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Silver Bridge

Silver Bridge paranormal

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Location submitted by: sdonley on 07/25/2015
DBA Approved: Y

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PANICd#: 1865

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The General Corporation and the American Bridge Company constructed the Highway Bridge in 1928. It collapsed on December 15, 1967 resulting in the deaths of 46 people.

Point Pleasant , WV 25550
Open to the public: Yes

Lat: 38.83453140
Lon: -82.14743650

Database Summary:

Demographic Rank: 4
History: 1
Stories: 2
Claims: 1
Evidence: 2
Resources: 8
Retrievals: 9361
Vistor Rating: 0.0
Votes: 1

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History information is some background and history about the location. This is meant to be a basic summary. Below the history records you will find sources in which you can click on to find out more information. There may be multiple history records per location.

The General Corporation and the American Bridge Company constructed the Highway Bridge in 1928. It was designed as a two-lane eye-bar suspension type bridge, measuring 2,235 feet in total length, including the approaches. The bridge was designed under the specifications set forth by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The design criteria the society required was an H-15 load demand. The load demand is the weight restrictions and guidelines that the designing engineers must factor into their design considerations.

The bridge was dubbed the 'Silver Bridge' because it was the country's first aluminum painted bridge. It was designed with a twenty-two foot roadway and one five-foot sidewalk. Some unique engineering techniques were featured on the Silver Bridge such as 'High Tension' eye-bar chains, a unique anchorage system, and 'Rocker" towers. The Silver Bridge was the first eye-bar suspension bridge of its type to be constructed in the United States. The bridge's eye-bars were linked together in pairs like a chain. A huge pin passed through the eye and linked each piece to the next. Each chain link consisted of a pair of 2" x 12" bars and was connected by an 11" pin. The length of each chain varied depending upon its location on the bridge.

Some questions were raised when this design idea was brought forward. What if the two eye-bars did not share the 4 million pound load of the bridge equally? Would the eye- bars fail under the overloaded stress? The designers thought they had an answer.

The answer come in the type of material used for the eye-bars. The American Bridge Company developed a new heat-treated carbon steel to use on the construction of the Silver Bridge. This new steel would allow the individual members of the bridge to handle more stress. Along with the two eye-bars sharing the load, the steel could easily handle the 4 million pound load. The newly treated chain steel eye-bars had an ultimate strength of 105,000 pounds per square inch (psi) with an elastic limit of 75,000 psi along with a maximum working stress of 50,000 psi. The eye-bars embedded into the unique anchorage were also heat treated for an ultimate strength of 75,000 psi, an elastic limit of 50,000 psi and a maximum unit stress of 30 psi.

Because of the unique design of the structure, the anchorage design needed to be innovative. Bedrock was only found at a considerable depth, making the ordinary gravity type anchorage impractical. An unusual anchorage was designed consisting of a reinforced concrete trough 200 feet long and 34 feet wide filled with soil and reinforced concrete. The huge trough was supported on 405 sixteen inch octagonal reinforced concrete piles in which the cable pull is resisted by the weight of the anchorage and by sharing the halves of the piles.

Another unique design technique used on the Silver Bridge was the 'Rocker' towers. The innovative towers, which had a height of 130 feet, 10 1/4 inches, allowed the bridge to move due to shifting loads and changes in the chain lengths due to temperature variations. This was done by placing a curved fitting next to a flat one at the bottom of the piers. The rocker was then fitted with dowel rods to keep the structure from shifting horizontally. With this type of connection, the piers were not fixed to the bases.

Upon completion of construction, the bridge was opened as a toll facility and operated by the West Virginia-Ohio Bridge Corporation. On December 26,1941, the state of West Virginia bought the structure from the bridge company for $1,040,000. The purchase price included a $70,000 contract for bridge repairs and engineering services.

