Six Girls in a Chevy (Part 2): Screaming Bridge

On February 4, 1961 three teenage girls were killed (see Part 1) when their car plunged off a burned-out bridge and crashed into the bank of a drainage ditch on Arlington-Bedford Road in the Trinity River bottom.

Sometime after the accident, the process of twisting a tragedy into a legend began.

They say . . .,” said the first student, and that “They say . . .” spread along the student grapevine, probably first at Arlington High School and then at L. D. Bell High School and at other area schools.

The gist of the legend: “They say that if you go at night to the bridge where the girls were killed, you can hear them screaming.”

And thus was born the legend of Screaming Bridge.

Only one problem with that legend: By the time the legend was born, there was no Screaming Bridge.

The wooden bridge where the girls died in 1961 had been replaced soon after the accident by a concrete culvert covered with earth and asphalt. These recent photos show the scene of the accident on the now-abandoned stretch of Arlington-Bedford Road.

But facts seldom stand in the way of legendmakers.

Besides, a legend about intangibles—the screaming spirits of three dead girls—needs a tangible: something that people can point to in awe and say, “They say that’s where it happened,” something solid that people can take photos (especially selfies) of and make giggly, shivery midnight pilgrimages to and then talk about at school the next morning as classmates listen with wide eyes and open mouths.

Obviously the tangible that this particular legend sorely needed was a bridge.

Fortunately, the Trinity River bottom had several existing bridges that could stand in as surrogates for the non-existent bridge.

In fact, two bridges are located due south of where the burned-out bridge stood and within one mile of it: Trammel Davis Road bridge and Arlington-Bedford Road bridge. (Arlington-Bedford Road today is “Greenbelt Road.”) The two bridges are only two thousand feet apart. Both bridges cross the river. (The 1961 death bridge did not cross the river. Or the railroad tracks. It crossed a drainage ditch.)

So, the legend simply packed up, fact and fancy, and migrated south, where it attached itself to both bridges.

And with that migration came the first mutation of the legend: “They say that if you go at night to the bridge over the river where the girls were killed, you can hear them screaming.”

In the legend the drainage ditch had been replaced by the river.

The two surrogate bridges:

Arlington-Bedford Road Bridge

This 1987 Star-Telegram photo shows the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge over the Trinity River tagged with graffiti related to the 1961 accident: On a railing the faces of three screaming girls were crudely drawn next to the word “screaming.” The caption points out that the real “Screaming Bridge” no longer exists.

Trammel Davis Road Bridge

But of the two surrogate bridges, today the Trammel Davis Road bridge is much better known as “Screaming Bridge.” If you Google the terms “Screaming Bridge” and “Arlington,” the majority of hits are for the Trammel Davis Road bridge. Several websites and videos on YouTube label that bridge “Screaming Bridge” and claim it is the site of the 1961 accident and/or other tragedies.

Located well off a public road, hidden in the woods, and accessible only after a hike or bike ride of a mile and a half through River Legacy Park, the Trammel Davis Road bridge has a cozy, spooky ambiance and can safely be graffiti tagged. At night teenagers equipped with flashlights, spray paint cans, and a hyperactive imagination hike to the bridge to scare themselves and each other.

The bridge can be accessed from only its eastern end.

The western end no longer reaches the bank. Wooden piers in the water indicate that the concrete-and-steel bridge replaced an earlier bridge.

Sixty-one years after the three girls were killed, the Trinity River bottom remains a no-man’s-land of narrow roads that zig and zag their way through a lonely landscape of gravel pit ponds, cement plants, gas wells, Village Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, and densely wooded areas such as River Legacy Park. On the northern edge are Mosier Valley Cemetery and Our Garden of Angels.

All in all, a suitable setting for the legend of Screaming Bridge.

And after sixty-one years of “They say” retellings, the legend has mutated still more. The details of the mutations differ from the facts of the 1961 accident and from each other not only in where the accident occurred, but also in how many people were killed, where they attended school, what they did just prior to driving to the river bottom, what they were doing in the river bottom that night, how many vehicles were involved in the accident, what supernatural manifestations have been witnessed at Screaming Bridge, etc.

