their haunted hollows, stretches of eerie road or spooky woods (one such place was recorded near El Reno in the early 1900's, the sight of an alleged murder). Many of these bridge tales, by comparison, seemed to have all arisen during the 1920's and 1930's.

If, as many believe, urban legends, are as much morality tales cautioning about behavior, then the often dangerous bridges of the early years, coupled with the moral threat posed by a newly independently mobile youth, could easily have led to the development of this tale and explain its enduring appeal.

Investigation: Oklahoma, like Ohio, has several bridges identified as a Cry Baby Bridge. Most have been closed down over the years, lost as roads were rerouted, or simply replaced by newer bridges. I visited one alleged sight in southwest Oklahoma County. It was down an old dirt road and had been closed for decades to motor vehicles. The metal had rusted and the wooden planks were beginning to weaken.

It crossed a narrow ravine where a tiny trickle of dirty water flowed decorated here and there with the debris of cast off appliances and car parts. An old concrete pipe in one side of the ravine served to spill out rain water from somewhere. Listening carefully, it was clear there was a small whistling or crying sound as the wind played over the exposed pipe. It would easy to see in the dark, in an excited and suggestible state of mind, their could be heard 'crying'.

Conclusion: Urban Legend.  A fabricated story. In the clear light of day I could hear the wind sighing through the pipe, and knew that in the dead of night it might sound like the whimpering cries of a child, or the mournful pleas of a woman in pain. Legend affirms the stereotypical 'crybaby bridge' story elements - found in numerous states and predating the Oklahoma sites.  Yet, local news sources do not confirm any such accidents in the locale.

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