The Carter Bridge (aka “Ghost Bridge”)
There has been much discussion along the paranormal websites, blogs, meet and greets, and social media pages regarding the Oak Grove, Kentucky “Ghost Bridge”.
After extensive research, it has been found that the majority of what is circulating about this bridge is unfounded. The primary story that is circulating is that a soldier, possibly from the Vietnam War, killed his pregnant wife and threw her over the bridge. Adding more mystery to the story, her body was never found. Yet another story that was generated was a Fort Campbell Soldier killed his girlfriend because she was pregnant and threw her over the bridge. Again, the body was never found. One investigative group said that they had confirmation that the legend was actually a true story. However, the Team Leader admitted that he did not in fact have any hard documentation. Therefore, we decided to do our own background investigation into the validity of these claims.
According to the Oak Grove Police Department (OGPD), in order for a person to have the actual death certificate or police report of the incident, one would have to have the specific name of the perpetrator and date of incident. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, not all police reports are released to the general public due to rights of privacy and where the case stands. When questioned about the Carter Bridge and the claims made there, OGPD confirmed that they have never released a police report or death certificate to anyone because there was never any record of a murder that occurred at Carter Bridge.
It is possible, however, that the story relating to the Carter Bridge has been mixed with an incident involving another soldier in 1926 at a different location, not too far from the Carter Bridge. On April 29, 1925, a young Negro name Sam Harris, known in police circles as ‘Smokey’ Harris, killed his wife, Leona, and hid her body in the river at the Waterworks Dam near Hopkinsville city. The couple did not get along well. Harris was a former soldier in World War I and had been in trouble many times. He and his wife were known to be quarrelsome with each other and Harris was known to be a very jealous man.
According to court documents:
On Friday, May 1, some partially burned rugs were found with blood on them. These rugs were identified as belonging in the Harris home. Blood stains were found in the Harris home. On May 7, the body of Leona Harris was taken from the river near Hopkinsville. The body was fastened in a tub with rope and wire, heavy weights had been attached to the tub by which the tub and body had been sunk to the bottom of the river. A light dress and some undergarments were on the body, and stockings, but no shoes. A sheet was wound around the body and a quilt around that. The feet and head were wrapped in burlap sacks. See Harris v. Commonwealth, 214 Ky. 787 (1926).
Harris was tried and convicted at the June term of Circuit Court in 1925 by the following jury: W. H. Pugh, W. S. Davidson, oh. H. Hamby, F. E. White, J. W. Maddox, J. B. West, John Smith, J. L. Weaver, J. C. Gary, B. F. Watson, R. S. Caine, and W. H. Malone. The usual delays were resorted to by attorneys who defended him but the case was affirmed by the Court of Appeals and Harris was electrocuted in the prison at Eddyville in the spring of 1926. This was the last legal execution Christian County.
The location of where the Harris murder occurred is not the same location where the Carter Bridge is. Though they are in the same county, Christian County, they are a distance apart. While Carter Bridge is located in Oak Grove, the Harris murder occurred in neighboring Hopkinsville. Furthermore, Carter Bridge has been renovated since its original construction. Carter Bridge was originally owned by Edward Rumsey and was known as the Rumsey’s Mill. (On an interesting note, Edward Rumsey was the brother of James Rumsey who invented the steamboat.) He sold it to a John H. Bowman. Bowman built the big brick house by the bridge in the 1850s, and upon his death, he requested to be buried somewhere on his farm. The last owners were the Logan’s. Originally the bridge was built having only a one lane iron bridge with a wooden floor. However, during a heavy KY rain, there was flooding in that part of the county. When the dams were washed out, the bridge was also washed out. Therefore, a new bridge was constructed many years after the alleged murder.
Further research led to an interview of a family of farmers who live within three miles of the bridge. One particular gentleman, approximately 70 years old, has lived next to the Carter Bridge his entire life, as did his family. His name will be withheld out of respect to his privacy and will be referred to as Mr. X. Hopkinsville Christian County Historian, William T. Turner, attested to the fact that the Mr. X is a very reputable and long-standing citizen in Christian County. Mr. X confirmed in an interview with Mr. Turner that the Carter Bridge, which is still by his house, never had a murder occur there. He did note that in the early to mid-2000’s there were many people gathering around the area claiming that there were ghosts there. Neither he nor any member of his family has ever seen an apparition. Mr. Turner also noted that as the Christian County Historian and longtime Christian County resident, he had never heard of any murder taking place at the Carter Bridge and made several other phone calls to long time residents of the area who also denied it.
This led to the individual who conducted the first investigation of “Ghost Bridge”. He stated that when he was a Soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, a prominent member of the Oak Grove Chamber of Commerce approached him to do an investigation at the “Ghost Bridge.” He claimed to have been told that there was speculation as to unexplained activity in the area and that if he could provide evidence of paranormal activity, he would be given “a key to the city.” (Accordingly, the Chamber of Commerce denied any involvement or inquest into the Carter Bridge.) The young investigator stated that after meditating under the bridge for some time, he (as he states he is also a sensitive) received a vision of the individual and the events that occurred. He also claimed that he felt cold spots, heard noises as well as heard something that dropped into the river that sounded as if it were a body. Upon further interview, he claimed that he took about 100 pounds of bricks and dropped them in the water and it simulated the sound a body would make falling into the river. However, dropping the weight of bricks in water and dropping a dead body in water, do not share the same sound patterns.
Furthermore, no two bodies would sound exactly the same upon being dropped into water due to what they eat, their body position, BMI, and how long they’ve been dead, to name a few. Additionally, there are many different species of fish in the water, such as large Catfish and Garr. Garr can grow up to 5 or more feet in length. They tend to breach from the water to attack prey. Upon hitting the water, it would simulate the sound of a person jumping in the water. When asked if he had an actual death certificate, police report, contract offer or any hard paper to substantiate his claims, he said no that it was just verbally confirmed to him by a member of the Chamber of Commerce who wished to remain anonymous. Ironically, the urban legend began in the mid-2000s. The investigator admitted later on in the interview that he did share his story several times to various people.
After scorching through public death records and speaking to the individuals who have resided in the area, speaking with the Oak Grove Police Department, as well as scanning through countless hours of microfiche of the three different newspapers in the areas from 1948s to the 1971s, there were no stories of any murders on Carter Bridge to be found. Once again, the Oak Grove Police Department said they have never released any documentation for anything like this happening at Carter Bridge.
Further research into the LexisNexis legal database provided the actual case docket of Sam “Smokey” Harris and his conviction. (A copy of Sam Harris’s death certificate and Leona Harris’s death certificate, whom he killed, cam be provided to readers upon request.) In fact, his inmate number was 10207, Sam “Smokey” Harris. He was 35, convicted of murder and he was electrocuted December 17, 1926. His death certificate number is 31915 and he was born in 1880. His wife’s death certificate number is 11290, Miss Leona Clark Harris. Her cause of death was hand written as a wound on her left forehead which was struck with the club or some blunt object and was ruled a homicide. The date of the incident was 1 May 1925.
The important thing to note with this is that this bridge in which the Harris murder occurred is not the same place as the Carter Bridge. Although Christian County has had multiple unsolved murders and crimes, there has not been one on Carter Bridge.
Although many groups have claimed to have captured evidence regarding paranormal activity in the area as of yet, no one has been able to provide any hard documentation proving any of the urban legend. Until that can be presented, the legend of Ghost Bridge in Oak Grove Kentucky is just that, legend. All the historical research and documentation proves that none of the historical claims attached to the bridge have any validity.