Here are examples of the Screaming Bridge legend as it pertains to each of the three sites:

The Location of the 1961 Death Bridge Over the Drainage Ditch

Arlington Citizen-Journal, 1984: “Legend states that on dark nights, the careful listener can hear the girls’ final screams as they crashed to their deaths. Other versions say that it is merely the wind whistling through the twisted wreckage of the old bridge. Whatever the story, the location soon became a popular hangout for the tougher crowd, and rumor had it that members of occult groups met there at night. Some say that when you drive up the new Arlington-Bedford Road [Greenbelt Road], fires can still be seen in the direction of the old bridge.”

Tarrant County College Collegian, 1994: “For several years after the accident, many people would visit the site on the anniversary of the event where they heard distant, blood-curdling screams and moans coming from the abyss beneath the bridge. The screams and moans are supposedly the women’s frantic cries.”

CarCar (a commenter on a local Internet forum), 2010: “IIRC [If I remember correctly] the story was 2 couples from L. D. Bell [High School] went down that road in the river bottoms on prom night to buy alcohol. The sign warning that the bridge had been washed out had been removed as a prank. The car went into the creek killing both girls. Their dates left the scene and did not tell anyone. On the night of the prom you can go down there and listen to the girls scream for their dates.”

Arlington-Bedford Road Bridge Over the Trinity River

Star-Telegram, 1987: “The legend as it stands today goes something like this: The rivalry of the year between Arlington’s only two high schools had concluded on the football field, and a group of Arlington High School cheerleaders and football players headed out for a party to celebrate the school’s victory. The cheerleaders in one car and players in another drove north of the city on Arlington-Bedford Road. As the cheerleaders approached the bridge over the Trinity River, they saw a van ahead. The driver of the van waved them on, and their car plunged into the icy river. The bridge was out. The football players drove to a pay phone to call for help, and when they returned, the van was on the other side of the bridge. Those who drive over the bridge on foggy nights hear the screams of the girls.”

Trammel Davis Road Bridge Over the Trinity River

We Are Everywhere (narrator of a YouTube video recorded on the Trammel Davis Road bridge), 2016: “We decided to go to another location in Arlington that is alleged to be haunted, and that is the infamous Screaming Bridge. . . . on the night of February 4 of 1961 . . . six girls traveled down Arlington-Bedford Road in a car that would take them to this very bridge. On that night Marilou Goldner did not know that she was driving towards a bridge that had been washed out and would fall to her death in an abyss. And in the process a car full of girls, six in total, that night would fall right down this chasm [camera points down over end of bridge into river below]. Three of the girls would die, the other three would survive with injuries, but the area would stay infamous to this day as a legendary site called the Screaming Bridge. As legend has it, late at night on the eve of February 4, if you look over the side of the bridge into the water you will see three glowing tombstones to mark the girls who passed away that night.”

OnlyInYourState website, 2018: “One fall night more than 50 years ago, several teenagers were carpooling home after their high school football team defeated its opponents by a landslide. Still riled up over the victory, driving responsibly definitely wasn’t of utmost importance to the group.
“The bridge running through Arlington’s River Legacy Park was just wide enough for one car at a time. Hooting and hollering, the children’s excitement drowned out all other noise—like that of a vehicle with no working headlights speeding towards them.
“By the time either party realized the imminent disaster, it was much too late to avoid. The cars collided head-on before erupting in a fiery explosion and plunging off the bridge into the Trinity River below.
“Nobody survived the crash.
“Now closed to vehicular traffic, the accident site can only be accessed on foot. It was given the name ‘Screaming Bridge’ ever since the first brave souls went exploring and experienced events that can only be explained by the supernatural.
“Legend has it that if you stand on the bridge and gaze into the river, you’ll see a tombstone for each of the deceased with their name and date of birth and death. Visit at midnight on the accident’s anniversary, and you’ll hear two cars screeching towards each other before colliding in an ear-splitting crash.”

Well, all right then.

