“Trolling” The Suicide Bridge: Personal Challenge, Day Three (9.19.12)

After my journey across the Colorado Street Bridge, I arrived at home, eager to do some research into this beautiful, historical bridge with a sinister reputation.

The Colorado Street Bridge was built in 1913 and it spans 1,467 feet at an elevation of 150 feet over the Arroyo Seco Riverbed (and LA River), linking east Los Angeles to Pasadena and other eastern cities.  While crossing this architectural masterpiece of art, the traveler is given a majestic view of the San Gabriel Mountains.  It is also a part of the original Route 66.  On February 12, 1981, the Colorado Street Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

When you are there, you can’t help but stare in awe at the beauty of this curved bridge that was the tallest bridge of its time.  But how could such beauty be tainted with the nickname of “Suicide Bridge”?

It turns out that well over 100 people have chosen this particular spot as the ideal location for putting an end to their troubles by plunging into the wilderness, and concrete, 150 feet below.  The first documented suicide at the Colorado Street Bridge took place on November 16, 1919.  An additional 95 took their lives by jumping off the bridge from 1919 to 1937, at the height of the Great Depression.

One of the more infamous suicides occurred on May 1, 1937.  Myrtle Ward, a 22 year-old mother from El Sereno, threw her 3 year-old daughter, Jean Pykkonen, off the bridge before jumping herself.  The young girl, Jean, landed in the thick tree branches and managed to survive while her mother perished.

The City of Pasadena tried everything it could to deter tormented souls from ending their lives at the Colorado Street “Suicide” Bridge.  According to the 1978 book “Southern California: An Island on the Land” by Carey McWilliams, the city spent $20,000 a year to staff the bridge with police detail,  In 1989, when the bridge was closed for seismic renovations, the city had a chance to improve upon their predicament.  When the bridge reopened in 1993, a suicide barrier was added to the railing, creating a combined height of 8 feet.  This barrier has helped reduce the number of jumpers but it didn’t deter them completely.  It is estimated that over the past decade or so, 10 percent of all suicides that take place in Pasadena occur at the Colorado Street Bridge.  In fact, last November, a former student from the high school where I teach took his own life by jumping off the bridge at the young age of 25.

When I was there, I was surprised that people are still finding ways to get past the 8 foot barrier, rod iron and spiked at the top.  I was too scared to even lean close to the railings.  You have to be really desperate to even try to climb that barrier, in my humble opinion.  I think it actually takes a certain bravery to just look over the edge.  Too bad these poor souls couldn’t turn that bravery around and use it to survive their own troubles.

So with all of these deaths, it is no wonder that this area has a tainted history filled with ghostly urban legends.  In fact, the tales go all the way back to the construction of the bridge.  Legend has it that during the construction, a worker fell into the concrete mixture.  His workers couldn’t retrieve him so he is now entombed, forever haunting the bridge that holds his skeletal remains.  Of course, this legend has already been debunked.  What really happened was that during construction, part of the bridge collapsed and three workers plunged into the Arroyo Seco Riverbed.  One of the workers died instantly, another died at the hospital and the third survived but with severe injuries.  All bodies were recovered.

Another legend involves Myrtle Ward, the woman who threw her daughter off the bridge before jumping.  It is said that she roams the bridge, searching for her daughter.  There are also accounts of a woman in a long flowing robe who climbs upon one of the parapets (aka lookouts), leaps off the edge and vanishes into the darkness.  Others have claimed to see to a man with rimmed glasses wandering around the bridge.  Many think he is the construction worker who lost his life when the bridge collapsed during construction.  Many report strange sounds, echoes, and mists.

However, the majority of the stories seem to involve hauntings underneath the bridge, in the Arroyo Seco Riverbed hiking trails and LA River.  So I decided that my challenge for the day would be a journey under the bridge.  I went there after work but quickly realized this wasn’t area for work attire.  I took a few pictures with my phone before heading home to change.  Tennis shoes or hiking shoes are a must for this area.

I decided to return after the sun had set and explore the area during a time when others have claimed to have experienced the unexplainable.  Apparently I am not the same person who thought about exploring this area at night.  I ran into a few guys who were also taking pictures of the underbelly of the Suicide Bridge.  They had taken pictures in the area several times but never endured any personal paranormal phenomenon in the area.  And we didn’t experience anything that night.  The only weird thing that happened was a homeless man who is living under the bridge came up to us and told us he didn’t want his picture taken.  When we agreed, he thanked us, bowed and jogged off into the darkness.

So with no personal experience to write about as a Suicide Bridge Troll, I decided to go back to the top of the bridge and get some pictures.  Maybe I would see the woman in the robe or Myrtle Ward or the construction worker.  At the very least, I figured I could get some cool pictures of the Crescent Moon over the bridge.

Once again, I parked in the little area on Grand and made my way to the bridge, armed with my camera and a monopod (my tripod broke the other day so this was all I had on a moment’s notice.  I highly recommend using a tripod but a monopod was better than attempting handheld night photography).  I had a blast taking pictures and playing with angles.  I loved the challenge of trying to get pictures of the moon and working with the lights and the cars (going way too fast).

But once again, nothing that could be considered a paranormal personal experience occurred.  The day before, I had the weird thing happen with the blackbirds.  This time, I was getting weird lighting effects when I took pictures with my phone.  But I blame that on the fact that it is an automatic camera.  Thankfully, I brought my regular DSLR so I could manually control my settings.  I didn’t get any weird lighting issues with the DSLR.

And the only weird thing that happened that night was it appeared a man proposed to his girlfriend on the bridge.  They were both dressed up, dancing and kissing.  They were dressed in contemporary clothes and I managed to get a picture of them so I am pretty sure they are real human beings and not the lost tortured souls rumored to haunt this bridge.  But I still can’t get over that I possibly witnessed an engagement.  Who proposes on a Suicide Bridge?

Anyways, after I felt like I had gotten all the pictures I was going to get, I headed home.  It was a school night so I couldn’t stay until the “witching hour,” aka 3am, when it is said that the spirits roam the earth.  So I will probably have to go back someday.  Actually, I need to go back once I replace my tripod so I can get better pictures.

But I think for now, it is time to move on to another adventure but leave this on my “To Do” list as a place to revisit.  In the meantime, I will post some of the pictures that I took with my phone and some of the unedited pictures that I took with my DSLR (just remember I was using a monopod on a winding bridge so they are not as clear as I would have liked).

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