On December 3l, 1951 the structure became a toll free facility. The bridge underwent a thorough inspection just prior to the transition from toll to non-toll facility. On December 21, 1951, Bridge Engineer L. L. Jemison, suggested the following to H. K. Griffith, West Virginia State Maintenance Engineer: 1. Repairing the bridge seat of the upstream side of the Ohio Abutment. 2. Cutting Ventilator openings in all of the four anchor chambers and making frames for same. 3. Encasing the anchor bars inside of the anchor chambers with concrete. 4. Restoring the disintegrated concrete of the piers, anchorages and retaining walls. 5. Waterproofing the roadway of the anchorages and the approaches and surfacing same with asphaltic concrete. 6. Cleaning and painting steel work where necessary. 7. Revising the Ohio approach to provide better returns. 8. Extending the sidewalk along the Ohio approach. 9. Removing the Toll House. 10.Revising the lighting control system. 11.Miscellaneous steelwork: Repair Railing, Clean out holes at bottom of tower verticals, Furnishing and installing gutters under expansion devices, Making and installing bird screens, 12. Restoring concrete around anchor bars removed for inspection.(9)

Upon receiving Mr. Jemison's letter of intent for the proposed bridge corrections, the necessary improvements were made. In addition to the 1951 inspection and corrections, the bridge was inspected periodically. These frequent inspections occurred on July 28, 1955, November 15,1961, and April 8 and 9, 1965. Suggestions were made to the WV Bridge engineers for improvements, but not every detail was considered because of a lack of funding. Although some corrections were not made, each inspection did say that the bridge was structurally safe. Even with the number of inspections given to the structure, the reason for its collapse could not have been foreseen and/or corrected. The technology of the day could not foresee the tragedy that awaited the Silver Bridge.

Added by: sdonley on 07/25/2015 DB#:275


Stories are just that. Stories and personal accounts that have been reported about the location.

For thirty-nine years the Silver Bridge stood, allowing passage across the Ohio River. With the previous inspections, no one conceived that the structure might fall and collapse into the riverbed. On that fateful December 15, 1967 evening, tragedy struck. Within seconds, the Silver Bridge had collapsed killing and injuring many individuals.

Many people were out buying Christmas trees, enjoying the holiday season, unaware of the disaster, until they heard the sound. Some individuals said, 'the sound of the collapse was like that of a shotgun." For those who saw the bridge collapse, they said, "it looked like the bridge fell like a card deck." Whatever the case, when the structure fell, horror captivated the area and lives were changed forever.

Many heroic eyewitnesses tried to help the victims who fell in the water. Rescue crews were on the disaster scene within minutes and were able to save some of the people from drowning in the Ohio River. Witnesses indicated that many of the vehicles were floating downstream while passengers would beat on their windows trying to escape. One eyewitness described seeing a truck driver standing on the top of his truck cab yelling for help as his vehicle slowly floated downstream in the cold water. William Needham, a truck driver from Kernersville, North Carolina, barely escaped death. He was in the cab of his truck driving across the bridge, when the collapse occurred. He managed to survive, but his partner in the truck cab never escaped the water of the Ohio River. His partner was asleep in the rear cab and had strapped himself in for safety. When the bridge collapsed, he had no chance of escaping. Needham claims that the truck sank to the bottom and that he narrowly escaped. He broke the window to the cab, grabbed a box to help himself surface, and barely made it to the top of the water before he ran out of breath.

Another survivor, Howard Boggs, of Gailipolis, Ohio, lost his small family in the fall. His wife, Marjorie, and seventeen-month-old daughter were in their vehicle when the bridge collapsed. He claims that Marjorie noticed that the bridge was 'quivering' as they became stalled on the bridge in the heavy rush hour traffic. She then asked, "What will we do if this thing breaks?" The next thing Boggs remembers was scrambling for his life by breaking out his car window. Sadly, his wife and child perished in the accident. He could not aid them in their attempt to be freed from the sinking car.

After the collapse, many residents questioned why the bridge would suddenly fall into the river below. Three of the reasons that were commonly heard were:

1. A supposed 'Sonic Boom' prior to the collapse.

2. The 'Curse' of Chief Cornstalk.

3. The Mothman.

4. Structural failure of a bridge member.

The collapsed bridge needed to be thoroughly inspected before the cause could be determined. Without concrete reason for the bridge's failure, every suggested reason was researched until proven incorrect.

Many people in the West Virginia and Ohio area claim to have heard a 'Sonic Boom' around the same time, or just moments before the bridge fell. Investigators checked with the nearby military installations, and there were no aircraft capable of producing a Sonic boom in the area at the time the bridge dismembered. The theory was proven false after the researcher's investigation showed that surrounding buildings were not damaged. If a sonic boom had occurred in a residential community, the overpressure would have caused extensive damage to homes and other structures in the Point Pleasant area.

