Mudgett: Emily’s Bridge

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(Host) This Halloween, historian and commentator Jill Mudgett is
thinking about Emily’s Bridge – a covered bridge in Stowe that’s said to
be haunted by a ghost named Emily – and perhaps the most haunted spot
in all of Vermont.

(Mudgett) Legend has it that Emily died on
the bridge – possibly by accident, possibly by her own hand after the
end of a love affair. And the bridge is said to be a location for strong
paranormal activity, sometimes even voices or ghostly apparitions.

recent years Emily’s fame has reached to the internet, on scores of
websites featuring the paranormal. But I’m a historian, not a ghost
hunter, so I know when those websites claim that the first recorded
mention of Emily was in a high school paper written in the late 1960s,
they’re referring to a book written in the early 70s by a local
historian named Bob Hagerman.

Hagerman’s book was on Lamoille
County bridges. He aimed to cover the essential aspects of each bridge.
For the old covered bridge on Gold Brook Road in Stowe, that essential
something was the well-known Emily.

Nearly 40 years earlier, a
man named Bigelow had published a book on Stowe that discussed the
bridge but didn’t say boo about any ghost. Back then there was no ghost –
at least not one that people talked about.

So for source
material on Emily, Hagerman turned to a UVM student named Susan, who
granted Hagerman permission to reprint sections of a high school paper
she had written on Emily’s Bridge. In the copy of her paper at the
Vermont Historical Society, Susan described different versions of the
ghost story, and chose as most plausible a mundane one in which no one
had been killed. When I called Susan, she said she hadn’t believed in
the ghost herself and that while her fellow teenagers often visited the
bridge in search of thrills, most of them didn’t believe the legend,

In a puzzling twist, most internet sources claim that
the teenage author later admitted to consulting a Ouija board instead of
conducting neighborhood interviews. Further research took me to a 1978
newspaper interview on microfilm in which Hagerman explained that one of
Susan’s friends eventually confessed that the two girls used a Ouija
board to conjure part of the paper.

And it wouldn’t be
surprising if the two teenagers had consulted one, even if they didn’t
really believe in ghosts. The Ouija board went mainstream after Parker
Brothers acquired it in 1966. What’s more, in the late 50s and early
60s, books, movies and TV were full of ghost stories. The Nancy Drew
mystery "The Haunted Bridge" was still popular. "The Twilight Zone" was
just one of the spooky shows on TV. And Stowe kids certainly knew about
the fate of poor Ichabod Crane at another dark and desolate bridge.

the story of Emily’s Bridge is about a young woman who met a tragic
end. But the story of the story is about another young woman named Susan
– and an old high school paper that lives on as the stuff of ghostly

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