Alas, my research has found no newspaper reporting of violent deaths on the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge (old or new) or on the Trammel Davis Road bridge, although in 2006 an Arlington High School jogger was slightly injured when he paused to urinate on the Trammel Davis Road bridge and fell thirty feet into two feet of water.

Make a ghost story outta that!

More on the Two Screaming Bridges

The Arlington-Bedford Road bridge and Trammel Davis Road bridge have a connection to each other beyond their shared designation as “Screaming Bridge.”

This is the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge today.

But when the three girls were killed in 1961, this one-lane wood-and-steel truss bridge crossed the river on Arlington-Bedford Road. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, Heritage Room.)

In 1973 Fort Worth Public Works Director Jack Graham said he thought the old bridge was built in 1912. The bridge had been declared unsafe and closed for repairs in 1952 and 1969. In 1973 the bridge was closed again. The Star-Telegram reported that the bridge was “near collapse,” sagging ten to twelve inches because most of its support timbers were cracked.

If this bridge could talk, it no doubt would have done some screaming: Graham said that over the years the bridge had been damaged by being crossed by heavy gravel trucks and riddled by bullets from high-powered rifles.

In 1986 the bridge was replaced by today’s two-lane concrete-and-steel bridge.

So, you ask, between 1973, when the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge was closed, and 1986, when the bridge was replaced, how was traffic routed on Arlington-Bedford Road, which was much used not only by gravel trucks but also by workers at Bell Helicopter and students at UTA?

In 1976 county commissioners discovered that there was a bridge over the Trinity River just seven hundred feet east of Arlington-Bedford Road.

It was a railroad bridge that carried the Hart spur track from the main Rock Island track over the river to two gravel pits east of Arlington-Bedford Road. The pits were north and west of today’s River Legacy Park, which would open in 1990. The spur crossed the river on two bridges.

By 1976 the gravel pits were gone, the two rail bridges unused, the land reclaimed. County commissioners, rather than repair or replace the closed vehicular bridge on Arlington-Bedford Road, voted to bypass that bridge by (1) converting the unused rail bridge nearest Arlington-Bedford Road to vehicular use and (2) cutting a road (yellow line) from the rail bridge south through the reclaimed pit to the east-west leg of Arlington-Bedford Road.

The new road became an extension of Trammel Davis Road, which previously had ended from the west at Arlington-Bedford Road. The bridge became “Trammel Davis Road bridge.” With time the extension was decommissioned and the rail bridge abandoned. The blue circle is the site of the 1961 death bridge; the yellow circle is the Trammel Davis Road bridge; the red circle is the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge.

The extension of Trammel Davis Road from the railroad bridge (yellow circle) ran south to the east-west leg of Arlington-Bedford Road, now replaced by Green Oaks Boulevard.

“Why is Trammel Davis Road so-named?” you ask. Trammel Davis Road (red line) connected the surveys of William Trammell and Solomon Davis. Those surveys date from at least the 1880s. The road ended at Arlington-Bedford Road (blue line) until it was extended to bypass the closed Arlington-Bedford Road bridge. The blue circle is the location of the 1961 death bridge; the red circle is the Trammel Davis Road bridge; the black circle is the Arlington-Bedford Road bridge.

But if Arlington teenagers today were to play a word-association game, many would respond to the words “Trammel Davis” with “Screaming Bridge.”

What would William Trammell and Solomon Davis think of that?

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3 Responses to Six Girls in a Chevy (Part 2): Screaming Bridge

  1. Frank Campbell says:

    I attended school with the girls in this accident. Had classes with some of them. Actually visited the accident site second day after accident & found a bloody white sock & scattered car parts. Very, very sad! I knew nearly all of those involved in the bridge destruction. I spent a lot of time in the late 50s & early 60s hunting & shooting in the area. Lots of memories.

  2. Scooter.pea says:

    I just today found out that I have a thing for ” spirited” bridges.. and it’s a plus if you add graffiti.. do you have any pictures of old Alton bridge.. my absolute favorite..

    • hometown says:

      There are some photos of the old bridge online. I had never heard of Alton or the Alton bridge when I was at NTSU (although, as I recall, Goatman sat behind me in English lit).

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