Can science really explain everything…?
**Explaining the Unexplainable will be a two-part series covering mysteries that have not yet been solved by science with certainty.
This is Overtoun Bridge.
Certainly looks gloomy, doesn’t it? And it has a reputation to match – in 1994, a man threw his baby son off the bridge, claiming he was the Anti-Christ. He then attempted suicide by jumping off at exactly the same spot. There is claim that the bridge is haunted, and it is what the Celts call a ‘thin place’: an area where heaven and Earth are at their closest. But that isn’t why the bridge is reputable, although it could be an underlying reason.
Over the past 50 years, 50 dogs have jumped off this Overtoun Bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland, to their deaths. In 2005, five dogs jumped to their deaths in the space of just six months. Interestingly, the doggie suicides all occurred at exactly the same spot on the bridge – between the final two parapets on the right-hand side – and were all longer-nosed breeds such as collies, retrievers and labradors. If this isn’t disturbing enough, dogs who miraculously survived the fall actually scrambled back up to jump again. If that’s not spooky, I don’t know what is.
Donna Cooper, with her husband and son, were taking their collie, Ben, for a walk along the bridge in 1995. Without warning, Ben bolted to the parapet and vaulted over towards the rocks below, as his family looked on in horror.
His paw was broken, his jaw was broken and his back was broken and badly twisted. The vet decided it wasn’t worth putting him through the pain, so we had to let him go..
The case of Hendrix, the golden retriever, was a happier one as she actually survived the fall (and was promptly rescued by her owner, Kenneth Meikle, so that she didn’t jump again) –
I was out walking with my partner and children when suddenly the dog just jumped. My daughter screamed, and I ran down the bank to where the dog lay and carried her up to safety. Next day, thank goodness, she was fine. We were lucky because she landed on a moss bed which broke her fall.
The first and most readily available theory that was put forward to explain this strange and disturbing phenomena was that the bridge is actually haunted by its sad history, and that the dogs were spooked by something of a supernatural nature. This prompted them to launch themselves into the air with reckless abandon.
Naturally, scientists were not ready to accept this and launched themselves into their own research.
Dr David Sands, a canine psychologist, was sent to the bridge to formulate a scientifically plausible explanation. He experimented with Hendrix, the retriever who had survived her previous encounter with the bridge. Keeping a tight leash on her, he walked her across the bridge. She was a perfectly happy doggie, right up until she got to the exact spot at the end, where the suicides occur. Dr Sands saw that something had clearly caught her attention, and she tensed up. Since nothing would have been visible but the solid granite parapet from a dog’s-eye-view, he concluded that something must have simulated either her sense of sound or her sense of smell. He summoned a team of acoustic experts and an animal expert to help him investigate further.
The acoustic experts did not detect anything unusual, however the animal expert found that mink live abundantly in the undergrowth beneath the bridge. He deduced that the scent of these animals might be causing dogs to irrationally jump off the bridge in pursuit. So far this has been the most plausible explanation found, especially as they emit quite a strong smell which would, with vision and sound discounted, be irresistible to dogs.
So there you have it – a silly explanation behind a strange and disturbing occurrence. Questions remain, though. Why only at that one point on the bridge? And why, after surviving the fall, would the dogs climb back up the bridge to jump again and not just rummage for mink in the growth beneath? Hmmm…