With my book, Haunted Bridges: Over 300 of America's Creepiest Crossings, hitting shelves, I thought it might be a great idea to talk about investigating a location like a bridge. Well, specifically a bridge! Exterior locations present unique investigative challenges, and it's always better to be prepared, right? We should probably start with the basics...
The Weather. While being outdoors in a light rain may be okay with you—and maybe even a little refreshing—rain of any kind will wreak havoc with any electronic equipment you take along on your investigation. Have you ever listened to hours of audio recordings with rain constantly plipping and plopping in the background (environmental music CDs don't count)? It's actually quite surprising how loud the sound of rain hitting leaves, pavement, your car, etc. can be.
Also, electronic gear doesn't do so well with water. In fact, rain is probably going to ruin any equipment that isn't waterproof. So, pull up the weather app on your phone and make sure you have clear skies for your visit. Also give your wardrobe a quick look; even in the summer the temperature can take a sudden dip in the wee hours and you don't want to be caught short!
Safety. So you're going out to a bridge, that's most likely in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. Any alarms going off? They should be. Most bridges have traffic, and locations in rural areas will most likely have little-to-no light. In fact, as a seeker of ghosts, you are probably specifically picking a bridge that has no illumination. Hey, you need to be able to use your night vision gear, right? All of this adds up to a huge safety concern. My first piece of advice would be to wear a safety vest with reflective tape on it so that any passing automobiles can identify you—and you may be surprised how easy it will be to also find your ghost hunting buddies with a simple sweep of your flashlight.
Avoiding traffic is obviously the biggest concern here, though, so let's address that. Hopefully you attempted to visit a bridge that has a pedestrian crossing on it, or at least a shoulder that's out of the way of passing cars. If not, then consider performing your investigation at the ends of the bridge. It's easy to post a camcorder near one of the entrances, station an audio recorder on one of the rails, etc. of the bridge, and to keep your eyes on any action that may happen. The bottom line is that you want to be safe. Stay off the actual bridge if there's traffic or the bridge is in horrible shape (a tumble to the water below would make for a bad ending to your trip, too).
I'd also advise letting others know where you're going. Letting family and friends in on your travel plans is a no-brainer, but you may also want to give the local sheriff's office a call, too. That way, if they get any reports about "trespassers" or "vandals" on said bridge, they will know it's just you. They might even keep an eye on you to make sure you're okay. Most bridges are public property, so they won't really bother you if you're being respectful and not blocking traffic. Now, let's move on to your investigation gear...
Equipment. Investigating any haunted location is a challenge. There are a myriad of things that can go wrong and pollute any audio/video footage you are gathering. Doing an investigation outside is even worse. Birds and other animals make noises. Wind makes noise. Passing cars make noise. You following me on this? There's a lot of noise! This, unfortunately, makes getting clean EVPs quite difficult (Electronic Voice Phenomena is the recording of ghostly voices not heard by the human ear). Video, too, can be quite a challenge.
Most cameras need light to "see" what they are recording—and light can often obliterate anything of low energy that may be trying to appear (or at least keep you from seeing said phenomena). Therefore, having a camcorder/camera with night vision capability is paramount. ou may even need to get extra infrared lights to help out with the camera's clarity. It's really easy to illuminate a small interior room, but the outdoors is wide open and it takes a little more IR power to get it all lit up for you.
Additional gear for your trip should probably include an EMF detector and a digital laser thermometer (sometimes called a "gun thermometer"). While each of these can often give you some false readings working indoors, they are excellent for outdoor investigations. EMF detectors read local electromagnetic fields/energy. In an indoor location, these devices often pick up bad wiring, electronic devices, etc. But outside, on a bridge, you are pretty much in the wild. High line wires are easily avoidable, so any EMFs you pick up should be of note.
As for the digital laser thermometer, it pretty much has the same advantage as the EMF detector. Working with one indoors means dealing with an AC unit or furnace that's constantly changing the temperature, or seeing a spike in temperature when you're in a small room with several warm bodies around you. Outside, however, the temperature should be relatively steady. So if you detect a sudden, big drop in temperature—like a huge cold spot on one end of the bridge—you just might be on to something!
Remember that you are in the wild. Sure, you may be a couple of miles outside town, but that's still "the wild." By that I mean there could be animals roaming the area, locals hunting (yes, they do that), and you never know what nefarious person may be coming down the road. Because of these things I double down on my recommendation to let local law enforcement know what you're up to. They may have some vital information about something—or someone—that could help you (or dissuade you from visiting that particular bridge). I also include a can of bear mace in my kit when I'm working outdoors, or at least a potent version of a pepper spray: something I can use to deter animals from coming closer and, possibly, incapacitate a person who may be planning to rob me.
Of course, having your cell phone handy and doing your investigations with a small team also work in your favor in this regard. Just remember that "wilderness" always starts with "wild!"
Well, now that you're all geared up—and you've had your safety briefings—let's talk about the haunted bridges. While you will certainly learn plenty of information reading Haunted Bridges in this regard, it's worth giving you a quick preview of the book and to give you a bit of a "heads up" about a typical bridge haunt.
Chances are you know the ghost story associated with the bridge you are planning to visit, so you probably have a good idea about what to expect (if anything happens, of course). But if you don't, bridge hauntings typically fall into a few categories: Suicides, murders/lynchings, accidents, or creatures. I use the term "creatures" very loosely here. While the first three are pretty self explanatory, it's worth noting that each of them have their own attributed activity.
Since hanging is a common form of suicide/murder associated with bridges, you may want to keep an eye on the overhanging part of the bridge. Also, many haunted bridges are termed "Cry Baby" bridges by locals because of the killing of infants at these spots, so you may want to pay extra attention to audio recorders for the sounds of crying, etc. Accidental deaths on bridges usually involve a pedestrian being struck and killed or an automobile accident that resulted in a fatality. Either way, the spirit left behind usually roams the general area, so you may consider posting additional cameras along the road, etc.
As for creatures, well…Bridges all over the world are associated with bizarre happenings and the appearance of interesting (and sometimes frightening) things. Sometimes it's a "Goat Man" that appears, sometimes it's a troll (yes, people still report seeing trolls), and sometimes it's even stranger than these! The chapter in the book that covers this subject tells of a giant lizard, vampires, demons, and evil witches (not our friendly, earth-loving Wiccan compatriots). There's no way I can tell you how to prepare for an encounter such as these, but I'd be remiss if I didn't let you know that they do happen!
So, once you've chosen your bridge to investigate and you've covered the bases by taking the above advice, you're pretty much ready to hit the field. Now just remember to have a good time and do your best to get some awesome evidence. But on the off chance that your bridge doesn't pan out—or that the ghosts simply don't cooperate with you and show up—consider picking up a copy of Haunted Bridges.
With over 300 bridges listed in the book, you're bound to find another one close by to visit!
Rich Newman is the author of seven books, including The Ghost Hunter's Field Guide and Ghost Hunting for Beginners. He has made appearances on paranormal television programs around the world and has appeared multiple times ...