Many years ago, as lightning flashed and storm clouds swirled overhead, a young unwed mother—driven mad by the pain of abandonment, regret, and the fear of being ostracized—hurled her week-old baby boy over the trestles of this rural bridge into the swirling water below. Ever since, passersby have heard the spine-tingling cries of a baby struggling to breathe. Or so the story goes.
This one-lane, steel bridge spanning Cedar Creek three miles northwest of Monmouth, Illinois in Warren County is one of many christened a “cry baby bridge” because of its alleged connection to an incident like the one just described. Another popular story told is that an elementary school bus plunged off the side of the bridge during a flood. All the children drowned, but should your car break down while crossing the bridge, their ghosts will push it safely to the other side.
Because of these stories, otherwise mundane rural bridges have become the focus of intense local curiosity. Ohio alone has at least 24 nearly identical legends. Few residents of Monmouth have never heard of their cry baby bridge.
Charisma, 27, had her own interesting encounter as a friend and she tested the legend. “I grew up in Monmouth, living there most of my life, and of course had heard all of the stories about crybaby bridge,” she said. “A few years ago, I met someone who had just moved to town and we got to talking about the bridge and all of the ‘happenings’ out there. Both being quite skeptical because it sounds a lot like an urban legend, we decided to check it out one day.
“We got in the car and headed out to the small, hidden road off of US 67-N where the bridge is located. The actual bridge is at the bottom of a relatively steep hill that you would come to after going around a sharp curve to the left. It’s also a very narrow road that only one car will fit down.
“At the bottom of the hill, we stopped to investigate a bit. The area of the road where the actual bridge sits over the shallows of cedar creek is completely flat with no slope whatsoever. Putting the car into neutral, it started to slowly inch forward until the end of the bridge, then it just stopped. Thinking that there must have been an environmental cause for the whole thing, we went up the hill on the other side and turned around to come back down and test it going the other way.
“Again, we got to the bottom of the hill and stopped the car completely before putting it in neutral. Instead of rolling backwards like we were expecting, it rolled forward again. All the way to end of the bridge and just stopped. I’m not sure how to explain what happened, and I don’t necessarily believe any of the stories surrounding it, but my experience at crybaby bridge still baffles me to this day.”
Many have had similar experiences, yet few are sure of the actual history of the bridge. One of the only clues on the scene is an inscription of “Dec. 4, 1941” in the cement foundation. But the history of the bridge has little bearing on the stories told. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, several eyewitnesses swear they have heard crying near the bridge. We may never know the origins of these ethereal sounds, but they are an ingredient of a great night-time excursion.