|©2016 Suzanne G. McClendon|
© 10 June 2004
The night was sweltering by the time we got to the bridge. The humidity hung in the air like a river that lost sight of its banks.
The official name of the bridge was “Green Bridge”, but all of us knew it as “Cry Baby Bridge”. Everyone knew the story; we were out that night to prove it one way or another.
Legend had it that a woman, her husband, and their baby girl were traveling down High Shoals Road to the Broadway Community. The man flew into a rage and stopped their carriage on the bridge. The woman struggled and fought against him with every fiber of strength that remained in her weakened body. He was too much for her and grabbed the baby and threw the little one over the side of the bridge. He continued beating the defeated mother until she was dead and threw her over the bridge to join her baby in the rapidly rising river.
All of the kids in the area liked to go hang out at the bridge at night just to see what would happen. You were supposed to go at midnight with a full moon overhead (have you ever noticed that these stories ALWAYS have a full moon?). The car was to be parked in the center of the bridge and then you were supposed to get out and either throw your keys under the car, or put them on top of your car where they weren’t easily accessible to you. Then, you were to shout over the edge of the bridge three times “I killed your baby!”
I thought that was an awful thing to do, but, that was what we were there for. We had to do this, to play along, in order to find out the truth.
In anticipation of this night, I had decided to go to the local history room at the library. Several books had references to the bridge. One of them mentioned a woman’s name and that she’d met with an accident there. I got what information I could from the books, and then went to the newspaper archive section. Our library has newspapers on microfiche and microfilm from over 100 years ago.
I scanned the papers starting with those after the building of the bridge, but before the birth of my parents, because this legend entertained them as teenagers, too.
What I found was amazing! There it was, in black and white, the story of Amanda Armstrong and her unfortunate night on the bridge. It appeared that her husband went on to the gathering in the Broadway Community after he’d tossed his wife and child off the bridge. He’d arrived at the gathering disheveled and disoriented and mumbling incoherently about the bridge and the baby. There were scratches bleeding on his face.
Several of the men formed a search party and loaded up the buggies to go to Green Bridge. The river was really rough that night, but against all odds they found Amanda. It was too late; she was dead. But where was the baby? They couldn’t find Bessie no matter how hard they tried.
Donnie Armstrong was arrested and put to death for the murder of his wife and the suspected murder of their baby. But it didn’t end there. It wasn’t long before people were talking about the strange happenings on the bridge at night…the woman’s screams, the baby’s cry, the loud splashes in the water that left no ripples.
All of this was on my mind that night as we drove to the bridge. We stopped the car in the center of the bridge, put the keys on top of the car, and went to the side of the bridge; only I didn’t join in the shouting. I couldn’t say those awful words. Suddenly, in the midst of all the shouts of “I killed your baby!” I saw her… the tear-streaked face was the same as the one in the newspaper article from so long ago. The others freaked; I stood there, amazed at what I was seeing. She wasn’t this horrendous, skinless, warty, chain-rattling ghost. She was a grieving mother, a mother that could not sleep in peace until she found her baby and they were together again. I couldn’t help but cry right along with her.
Of course the guys all thought I was crying because I was scared, but I wasn’t. I wanted to find her baby for her. But what was the chance of that over 50 years after the crime?
I could not sleep that night, for hearing her mournful pleas of “where is my baby?”
I still can’t sleep, twenty-two years after that night on the bridge. I will not sleep until I find her baby and she sleeps in peace.
© 10 June 2004 Suzanne McClendon
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