Home Archives A Night on Char-Man Bridge

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Richard SenateI wondered why I was here, I was fighting back sleep and swatting away clouds of flying insects. There was a stillness that had yet to dissipate the heat of the day in this well-know haunted place in Oak View, California. I knew why we were gathered on this bridge on Creek Road in the middle of the night, we were here to see a ghost and we wouldn’t be disappointed. 

The locals all call this span over the San Antonio Creek “Char-Man Bridge” even through the persistent specter hasn’t ever been seen here. He has made his frightening presence known in the trees nearby and along the roadway late at night. My files are bulging with accounts of the mysterious Char-Man but he has yet to be encountered on the bridge that bears his name. If he avoids the place, other ghosts do not. Over the last three decades numerous sightings have taken place here from a woman on horseback to a phantom bus and a number of ghostly children. The sightings take place more in summer than around Halloween when all decent ghosts are said to wander. 

My team that night was a simple one. A trusted few I knew well enough to know they wouldn’t pull a prank or run screaming into the night at the first flicker of supernatural activity. We had our tools with us and we were ready for anything. Most think of ghost hunting as a romantic, exciting, and fast paced thing. In truth it’s rather slow — until something happens and, then things happen at heart-pounding speed. 

I recall that it got very cold. Fog seemed to drift in sending a chill down my spine. Our tools began to beep and the meters confirmed a high Electro-Magnetic field present where none had been before. 

Two of the most interesting phantoms are a pair of young children. They are dressed in the styles of the 19th Century — like characters out of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. People have seen them walking dangerously on the railings of the bridge. Their antics were so alarming that witnesses call the local police. When they checked the bridge they saw nothing, but when they checked a while later, they saw the two kids. As the patrol car drew near, the kids jumped off the rail into the darkness below. The Creek runs shallow most of the year. This time wasn’t any exception. A fall of that type into the rocks and few inches of water would be fatal or at least enough to cause massive injuries. When the horrified policeman checked there were no children or bodies. He is sure they vanished away into nothingness. The officer told me the story under the strict admonition that I never reveal his name. “I don’t want to be transferred to the rubber gun squad” I recall he said. I had no idea what the “rubber gun squad” is but it seemed like a serious demotion for him. He seemed sure about what he had seen that night years ago and I trusted his account .

I waked back a few feet, towards Camp Comfort, and felt a distinct cold spot. I had felt for it when we first came to the bridge, but it wasn’t there. It was back now and colder than I imagined. Some say the cold spot is the very spot where a woman took her own life. Others say the cold spot is a manifestation of another haunting ghost. The hair began to raise on the back of my neck as I slowly passed my hand through the zone of cold. There was something here. The digital thermometer dropped as we scanned the thing. There was a difference of nine degrees measurable and it felt much colder. 

I have heard from reliable witnesses that dogs and horses act strangely on this bridge. One horse woman confided in me that her horse would shy and become agitated when she tried to cross this bridge. Even in daylight the horse would act odd at this place. I wished now I had brought my dog, Pepper along to catch her reactions to the strange turn of event on the bridge. Everyone was talking in hushed whispers as if our voices might bring danger upon us. 

One ghost story linked to the bridge I spent a year tracing without success. It was said that “long ago,” some time in the 1930s or 1940s, a school bus was carried off the bridge when the span failed in a terrible storm. The bus was sent into the swirling waters and 12 children and the driver lost their lives. Such a terrible event would certainly be carried in the local newspapers so I went through paper after paper (they are not indexed, sadly enough) trying to find the story. The legend is that if you visit the bridge on a storm-filled night you can still hear the pitiful cries of the children re-enacting that horrible accident. I did visit the bridge in a storm twice, and never heard a thing out of the ordinary. Myth? Folklore? Who knows for sure. 

One of the team brought out a Ouija Board. These tools (or toys) are controversial in psychic research. Some believe they have a place in honest research, others say they can attract negative or “Low Spirits” and should be avoided. I am neutral on the subject of talking boards. They placed the thing on the rail, putting their finger tips on the pointer. They asked, “Is anything here?” I recalled they used a very serious tone almost as if they were chanting a prayer. The pointer did nothing. They asked the “spirit of the bridge” to manifest itself now. Once again, nothing happened. They asked if they could talk to what ever was here. There was a second wave of cold air and the pointer began to slowly move across the board, to the symbol “Yes.” As it did, a bluish hand manifest itself on the other side of the railing. It was the hand of a child and it moved as if it too wanted to place its finger tips on the pointer. I heard the gasp from the group and followed there eye to the floating hand. 

"Do you see it?" one member whispered one.

“Don’t move towards it — keep your hand on the board.” I advised them. The hand moved away and vanished. Was this the hand of one of the ghost children? Were they the victims of some half-forgotten tragedy? Or was it just our imaginations? We had all seen the same thing. Some were so shaken up they left the bridge. One woman said she felt it was “evil and nothing good” could come of our investigations. 

“Lets get the hell out of here,” one woman said, pulling her husband away to where they parked their car. The cold seemed to intensify and my heart was racing. I just knew if we stayed longer, something more would manifest itself on the bridge. But, with my team evaporating I was left with the awful choice, did I want to spend the night alone on Char-Man Bridge? I packed up my tools and joined the retreat, leaving the bridge to her ghosts. Since then, a group of students from Brooks Institute used the bridge for a short documentary and while there, they picked up strange sounds, almost animal sounds, near the bridge. Was it Char-Man or one of the other ghosts said to haunt the span, who can say? I just know it would take a lot to get me to go back to that place late at night! 

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