Why do dogs jump to their deaths from this bridge in Scotland?
The United Kingdom is no stranger to tales of ghosts, goblins, and other supernatural happenings. However, few are as strange as the unsolved mystery of the Overtoun Bridge in West Dumbartonshire, also known as “The Dog Suicide Bridge.”
For nearly 100 years, dogs crossing the bridge have been strangely compelled to jump from the bridge, often to their deaths. Many witnesses have reported that the dogs invariably jump off the bridge at the same spot!
Built in 1895, the Overtoun Bridge provided access to Overtoun House. The bridge comprises three arches, with a central arch spanning a deep ravine and the Overtoun River that flows beneath it, with two smaller arches on either side.
Locals reportedly began referring to Overtoun Bridge as the “bridge of death” or the “dog suicide bridge” in the 1950s. At least 50 dogs have jumped to their death from the bridge, with between 300 and 600 having jumped but survived the fall. In at least one incident, a dog that survived the jump circled back up to the bridge and leapt off again! Many owners described their dog initially freezing or staring at something the owner is unable to see, then jumping up onto the parapet of the bridge before either jumping or falling off – usually at the same point on the span.
What is it that is compelling these dogs to leap off of the bridge, many of them to their deaths? Many locals attribute it to the place itself. They say the area over which the bridge spans is a “thin place.” A place in Celtic mythology where the “veil” between the world of the pagan gods and the natural world overlap a little, allowing supernatural influences to seep through. There are many such places throughout the UK, Stonehenge of course, being the most famous of them.
Others believe that the dogs are being influenced by a ghost known as the “White Lady of Overtoun.” Sightings of her ghost — believed to be the lingering spirit of the widow of John White, who built Overtoun House – have been reported peering out of windows or walking the grounds, and some locals believe it is her presence that causes dogs to jump from the bridge.
Paul Owens, a religion and philosophy teacher from nearby Glasgow, has studied the site for 11 years, and he believes that a ghost or some other spiritual entity that dogs are able to perceive that humans cannot is responsible for them jumping from the bridge.
Some who have tried to provide a more rational explanation say that the spot where the dogs jump is home to several nests of mink, mice, and other critters below the bridge, and the smell of their strong musk drives the dogs to jump since the foliage around the spot and dogs limited perspective disguise how far up they are from the ground before its too late.
Overtoun House is now owned by American couple Bob and Melissa Hill, who to this day have witnessed several dogs jumping from the bridge and generally agree with the theory that they are attracted to the scent of mink.
However, Bob, a former Texas pastor, believes that there is some kind of “spiritual quality” to the bridge and grounds around his home. And many locals trash the “mink theory,” stating that there are no wild mink in that area of Scotland.
The bizarre incidents have prompted local officials to warn dog owners to keep their dogs on a tight leash as they walk their pets across the span.
At least once, the seemingly daemonic influence of the bridge spread to humans. In 1994 David Moy and his wife took their newborn son, Eoghan, for a walk across the bridge. David suddenly flung his son over the parapet, who fell 42ft to the ravine below. The very same parapet that the dogs leap from.
David then attempted to jump himself but was dragged back by his wife. After being taken into Overtoun House to await police, he attempted suicide again by slashing his wrists with a kitchen knife but survived. Bystanders climbed down to try to rescue little Eoghan and recovered him, but the infant died from his injuries the following day in the hospital.
Moy later told police that a birthmark on his son’s forehead was the “mark of the devil” and that he had to kill both his son and himself in order to save the world from “The Beast.” Moy was found not guilty by reason of insanity at his trial and confined indefinitely at the State Hospital, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
As to the reason for the leaping dogs – the mystery of the Dog Suicide Bridge of Scotland remains unsolved.