Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ain't No Sunshine

Magnet # 370:  Sunshine Skyway Bridge Aerial Photo

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to delve into a few of our own fears.  And there is no question in my mind what I am most terrified by - bridges.  And, yes, this is not the first time I've mentioned my phobia here.  Sure, I posted London Bridge earlier this month and while it's not a place where I'd like to spend much time, those sort of bridges don't really get to me.  When these structures start rising 40 or 50 feet to let ships pass under them and have scaffolding towering over traffic, they make me cringe.  But Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge may very well be one of the worst out there.  At exactly five-and-a-half miles, it's one of the longer ones in the country.  It's highest point for traffic is a staggering 175 feet.  Plus, it's surrounded by clear waters that just keep reminding you of where you are.  But, worst of all, it's the second bridge to span from Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg.  And what happened to it's predecessor?  Well on one particularly stormy night in 1980 when there was no sunshine to be found, a freighter crashed into a support column, sending around 1200 feet of the structure into the water, along with six automobiles and a Greyhound bus.  It killed 35 people, but one truck actually fell onto the freighter, an act which saved its driver's life.  Still, it was rebuilt, and the authorities claim the "dolphins," or large concrete barriers that flank parts of it will prevent another similar tragedy.  Of course, there are still a high rate of suicides there, and plenty have claimed to have ghostly experiences on or around it.  This place is the embodiment of why I hate bridges.

It's hard to imagine anyone dreaming up a friendlier, more inviting name for a bridge than Sunshine Skyway.  With a name that delightful, it's almost begging for trouble.  And it may very well have been cursed from the beginning.  There are rumors that parts of the roadway leading up to the structure were actually built atop an old Indian burial ground.  If you know much about the legends surrounding hauntings, you're probably aware that's an act that can bring the wrath of angry poltergeists for years to come.  With its great height, and perhaps a little help from its cursed location, the bridge began to attract depressed people looking to end their lives by jumping soon after its completion in 1954.  Before long, drivers on the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge were talking about a blond girl in a tight t-shirt and jeans who was out there, hitchhiking near the mid-span.  They'd pick her up and some claimed she was soaking wet, but others nothing about her was out of the ordinary.  She usually told the drivers that she desperately needed to get to the other side of the bridge.  But as they drove closer to the summit of the bridge, she would become very agitated.  When they'd turn to comfort her, however, she'd have vanished.  Some thought she was the spirit of one of the bridge's suicides, as she'd also supposedly been seen at times poised to jump off of the bridge.  But another theory about her began to circulate after the 1980 crash - that she was a harbinger, trying to warn of the impending doom and death on the structure.  And now, there are conflicting stories about the specter.  There are those that say she has never been seen on the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge, while others maintain that they've spotted her there, only now she appears to be a brunette.  And the horrible accident has apparently brought another haunting to the location.  Two fishermen at the nearby Skyway Fishing Pier State Park claimed that almost on the tenth anniversary of the crash, they had an odd feeling and looked up.  One man has held that he saw a Greyhound Bus careening past him and disappear in the water.  Others have come forward since then, claiming to have the same eerie vision on the pier.  While the driver appears to be calm and steady, with both hands on the wheel, the passengers may have looks of terror on their faces.  And many report that there is one odd woman seated in the back of the bus, wearing black.  She turns to viewers, smiling and waving as they go by.  At other times, some on the pier claim to feel an unusual rush of wind and smell of gasoline, as if an invisible bus has just rushed past them.  I wonder if the pier is anywhere near where the old Indian burial ground used to be.  There is even talk that when the bus was recovered by Greyhound after the crash, they salvaged whatever parts they could, using them in other buses, which have been cursed ever since.  It seems as through the bad vibes of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge may have been exported all over the nation after the accident.

While you can travel over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a car, it's not recommended that you stop for any reason.  With at least 130 suicides committed there since the completion of the new bridge in 1987, the local authorities are very wary of anyone pulling over on it.  But you can still have a great view on the nearby pier, and maybe even a ghostly encounter with the 22 victims of the Greyhound bus.  Take it from me, that's a much better place to be than on the bridge - you never know just what might happen there.


  1. What a beautiful bridge! I'm afraid I'm quite different from you as I LOVE going over bridges, especially long ones!

  2. I don't think you're alone. It's funny, Travel Channel aired its Top 10 Bridges special again today after I made this post. This one comes in at third place.