Older residents claimed that the cause of the bridge collapse was "The Curse of Cornstalk." In 1774, the Battle of Point Pleasant took place between approximately 1,000 white men and 1,000 Indians. The commander of the Indian war party was Chief Cornstalk, a well-respected and intelligent Indian leader. During the battle, Cornstalk could see that defeat was imminent for his forces. He therefore let his troops make a crucial decision, either to fight to the death or surrender. The Indian warriors chose to surrender. With the surrender, Chief Cornstalk signed the Treaty of Camp Charlotte. Chief Cornstalk and his son were later captured and murdered along with his son at Fort Randolph. Legend states that in his dying words Chief Cornstalk, still upset over his troops defeat, placed a curse of death and destruction upon the entire Point Pleasant area. Could this be the reason for the collapse of the Silver Bridge? After thorough investigations of the bridges' collapsed structure, 'The Curse of Cornstalk' was ruled out as a contributing factor to the collapse of the Silver Bridge.

After extensive studies of the broken structure members, the cause of failure was determined. The answer was the unique eye-bar design made from the newly innovated heat treated-carbon steel. The old saying, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," turned out to be a fact in the failure of the Silver Bridge. The heat-treated carbon steel eye-bar broke, placing undue stress on the other members of the bridge. The remaining steel frame buckled and fell due to the newly concentrated stresses.

The cause of failure was attributed to a cleavage fracture in the lower limb of eye-bar 330 at joint C13N of the north eye-bar suspension chain in the Ohio side span." The fracture was caused from a minute crack formed during the casting of the steel eye-bar. Over the years, stress corrosion and corrosion fatigue allowed the crack to grow, causing the failure of the entire structure. At the time of construction, the steel used was not known for subduing to corrosion fatigue and stress corrosion. Inspection prior to construction would not have been able to notice the miniature crack. Over the life span of the bridge, the only way to detect the fracture would have been to disassemble the eye-bar. The technology used for inspection at the time was not capable of detecting such cracks.

Stress corrosion cracking is the formation of brittle cracks in a normally sound material through the simultaneous action of a tensile stress and a corrosive environment. Combined with corrosion fatigue, which occurs as a result of the combined action of a cyclic stress and a corrosive environment, disaster was inevitable for the Silver Bridge. The two contributing factors, over the years continued to weaken the eye-bar and unfortunately the entire structure.

Another major factor that helped corrosion fatigue and stress corrosion in bringing down the bridge was the weight of new cars and trucks. When the bridge was designed, the design vehicle used was the model-T Ford, which had an approximate weight of less than 1,500 pounds. In 1967, the average family car weighed 4,000 pounds or more. In 1928, West Virginia law prohibited the operation of any vehicle whose gross weight, including its load, was more than 20,000 pounds. In 1967, the weight limit almost tripled to 60,800 pounds gross, and up to 70,000 with special permits. Civil engineers must use a projected life span for nearly all projects, but no one could see that 40 years after the construction of the Silver Bridge that traffic loads would more than triple.

Although the collapse of the Silver Bridge was a major disaster in the West Virginia and Ohio areas, it also frightened the entire nation. The St. Mary's bridge, located upstream and similar in design to the Silver Bridge, was shut down for inspection after the collapse.(23) President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a nation-wide probe to determine the safety of the nation's bridges. In 1967 there were 1,800 bridges in the United States which were 40 years old including 1,100 highway bridges designed for Model-T traffic. Many federal officials feared that other structures, built around the some time to handle Model-T traffic, could face the same fate as the Silver Bridge.

Even though the collapse of the Silver Bridge was a disaster, there were positive aspects to the failure. Bridge inspections are now more routine and in-depth because of the Silver Bridge. Engineers are now more knowledgeable about corrosion fatigue and stress corrosion, which allows better quality structures to be designed and built. With today's technology, as well as better design techniques and materials, there is hope that a Silver Bridge disaster will never again take place.

Added by: sdonley on 07/25/2015 DB#:1225

About the Mothman

The strange events connected to the Mothman began on November 12, 1966 near Clendenin, West Virginia. Five men were in the local cemetery that day, preparing a grave for a burial, when something that looked like a "brown human being" lifted off from some nearby trees and flew over their heads. The men were terrified. It did not appear to be a bird, but more like a man with wings. A few days later, more sightings would take place, electrifying the entire region.

