7/30/10

'CRY BABY BRIDGE' - Oklahoma Style

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 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.

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.

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.
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.

Looking around at the lonely road, its tall stand of scrub grasses and volunteer trees, circadian hums playing background music to my musings, I wished I too had come in the night. This was something to be savored and remembered before it too disappeared into myth.

One day the bridge would be gone, replaced by a staid modern bridge, and it would loose something along the way. The modern replacement bridges, with their multiple lanes of harsh glaring concrete with stable, unimaginative barriers spanning waterways the drivers can no longer even see, are no match. They are traversed by hurried traffic with no time to pause and enjoy the 'what if' or the 'just maybe's' that make life fun. Every new bridge seems designed to defy any legend, no matter how romantic and enduring, to linger
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6 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Oklahoma. The Crybaby bridge in OKC, was not given the name because of the story of the mother. It was given the name due to belief that a witch, who lived across the bridge, would lure children to her house and kill them. It's said that if you go at "the witching hour" (midnight on a full moon), you can hear the cries of the children. At least that's what people where I live say.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

Thanks for the comment. Yes, that area has a long running legend about a "witch". It is apparently urban legend and an example of 'if it looks spooky then it must be haunted.' Anyone with any hard and fast facts is encouraged to set the record straight and provide some solid foundation. Otherwise, it appears to be an example of the way urban legend and folklore in general tends to travel with people and be adopted into new locations.

Anonymous said...

I've been there and heard thing. It was so crazy what all we could hear.. Me and several friend decided to check it out on Halloween night.. That was not a good ideal.. I'd really like to go back with equipment to see if we can get some kind of proof.. I honestly believe that there is something there..

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

Best to go at a time less likely to add to the imagination. Scope out the area in the day. Map it, record wind, temps, and note water channel direction and flow, all contribute to sounds in the dark. This is what my research team did. What we found was a drain pipe that 'sang' as wind passed over its opening.

Anonymous said...

I lived less than a mile from one of these cry baby bridges or sometimes bitch bridge depending on who was telling it. One key to the set up of the story was that driving very slow on this bridge caused it to creek and groan as it was metal frame and wood plank construction. It was nearly 50 yards long so as your car or truck creeped to the middle, both you and your date grew a bit edgy just from the rickety sounds alone. When you begin to weave the tale of the witch or woman who lost her baby, roll your windows down if they were not already to increase the fear. Then of course you would yell "Witch, I've got your baby"... and listen quietly. Undoubtedly, there would be cicadas, bridge noises, owls, even sometimes crows cawing. Usually it didn't take long for your date to scream go, then of course you let the throttle rip and tires spin, which probably resulted in most of the danger that was occurring at the time.

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