Crybaby Bridges, Roads and Hollows

Some ghost stories are so popular that they take on a life of their own and exist not in one location but in multiple ones. Each location puts its own spin on the story, but the core remains the same. One such legend is that of the crybaby bridge.

The legend begins with an ordinary bridge, usually in a remote location but always over a body of water. From there, a story of some unfortunate tragedy is told involving a mother and child. Examples include:

  1. The mother kills the child by tossing it in the river.
  2. The mother and child are murdered on the bridge, usually by the woman's husband.
  3. The mother and child were killed in a car accident on the bridge. In these cases, the mother's body is usually found but the child's is not.

Although they are called crybaby bridges it is not always the baby that is reported crying. Sometimes it is a woman crying or screaming that is heard.

Most of these stories include a ritual that, when performed, will cause either the child's or mother's ghost to appear. This may be as simple as parking your car on the bridge late at night. Others insist that if you leave a piece of candy on the bridge and when you return it will either be missing or have a bite taken out of it.

Like all legends and fairy tales, these stories propagate and endure for two major reasons. First, they make for great stories to tell around a campfire or during a sleepover. Second, they often serve as a warning. Since the mother of the unfortunate baby is usually unwed or having an affair, the message in these tales is obvious and similar to that of La Llorona. Women should be faithful and resist any sexual urges until they are married.

People who have reported hearing a crying baby on such locations should be believed. They most likely heard what sounded like a crying baby, but that doesn't mean it actually was. Like the old aphorism often attributed to Occam's Razor: "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras." They heard a sound and associate it with a similar sound they had heard numerous times before: that of a crying baby.

However, to apply Occam's Razor to this situation, one must assume the sounds are made by something that is natural to the location, and a crying baby does not fit that criteria. Other creatures do, and they are not ghostly. Here are just a few of the animals found in North America that have been reported to make a sound that has made a "crying baby" sound:

  1. Cougars (which can make a sound that sounds both like a crying baby or a screaming woman).
  2. Siamese cats
  3. Raccoons
  4. Rabbits (especially when in danger).
  5. Frogs and toads, especially the Fowler's toad and Woodhouse's toad
  6. Foxes (which also scream)
  7. Coyotes
  8. Bobcats (which also scream)
  9. Peacocks (also reported to make sounds that are mistaken for "Help!")
  10. Barred owls

In fact, African galagos are more commonly known as "bush babies" because their territorial cry sounds like a human baby crying. Brown lemurs also make a similar sound.

Picture this scenario. A group drives to a remote bridge surrounded by wilderness. The lights of the car and the sound of the engine has frightened everything into silence. The car then stops, turns off the engine and lights and waits. Slowly, when it appears the danger has passed, the wildlife stirs to life and begins making sounds, including sounds that are interpreted to be that of a crying baby.