Sightings of the Mothman started to escalate, with the Mothman plaguing the residents of the area for just over one year. The sightings climaxed and ended with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, plunging 46 vehicles in to the Ohio river. It was proposed that sightings of The Mothman were a sign and warning of the impending doom that was going to befall Point Pleasant in less than 12 months.

On November 15, 1966, two young married couples from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, named David and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, were traveling late at night in the Scarberry's car. They were passing the West Virginia Ordnance Works, an abandoned World War II TNT factory, about seven miles north from Point Pleasant, in the 2,500 acre McClintic Wildlife Station, when they noticed two red lights in the shadows by an old generator plant near the factory gate.

They stopped the car, and were startled to discover that the lights were actually the glowing red eyes of a large animal, "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back," according to Roger Scarberry. Terrified, they drove toward Route 62, where the creature supposedly chased them at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.

Whilst driving away, the Scarberrys claimed to have noticed a dead dog on the side of the road, and in fact made such accurate note of its location that they claimed to have gone back the very next day and looked for it.

They drove to the Mason County courthouse to alert Deputy Millard Halstead, who later said, "I've known these kids all their lives. They'd never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously." He then followed Roger Scarberry's car back to the secret ex-U.S. Federal bomb and missile factory, but found no trace of the strange creature.

According to the book Alien Animals, by Janet and Colin Bord, a poltergeist attack on the Scarberry home occurred later that night, during which the creature was seen several times.

The harrowing experience of the two couples was not the only unusual occurrence that night in Point Pleasant. About 10:30pm contractor Newell Partridge was sitting at home in front of the television. Suddenly, the picture on the screen disappeared. It was replaced by a "herringbone pattern" and a "loud whining noise." He could now hear the familiar sounds of his dog Bandit howling on the porch.

Bandit was a big muscular German Shephard who was always on guard, alerting Partridge of any unusual happenings around the house. He was a country dog, and used to defending himself and his family. Partridge quickly made his way to the porch to see what his loyal dog Bandit was making such a fuss about. The dog headed to the family barn, located about one hundred and fifty yards away from the house.

Partridge aimed his flashlight in the direction of the barn, and was shocked to see "two circle-like eyes" glowing red in the darkness of the night. "I shined the flash light in that direction, and it picked up two red circles, or eyes, which looked like bicycle reflectors. I certainly know what animal eyes look like... these were much larger" described Partridge after the events. "It's a good length of a football field to that hay barn, still those eyes showed up huge for that distance."

Something wasn't right, and Partridge ran back inside the house to get his shotgun, to defend himself from whatever or whoever was trespassing on his property. He spent the night with the gun at his side. When morning broke, he went to find Bandit, worried that he was hurt, or worse, dead. There was no sign of Bandit, but Partridge did find a worrisome clue to his whereabouts. He found tracks in a circular pattern, telling him that Bandit had gone round and round probably barking at something in the air!

Bandit was never seen again. Could the body of the dog seen on the outskirts of town by the Scarberry's been that of Bandit? The news of this strange event quickly spread from police headquarters to the local news media.

By the next day, more reports of this strange creature were reported to the police. In one report, the Mothman had swooped down over another moving car, frightening the passengers.

The following night, on November 16, several armed townspeople combed the area around the TNT plant for signs of the Mothman. Mr and Mrs Raymond Wamsley, and Mrs Marcella Bennett, with her baby daughter Teena in tow, were in a car en-route to visit their friends, Mr and Mrs Ralph Thomas, who lived in a bungalow among the "igloos" (concrete dome-shaped dynamite storage structures erected during WW-II) near the TNT plant.

The igloos were now empty, some owned by the county, others by companies intending to use them for storage. They were heading back to their car when a figure appeared behind their parked vehicle. Mrs Bennett said that it seemed like it had been lying down, slowly rising up from the ground, large and gray, with glowing red eyes. While Wamsley phoned the police, the creature walked onto the porch and peered in at them through the window.

On November 24, four people reported seeing the Mothman flying over the TNT area. On the morning of November 25, Thomas Ury, who was driving along Route 62 just north of the TNT, claimed to have seen the Mothman standing in a field, and then it spread its wings and flew alongside his car as he sped toward the Point Pleasant sheriff's office.

