This Place in History: Emily’s Bridge

Vermont Historical Society

STOWE, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Stowe with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“It’s the Gold Brook Bridge or the Stowe Hollow Bridge. In popular parlance, everyone knows it as Emily’s bridge. And I think people come from all over the U.S. and the world because of supernatural activity that supposedly takes place here,” began Perkins.

“It was built in the 1840s. It’s called a Howe Truss Bridge, which was a style of bridge building that was fairly simple and easy for local carpenters to build. They didn’t have to have a lot of engineering experience. They could buy the plans and put them up.”

“It was one of many bridges along the Gold Brook. It’s the only one that’s left standing and it’s very picturesque. And then of course you’re on this cool creek or brook called Gold Brook. I just learned today that it’s called Gold Brook because they found gold in it. That’s the history of the brook and of course we’re in the Stowe Hollow area, which is one of the earlier villages settled in Stowe,” added Perkins.

“Who was Emily? The legend goes that there was a young woman named Emily at some point between 1849 and 1949. She was jilted by a lover. And so she then died at the site of this bridge. Now in various legends, she dies in different ways. She hanged herself off the bridge. She jumped off the bridge. She drove a carriage too fast, missed the bridge and went over the edge. In the 1920s, she’s driving an automobile and missed the bridge and went into the brook. In all of them, she dies. And she haunts the bridge to this day.”

“And so a lot of people have said that certainly between midnight and 3 A.M., things happen at this bridge. There are lights or they see apparitions or they hear sounds. Joe Citro, one of our great writers of the arcane in New England, says perhaps this bridge is a portal to different dimension.”

“I think the legend of Emily pretty well has been debunked. Most researches haven’t found anything showing that anyone died at this site. I talked to Barb Baraw at the Stowe Historical Society and she said if somebody did die, perhaps it was at one of the other covered bridges, which were higher.”

“The story seems to have sprung up in the late 1960s or early ’70s. One [idea] is that a group of students was using a Ouija board, which was pretty new at the time and it spelled out the name Emily. In another, a woman named Nancy Snead said that she invented it. She said that she and a friend invented a story to scare kids. They came up with this story of Emily and this bridge and it just took off.”

“I think the skeptic in me feels like that is the way that legends start. But, it certainly has brought a lot of people to Stowe to see this place,” concluded Perkins.

At this place in history.

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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