The A to Z Challenge – O for Overtoun “Dog Suicide” Bridge #atozchallenge

It’s time for the A to Z Challenge! Hello and welcome to my main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a novelist. Join me and nearly 2000 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. It’s not as easy as you might think. There’s a reason Q and Z are worth 10 points in Scrabble!

For me, this year’s alphabet will be about history and historical science– things that tickle my fancy or capture my imagination. I hope you will find them interesting too.

Keep the topic rolling! If you’ve enjoyed the today’s offering and have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post in the comment section. And…if you enjoy romances with unique twists, a good deal of steam, facts, and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. I love to make the impossible sound plausible. Suffice to say, I have an unusual mind.


OToday’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter O ~ Overtoun Bridge

Our experience in the world has always come with its share of unexplainable things. Some mysteries are simply a matter of understanding — you can’t know microbes cause disease if you don’t possess the mechanism to see them. Use a microscope and it all makes sense. Some mysteries are timeless and as yet undecipherable — how did early civilizations cut and move blocks of stone so massive not even modern machinery can do it. We may never know. One incidence of the bizarre, the perplexing, or the extraordinary might not be cause for further examination. Sometimes weird things just happen. Recurring curious events bear a second look.

Pictures have been removed. My apologies.

The Thin Place

There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses.
~Mahatma Ghandi 1931

From a spiritual perspective, a thin place is where the veil between worlds is thin. To some this means other realms of existence, to others it means the Many Worlds TheoryHistory has recorded many mysterious disappearances and some were undoubtedly acts of foul play. Other incidences have no explanation and some even have people and pets disappearing right before witnesses’ eyes. Thin place? Hmm…

There are places in the world where strange things happen. Take the mountainside of Mount Parnassus, the location of the famed Oracle of Delphi. Before the ancient Oracle took a seat there to divine, a goatherd tending his flock on the slope noticed his goats bleated strangely when grazing near a certain fissure. Drawing nearer, he was seized by divine presence. Unknown at the time but fully understood now, the mechanics of this prophetic spiritual presence involved plate tectonics and the methane and ethane, two toxic hydrocarbon gasses, being released into the air there. Perfectly explainable, no?

There are other places in the world where we don’t have a clear picture to explain the oddness occurring there. Sometimes we find answers, sometimes we don’t.

The Overtoun Bridge

In West Dunbartonshire, Scotland there sits a mansion built with architectural features patterned after Medieval castles. Gothic style was popular in the 1860s. The original owner was a retired lawyer and businessman who wanted a country retreat. Alas, he died before its completion. His son would later see a bridge built over a narrow gorge that split the property. This is the Overtoun Bridge — a bridge that attracts suicidal dogs.

As odd as it sounds, dogs have leaped from the bridge at the rate of about one per year since 1960. There’s a 50 foot drop into the waterfall below and most dogs died in their fall. Of the the survivors, some have actually jumped the bridge a second time. Needless to say dog owners watched on horrified. As with many unexplained occurrences, rumor arose of paranormal activity on the bridge..some force that compels dogs to leap to their deaths. Some believe the dogs sense the thin place and head there. And some believe the bridge is haunted.

Local residents have a range of conspiracy theories: The dogs were drawn to some kind of optical illusion there or were mesmerized or confused by the hard sound of rushing water. Some blame nearby electric pylons suggesting they give off an electric impulse that causes auditory confusion for the dogs. Some even suggest the perceptive dogs are picking up sad emotions from their owners and transfer them into ending their own lives. Now that’s a doozy.

Canine psychologist Dr. David Sands was brought in to try to figure out what was going on in the dogs’ heads. The first thing he did was cross the bridge with a dog known to have survived the fall to see how it reacted. Apparently the dog happily walked across the bridge until it neared the end. Then it suddenly tensed and focused on the right-hand side. Seeing the dog had an overwhelming urge to investigate, he concluded one of the dog’s primary senses of sight, sound, or smell was stimulated.  From the dog’s eye view there wasn’t much to see. The bridge has walls. The sound of rushing water is loud but not so loud as to cause panic. Given a dog’s keen sense of smell, Dr. Sands felt the answer lay there.

noseThe nose knows

David Sexton, an animal habitat expert was called in and he set bait under the bridge to see if the dogs were picking up a scent trail. The baiting revealed mice, mink, and squirrel lived there. To narrow down which animal smell might be attracting the dogs, he distributed scent from all three species in a nearby field and tested the reaction of ten dogs–each a breed that jumped off the bridge. Of the ten, two dogs showed no interest in any of the scents. But the remaining seven went straight for the mink scent. The mink’s musk comes from its anal glands and the animal marks wherever it goes. All the jumping deaths occurred on sunny dry days when the musk in the air wasn’t diluted by moisture.

The conclusion? Mink musk is irresistible to dogs and the likely culprit to dogs throwing themselves over the side. The mink theory fits with the timeline of the deaths as well. Apparently minks were introduced to Scotland in the 1920s but bred in large numbers in the late 1950s.

Why this particular bridge?

According to Dr Sands: “When you get down to a dog’s level, the solid granite of the bridge’s 18-inch thick walls obscures their vision and blocks out all sound. As a result, the one sense not obscured, that of smell, goes into overdrive.”

Sounds plausible. But one question still remains, if the smell is under the bridge and the walls are equal height on both sides, why do they always jump off the right?


The paranormal idea is addressed here

Dr. Sands gives a bit from a larger documentary I couldn’t manage to find.

Tomorrow ~ letter P!


DianneVenetta_AIB-Logo_2015-250x250TODAY~ Join me on my satellite blog
Authors’ lives outside of the books we write are often as interesting as the worlds we create. One of the more unusual things my husband and I have done was lead wild foods programs for Chicago’s Field Museum. For this 10-day event I’ll be sharing my recipes. I hope you stop by. There are lots of prizes and you might have delicious and useful ingredients waiting in your backyard. 🙂


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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4 Responses to The A to Z Challenge – O for Overtoun “Dog Suicide” Bridge #atozchallenge

  1. Atherton says:

    Great post, fellow A-To-Z-er! I’d heard of this bridge before (because I like all things spooky), but I don’t think I’d ever encountered the Mink Theory before! Fascinating- though I’d prefer to think it is ghosts. I think.

  2. treknray says:

    O is for ODD. Very informative blog. What about prevailing wind? Is the right side the windward side?

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