The Terrifying Truth Behind Crawford Road Bridge

Photo by Michael Kleen

The sinister reputation of haunted places are often unearned, but in the case of this remote Virginia bridge, the truth is more horrifying than fiction.

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A remote road in Virginia’s Historic Triangle holds secrets, or at least that’s what storytellers say. Otherworldly phenomena is responsible for events ranging from electronic disturbances to car accidents, and real-life murders have darkened the spot’s already sinister reputation. “Bad vibes” and “negative energy” make some locals steer clear.

This object of morbid fascination is a concrete bridge, built in the 1930s, where Tour Road passes over Crawford Road in the woods north of Newport News Park, south of the Yorktown Battlefield where George Washington defeated Lord Cornwallis in 1781. Crawford Road bypasses Yorktown Road between I-64 and US Route 17, but there’s not much to see aside from occasional wildlife. This remote patch of wilderness lends itself to unusual stories.

The most popular legend involves a young bride forced into a loveless marriage. Rather than spend the rest of her life with a man she loathes, the woman hanged herself from the Tour Road overpass. Since then, a ghostly woman in white can be seen standing on the bridge, only to reenact her sickening plunge. Cars swerve to avoid a lone specter in the road, or experience engine trouble while driving through the narrow tunnel.

Others swear the Ku Klux Klan holds secret meetings nearby and that there have been lynchings at the bridge. An abandoned house populated by glowing red eyes and disembodied whispers awaits anyone dumb enough to venture into the woods.

Virginia folklorist L.B. Taylor, Jr., who has collected hundreds of ghost stories, is skeptical. “I think it’s more of an urban legend than an actual haunting,” he told the Daily Press in 2013. “I think it’s teenagers that have wild imaginations. They just go down there half-scared to start with.”

A graffiti-covered bridge, stories of a “Satanic house”, and rumors of lynchings reminds me of the legendary “Seven Gates to Hell” of Crawford County, Illinois. Isolated bridges frequently attract local folktales, and story elements often migrate across state lines. The “lady in white” is a folklore motif that dates back centuries and can be found in numerous countries, usually involving the ghost of a young woman who died tragically.

The Tour Road overpass over Crawford Road has been the backdrop for both imaginary and real-life horror. Over the past few decades alone, four bodies have been found along Crawford Road and two in the woods nearby. The remote and sparsely-populated location is unfortunately attractive to the criminally-inclined. In 1990, James “Jimmy” Johnson’s body was found in the woods, handcuffed and shot execution-style. More unrelated murders occurred in 1996, 2000, and most recently, 2016.

In March 2018, 22-year-old Julian Rios plead guilty to the July 2016 first-degree murder of 19-year-old Austin Baxley. Baxley’s body was found not far from the Crawford Road bridge. “We used to tell people if they kept hanging around down there, they’d become a ghost,” York County historian and former deputy sheriff Frank Green told the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.

While none of the specific ghost stories of Crawford Road Bridge seem to be based in reality, it has justifiably earned a reputation for the macabre. Visitors hairs stand on end, cognizant of the violent events that took place just a few dozen yards away. This is one place legend trippers should avoid.

Crawford Road Bridge (37.21539, -76.52924) is located along Crawford Road north of Baptist Run. Historical Tour Road crosses over Crawford Road at this point. The bridge is 2.6 miles southwest of Yorktown and 1.4 miles north of Washington’s Headquarters at Yorktown. There is no established parking, not even a gravel pull-off, so park at your own risk.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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