‘Dog Suicide Bridge’: Why Do So Many Pets Keep Leaping Into a Scottish Gorge?


DUMBARTON, Scotland — “I was sure she was dead,” Lottie Mackinnon said quietly.

Ms. Mackinnon was sitting huddled in the corner of a cafe with her two children, sipping hot chocolate as she described the day three years ago when she was walking with her Border collie, Bonnie, over the Overtoun Bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland.

“Something overcame Bonnie as soon as we approached the bridge,” Ms. Mackinnon said. “At first she froze, but then she became possessed by a strange energy and ran and jumped right off the parapet.”

A bewitched dog lured to leap off a bridge by a malevolent force? It sounds like a preposterous scene straight from an old “Twilight Zone” episode.

But Ms. Mackinnon’s dog is one of hundreds that Scots insist have suddenly been compelled to throw themselves off the gothic stone structure since the 1950s. Many have ended up dead on the jagged rocks in the deep valley bed below.

Residents of Dumbarton, which is northwest of Glasgow, began calling Overtoun, a century-old bridge that stretches across a 50-foot gorge, the “dog suicide bridge.”

Ms. Mackinnon, who grew up in the neighboring village of Milton, winced at the memory of scurrying down the gorge through the trees and the bushes in a desperate hunt for Bonnie. But when she approached the dog’s body, Bonnie started to whimper and eventually tried to stand up.

“It was a miracle that she survived,” she said.

In a land rife with superstitions, myths and monsters the bridge has been at the center of an enduring mystery. Why do so many dogs jump?

Local researchers estimate more than 300 have sailed off the bridge; tabloid reports say it’s 600. At least 50 dogs are said to have died.

In the manor nearby, the current tenant, Bob Hill, said he and his wife had seen several dogs suddenly dive off the bridge since they moved into the property, now called Overtoun House, more than 17 years ago.

“After 11 years of research, I’m convinced it’s a ghost that is behind all of this,” he declared, while sitting outside a pub on a drizzly day in Glasgow.

“Other bridges don’t have troubled spirits lurking about,” Ms. Mackinnon insisted grimly.

Despite the macabre reputation, the Overtoun grounds remain a popular dog-walking area and many of the animals are off leash.

“Many people don’t believe in the story until they see it for themselves, and even then they don’t think it will happen to them,” said Mr. Hill, the pastor.

One day, Emma Dunlop, who said she had heard “the horror stories,” took her Labrador retriever, Ginger, for a walk to Overtoun anyway.

She did not let him out of her station wagon until he was on a leash.

“He’s never tried to jump,” she said, “but sometimes he freezes or hesitates when he gets on the bridge, so I’m always careful.”

Ginger jumped from the car, raced around his owner and headed straight toward Overtoun Bridge, crossing it without any hesitation.

But then Ginger froze, looking back intently at something on the bridge, which appeared empty to human eyes.

“Aye, there she is — there’s the White Lady,” Ms. Dunlop said with a laugh, suggesting Ginger had seen the bridge’s ghost.

Then the pair continued their walk.



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