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Vintage Vermont Lore VII: Emily’s Bridge (Last one!)

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Vintage Vermont Lore VII: Emily’s Bridge (Last one!)

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To end our time together, and what may be the last couple of weeks many of us spend in Vermont, I’ve decided to share the state’s most notorious ghost story, one which I have first-hand experience with. Located in Stowe, Emily’s Bridge is an unassuming, rather unremarkable covered bridge located down a dirt road over a small river. There are pull offs on either side, welcoming people to park and take a stroll through the narrow drive. It is hard to imagine a more peaceful Vermont scene…during the day at least.

In December 2017, I was attending college in Montpelier Vermont, a short fifteen minute drive from Stowe. A young woman from New Hampshire lived across the hall from me and claimed to have a long line of mediums as her ancestors. It follows that she was very interested in the paranormal and the existence of ghosts. As a result, the story of Emily’s Bridge absolutely fascinated her. On that particular winter’s night, she and I were standing with another friend whose best friend was visiting from Michigan. It was cold and icy outside and unfortunately we all had class in the morning, so doing anything really fun was completely out of the question. I am not quite sure whose idea it was to venture out into the night, but somehow Emily’s story came up.

Never one to do anything without knowing exactly what I’m getting into, I decided to look into the bridge. The legend of Emily’s Bridge has taken many forms since the story was first introduced in 1968 by a high school student who in a paper, detailed their experience on the bridge after they used a ouija board, because why not? According to the student, they communicated with a spirit who claimed to be called Emily. Emily had met her end on the bridge, supposedly killed by her fiance’s mother the night before they were to wed. However, this is not the only story. Others see Emily killing herself, riding her wagon over the side of the bridge after being jilted by her lover, while the most popular posits that she hung herself from the rafters of the covered bridge, only to be discovered hanging the next day. Though those who have read my previous articles may find this hard to believe, but I am not a believer. This is not to say that I will openly discount someone else’s paranormal experience, but that I am just not likely to attribute something unexplainable to the otherworldly. Emily’s story especially, as there was not an Emily in the area during the alleged time frame of the incident; only an Emeline who died during childhood.  Despite my doubt, I decided to join the others, and when I say decided I mean they begged me to go because it was after one o’clock in the morning, I-89 was a sheet of ice, and I was the only person there who had any experience driving in Vermont during the winter.

We made our way out to Stowe, arriving around 2 AM, the prime ‘encounter’ hour. The snow began to fall as I drove through the bridge, pulling off the road on the other side. The area was still,as there were only a handful of houses around us, and at this late hour everyone was asleep. The only light we had came from the glow of the fallen snow. The four of us agreed that if we were anywhere else, the night would have been serene. But we weren’t anywhere else; we were supposedly standing in the shadow of the most haunted place in Vermont.

I could tell my three companions were hesitant to go further, even the “medium,” who had her phone at the ready, in hopes of recording voices or images from the other side. She and the guest from Michigan were the first to step onto the weathered bridge. My other friend stood close to me, her courage spent, ready to go back to the car. Unsatisfied with such an uneventful end, I took her hand, determined to make it to the other side and back. The others lingered in the center of the bridge, phones out, asking questions such as “is anyone here with us?” into the lingering darkness.

If there was someone there, they certainly didn’t seem to mind us crossing the bridge. Nothing attempted to deter us, appeared, or said anything, well, at least not as far as I could tell. My friend and I made it from one end of the bridge to the other, no worse for wear. In fact, the whole trip seemed like it would be a bust, that was until her friend from Michigan yelped into the night.

“What’s wrong?” everyone gathered around her.

“My shoulder’s burning!” she cried. We moved her away from the bridge, back towards the car. With all of our phone lights out, we lifted her shirt to find four red scratch marks running from the top of her left shoulder to the center of her back. With that we piled back in the car to hightail it out of there. The only problem was that we had to drive back through the bridge to get back to I- 89.

Trying to be the voice of reason and a bit skeptical of the nature of the scratches, I asked if she was sure she hadn’t itched her back while she was in there because that’s what the marks looked like to me. She denied it as the others began yelling about feeling a weird presence as I turned the key to the engine and started back through. I had not quite made it through the bridge when I started feeling a burning sensation on my own back and a weight against my chest. I didn’t tell the others. Whether there was reason to or not I can’t say. When I got back to the dorm around 3:30 a.m., I couldn’t find any marks on me and the sensation had vanished.

I said I did my research before leaving the dorms, and I had, so I knew that visitors at Emily’s Bridge would often find scratch marks running alongside their vehicle, or the hear the sound of dragging feet on their roof as they drive through. Emily is a malevolent spirit, known for lashing out at visitors to the bridge. The thing is, everybody else knew this as well. Where the scratches on my companion’s back left by Emily, or were they the psychological result of simply knowing what the alleged spirit was capable of? Though I put up a brave front, the pain I felt may have just been a manifestation of my internal fear, rather than Emily lashing out at me for disputing her existence.

The mind is a powerful tool, capable of far more than we realize. If nothing else, this series of Vintage Vermont Lore shows the extent of how what we think influences what we think and believe, the stories we tell one another, and how those ideas persist long after we’re gone. Thank you for allowing me to share the stories that have helped form Vermont into the place that it is today.

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