Category Archives: Roads Less Traveled

When Character is Replaced by Characters

Virtually every town in Iowa that was served by a railroad, had a railroad station building at some time in the town’s history. Very few of the railroad station buildings remain, but a fair number have been preserved. Many of the preserved railroad stations were moved to another location, away from the railroad tracks.

Such was the case in Knierim, Iowa where the railroad station was moved to the Knierim City Park and restored.

This is the Knierim Station in 2017:

At some point in the last three years, the city fathers must have decided that the town would be better served with the prefabricated monstrosity you see below as opposed to the restored railroad station that it replaced.

Bridging a Gap

One of Iowa’s enduring ghost stories centers around this bridge, North of Moorland in rural Webster County.

There’s nothing really certain about this bridge. There are multiple ghost stories and even multiple versions of some of the stories. Not even the name is certain.

Let’s start with the name:

  1. Bridgehunter calls it the 220th Street Overpass.
  2. Most references to supernatural phenomena refer to it as the Banwell Bridge
  3. Other accounts call it the Tara Bridge based on the former town of Tara, 2 miles to the North.
  4. At least one account refers to it as the Van Welding Bridge.

Now the ghost stories…

The oldest known account of supernatural phenomena in the area appeared in The Fort Dodge Messenger on June 5, 1893. This story refers to a ghost light that resembles a locomotive headlight on a bridge that is four miles North of the bridge that is under discussion. It is possible that this story is the basis on which subsequent stories developed. This story also states that the North Lizard Bridge is 3/4 mile North of Tara when it is actually more than two miles to the North of Tara.

The most often cited horror story associated with the bridge deals with a murder-suicide involving a mother and her three children. Most accounts are that the mother throws the three children off the bridge into the path of an oncoming train and then jumps to her death. Variations of this story include one or more of the children surviving the fall. Some accounts say that the mother hanged herself from the bridge. There is no official record of such a murder, suicide or combination thereof ever occurring at or near this bridge.

Phenomena associated with this story include a car that mysteriously appears and then disappears, people being thrown off the bridge by a ghost, disembodied heads flying through the air and the sounds screaming children emanating from the woods.

Less often cited phenomena includes being chased by a ghost rider and a Bigfoot type creature that resides in the nearby woods that sometimes is seen at the bridge.

Now for some science…

Atmospheric ghost lights have been observed worldwide since antiquity and continue to be observed to this day to which there are various explanations A seldom addressed possibility is that lights observed in this are are a product of piezoelectricity generated under specific rock strain. Quartz grains can produce something known as piezoelectricity which can create intensely bright light similar to a locomotive headlight.

A very curious coincidence is that the area where this phenomena is occurring is geologically unique in that it is right on the edge of the Manson Crater where numerous crystalline minerals are found. The Manson Crater is one of the largest impact craters in North America.

So in addition to the usual collection of causes of will-o’-the-wisp atmospheric ghost lights, there is yet another possibility that warrants investigation. Someone might even pursue this. Until such time, have fun with the ghost stories.