On November 26, Mrs Ruth Foster of Charleston, West Virginia reportedly saw the Mothman standing on her front lawn, but the creature was gone by the time her brother-in-law went out to investigate. Later on the morning of November 27, the creature apparently pursued a young woman near Mason, West Virginia, and was reported again in St. Albans the same night, by two children.

A Mothman sighting was again reported on January 11, 1967, and several other times that same year.

On the evening of December 15, 1967, [...] there had been a number of sightings of the Mothman on the bridge by drivers just before it collapsed.

Sightings continued to pour in. Certain features remained consistent - the creature's size, build and hypnotic eyes. Also, malfunctioning radios and televisions featured in many of the reports. Another consistent feature was the fear - people were terrified of the Mothman. Also, a sudden increase of dog disappearances and animal mutilations were reported - and the Mothman was thought to be responsible for those as well.

As one would expect with this kind of media coverage, thousands of people poured into the T.N.T. area, hoping for a sighting. Television crews set up at the generator plant, hoping to catch Mothman on film.

It was the biggest disaster ever to hit Point Pleasant and it seemed to mark the end of the flurry of Mothman sightings. People began to speculate that the Mothman was somehow responsible for the bridge's collapse. The severity of the accident seemed to turn public attention away from the Mothman and only scattered reports of him have surfaced since then.

There were many theories of what the Mothman was, the demonic result of a magic ritual, a biochemically altered bird, or perhaps the embodiment of a 200-year-old Shawnee curse on the land. Not surprisingly, skeptics scoffed at these theories, stating instead that Mothman was probably just some normal bird; probably a sandhill crane. The sandhill crane has reddish patches on its head that could possibly be mistaken for large red eyes. However other large birds have been found in the area as well.

In July 1967, several boys found a large vulture near New Haven. And at Gallipolis Ferry, a farmer shot an Arctic snow owl; it was two feet tall with a five-foot wingspan. Many local people were not interested in logical explanations - they were afraid and, by the one year anniversary of the first report, over one hundred incidents linked to Mothman had been reported.

A plaque on the Mothman statue in Point Pleasant provides a version of the original legend: "On a chilly, fall night in November 1966, two young couples drove into the TNT area north of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, when they realized they were not alone. Driving down the exit road, they saw the supposed creature standing on a nearby ridge. It spread its wings and flew alongside the vehicle up to the city limits."

Added by: sdonley on 07/25/2015 DB#:1226

Paranormal Claims

Here are the paranormal claims for this location. These have been found through Internet research, reports from members, or reports from personal interviews. To add a claim, please contact, and we will review and add your information.

Claim # Added Added By Claim
2268 07/25/2015 sdonley Shortly before the collapse of the bridge, the "Mothman" was seen and photographed on and around the bridge by several people.

Paranormal Evidence

Paranormal evidence is based on claims that have been reported for this location. There can be several types of evidence; however, we have grouped them based on media type for better organization. Here you will find evidence that are logs, audio, video, or photographic.

To add evidence for a claim, you must submit it to for approval to be entered into the database.

CLAIM #: 2268 - Shortly before the collapse of the bridge, the "Mothman" was seen and photographed on and around the bridge by several people.

Evidence Type: Photograph
Encounter Type: Other
Hauting Type: Unknown
Investigation Status: More Investigation Needed
Photos of Mothman around the bridge
Submitted By: sdonley On: 07/25/2015
DBA Approved: Y

Additional Resources

This is a collection of Internet resources for this location. This section will house links to other websites that contain information related to history, claims, investigations, or even the location's website.

The Clio Webisite
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
Entry for this location on The Clio Website of Historical Locations.
Mothman Museum
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
A museum in Point Pleasant, WVa. dedicated to research and items about the Mothman sitings.
Point Pleasant River Museum & Learning Center
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
This location has information about the bridge and the collapse.
Mothman Lives Website
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
A website dedicated to sightings and research about the Mothman.
Mothman Death List
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
A listing of deaths related to the sightings or other ways to the Mothman.
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
Article about the statue of the Mothman that stands in Point Pleasant, WVA.
Marietta Daily Times
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
A newspaper article about the collapse and recovery of the victims.
A piece of the bridge
Added: 07/25/2015 By: sdonley
There is a piece of the bridge at a nearby rest area. This blog post talks about it.

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