September 22, 2023
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Haunted Vermont, Folklore & much more…

Emily’s Bridge of Stowe – Vermont’s Most Famous Ghost Story

The legend is probably the most famous Vermont “ghost story” of all. But, is it true or just folklore?

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The Location of Vermont’s Haunted Bridge

Emily’s Bridge is a historic covered bridge located in Stowe, Vermont. Also known as the Gold Brook Bridge, it was built in 1844, making it arguably the oldest covered bridge still standing in the United States. It is also the best known of Vermont’s haunted bridges.

Some key facts about Emily’s Bridge:

  • Covered bridge over Gold Brook in Stowe, Vermont
  • Built in 1844
  • Located in Stowe, VT
  • Known as Gold Brook Bridge
  • One of the oldest covered bridges in the US

This rustic bridge is quaint on the outside, but infamous for the ghostly tales associated with it. As the legend grows, more people seek out the bridge but what is really going on?

Vermont Haunted Bridge – Emily’s Bridge

also known as the Gold Brook Covered Bridge, or Stowe Hollow Bridge is located in Stowe, VT.

Emilys Bridge Stowe VT
Emily’s Bridge Stowe VT aka Gold Brook Bridge

What is the story behind Emily’s Bridge?

Is the Legend of “Emily”, real or imagined?

The legend of Emily’s Bridge revolves around the ghost of a young woman named Emily who is believed to haunt the historic bridge. There are many variations to Emily’s story, but the most common legend told is that Emily fell in love with a man her family disapproved of.

The two decided to elope and meet at the bridge at midnight. Emily arrived at the appointed time, but her lover never showed up. Distraught, she hanged herself from the bridge in despair. Her spirit now lingers, waiting for her lover, growing more angry and upset as time passes.

However, the true origins of the Emily’s Bridge ghost story legend are more recent:

  • In the 1970s, Nancy Wolfe Stead admitted she fabricated the story to scare local kids
  • The name “Emily” was created by Stead
  • No actual State of Vermont or other records exist of an Emily dying at the bridge exist prior to 1970
  • The haunted reputation emerged around 1948 without “Emily”

Other key facts about the Emily’s bridge ghost legend:

  • Many variations exist about Emily’s death:
    • Suicide after being stood up by lover
    • Accident on way to wedding
    • Murdered by lover after getting pregnant
  • No historical evidence backs any variation
  • Questions around Emily’s method of suicide if she hanged herself

The popularity of the legend spread quickly:

  • Included in ghost story books, websites and paranormal lore
  • Popularized by Stowe Tours started by Valerie Welch
  • Urban legend forever linked to the bridge

While Emily likely never existed, her story transformed into perhaps the best known, Vermont legend. The bridge remains associated with her ghost and unexplained occurrences. Emily is now immortalized whether she was real or not.

There are several variations of “Emily’s” story including one that Emily was waiting for her boyfriend at the bridge. Her parents disapproved of the relationship, the boyfriend never showed up to meet here there, so Emily hanged herself from the bridge rafters, in despair.

Another variation of the story says that she was thrown from her horse on the bridge and fell upon the rocks below.

Regardless of which story may be true, or perhaps none of them are, people report strange activity at the bridge including footsteps, a girl screaming, scratch marks on vehicles passing across the bridge or other odd events.

Reports of Paranormal Activity

Despite the legend of Emily being fabrication, there have been countless reports of paranormal activity associated with the bridge over the years.

Tourists and visitors to Emily’s Bridge have experienced a wide range of unexplained, potentially supernatural phenomena:

  • Phantom lights – flashing white lights with no source
  • Disembodied voices – cries for help from unseen woman
  • Ghostly apparition – form of a girl seen near bridge
  • Unexplained scratches on bodies and cars
  • Dramatic temperature fluctuations
  • Photos showing anomalies – blurry shapes, figures in background

Some notable encounters include:

  • Phantom music heard under bridge near Gold Brook
  • Photos fail to develop or contain blemishes
  • Cars’ paint jobs ruined by invisible claw marks
  • Driver experiencing foggy windshield with handprints
  • Horses avoiding bridge, appearing with bloody gashes

A group of teenagers also claimed to have a terrifying experience:

  • Saw the apparition of a woman approach their parked car
  • Entity jiggled their door handles trying to enter
  • Figure dissipated after failing to gain access

Additionally, hats blown away and other objects moved on calm days.

While many logical explanations may account for some events, the continued reports of haunted occurrences keep Emily’s Bridge shrouded in mystery. The paranormal tales live on regardless of Emily’s existence.

Author’s note: Personally, I’ve been through Emily’s Bridge several times and never heard or seen anything unusual at all.
Stowe VT Emilys bridge

Even though Emily’s bridge may or may not be haunted by ghosts, it definitely is frequented by amateur ghost hunters, tourists and others hoping to see or experience something supernatural.

Emilys Bridge Story Vermont
This “story” was tacked onto the side of Emily’s Bridge in 2005

Origins and skepticism about “Emily’s Bridge”

Despite the prevalence of the legend and paranormal accounts, there remain questions and skepticism around the story of Emily’s Bridge.

  • No records verify Emily was a real person who died at the bridge
  • Varying legends offer conflicting details on Emily’s origins
  • Some claim actual death was of a young girl in 1920s accident

This raises doubts about the origins of the haunted reputation:

  • Bridge dubbed “haunted” in 1948 without any specific Emily link
  • Emily legend emerged in 1970s as fabrication
  • Possible real death moved to Emily’s story later

There is also skepticism around the paranormal claims:

  • Logical explanations for some phenomena
  • Environmental causes of noises
  • Tricks of light and perception
  • Forgotten mundane events later sensationalized
  • Power of suggestion from the legend influencing experiences
  • Desire to experience the supernatural tainting perceptions

Alternate theories behind the abnormal occurrences:

  • Location is a natural “window area”
  • Prone to unexplained events
  • Overactive imaginations affected by the stories
  • Infrasound from environment causing unease
  • Electromagnetic fields disrupting perceptions

In the end, a definitive origin for the legend and inexplicable events remains elusive. There is a spirited debate between true believers and skeptical researchers. The sensationalism around Emily’s Bridge will likely feed both viewpoints for the foreseeable future. The supernatural intrigue helps maintain the bridge’s haunted reputation.

Emily’s Bridge the Best Known Vermont Haunted Bridge Today

In present times, Emily’s Bridge continues to be a popular tourist attraction and legendary part of Vermont folklore.

Some key facts about the bridge today:

  • Remains open to vehicle traffic in Stowe
  • Visited frequently by paranormal investigators
  • Included in ghost tours and haunted trails
  • Subject of books, documentaries, and websites
  • Photo hotspot for visitors inspired by the tales
  • Accessible attraction drawing thrillseekers

The various legends and paranormal accounts have solidified the bridge’s notoriety:

  • Ghost of Emily central to intrigue
  • Mysterious phantom phenomena add to allure
  • Tragic love aspects broaden appeal
  • Dramatic stories passed down through generations

While some locals aim to downplay the reputation, the legend persists:

  • Historical society unable to find definitive facts
  • Continued reports of strange occurrences
  • Debates between skeptics and believers
  • All keep legend alive regardless of origins

The fictional story of Emily created enduring folklore now embedded in Vermont culture. The haunted tales give the aging bridge renewed vitality. Its future seems to promise more eerie tales, ongoing investigations, and curious visitors drawn by the supernatural allure.

The Town of Stowe has implemented an ordinance to keep people away from the bridge at night, due to the noise caused by would be “ghost hunters” and those looking for a place to have a party.

Emily’s Bridge Ghost Story Debunked

According to Joseph Citro, Vermont’s authority on all things haunted and ghostly, the real story of Emily’s Bridge may not be quite so romantic, or even true. In an interview with Obscure Vermont, Joe told Chad Abramovich the following:

“The story of Emily’s Bridge doesn’t go back to the 1800s, but rather much more recently, in the 1970s. A woman by the name of Nancy Wolfe Stead claimed that she was the one who created the story of Emily to scare local youth. There was a swimming hole somewhere near Stowe and Morrisville. She remembers making up the story of the bridge to amuse the kids. At the time, there was a huge surge in the occult and the paranormal in the flypaper that is popular culture, especially with films like The Exorcist that had recently debuted. She was also the one who came up with the name Emily.”

Even more intriguing is the fact that the Gold Brook Bridge may not even be the “real” Emily’s Bridge!
Read Chad’s article for full details.

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