Dog Suicides at Overtoun Bridge

In Dumbarton, Scotland, on a hill overlooking the River Clyde, above the village of Milton, sits a mansion with a terrible past, a past that affects humans as much as it does the dogs whose lives it takes. You see, the dogs that walk across Overtoun Bridge have a tendency to jump off the bridge. While there are reasons why the dogs do this, there are still questions that remain. Some think that the house may be haunted, others that it is a place where heaven and earth are exceptionally close. A look at the history of the house and the bridge may reveal some clues.

In 1859, James White, in the attempt to have a retreat from busy city streets, bought the surrounding areas. Although the original purchase was only 900 acres, it quickly grew to 2,000 acres. White hired well known architect, James Smith, to design and build the house.

In 1862, the White family began to live there. Nothing happened until 1884, when James White passed away and his son took over the leadership of the family. In 1891, John Whites mother passed away and John moved into the house and he decided that he wanted it expanded. So, in 1892, he reached an agreement with the local pastor, Dixon Swan, who was the heir to the Garshake farmlands which was adjacent to Ouvertoun. In the agreement, White was allowed to build an expansion to the west of the original building. Unfortunately, the building was split in two by a waterfall. Overtoun bridge was built to connect the two.

In 1908, John White died and his nephew, Douglas White, inherited the mansion. When the great depression reached the whites in 1930, Douglas, who did not want to live in the country anymore, left the mansion to the municipality of Dumbarton. During WWII the British government moved the houses interior to London while the house remained isolated. Even though the house was close to the Clydeside Shipyards that were bombed, the house was undamaged.

The house was turned into a maternity hospital in 1947 and caught fire in 1948. No one died in the fire and it remained a hospital until September 1, 1970.

During the 1950s and 1960s is when the dogs started jumping off the bridge. Around this same time, minks started to breed in large numbers in the area. The dogs that jump are all long nosed breeds, they always jump on sunny days and they always jump from the same spot. Not all dogs die, though. If a dog does survive and makes it back to the bridge, they jump again. The locals call these dogs second timers.

In 1975, the British government found another use for the house. It became the base for a Quality of Life Experiment. This did not last long and a group called the Spire Fellowship used the house from 1978-1983.

From 1984 to 1994, the house was used by a group called Youth With a Mission. In 1994, the same year Youth With a Mission left, a man, rumored to be high on drugs, threw his baby over the bridge and jumped himself. He believed the baby was the antichrist. The baby died, but the man survived. After Youth with a mission left the house fell into disrepair.

In 2001, Pastor Bill Hill from Fort Worth bought the house to turn it into a Centre for Scottish Youth. The house is currently under renovations.

There is only record of one violent occurrence at the house and that happened forty years after the dogs started jumping, so odds are that the house is not haunted by someone who would want to kill the dogs.

According to Celtic mythology, Overtoun is knows as a thin place, a place where heaven and earth are reputed to be close. Psychic Mary Armour took her dog to Overtoun Bridge to see if this could be the answer. She said that she did not feel anything, but her dog was continually pulling to the right.

So, what could be making the dogs jump? Dongs have three main senses, sight, sound and smell. At the spot where the dogs jumped, the only thing they can see is the bridge, so that leaves sound and smell.

Specialists from a Glasgow acoustics company and RSPBs David Sexton, an animal behavior expert went to the spot. While the acoustic experts were recording for sound, David Sexton was setting traps for animals that may live in the area. The locals thought that there might be sound coming from a nearby nuclear base in Fasline that would only be audible to dogs, but the acoustics experts found nothing. David Sexton, on the other hand, had more luck.

Under the bridge, Sexton found a squirrels nest, mice and minks. He performed a test where he distributed scents from all three species in a field and released ten dogs of the same breeds that jumped from the bridge. Out of the ten, only two dogs didnt care and 70% made straight for the mink. He also explains why the dogs jump. Because the dogs can not see how far the drop off the bridge is, or hear the waterfall, they only rely on their smell and go directly off the bridge, they only jump on sunny days because the scent is undiluted by the rain. The minks even explain the timeline.

Even with this answer, there are still questions. Why do the dogs only jump from one spot? Why do dogs that live from the first jump always jump again when they know what will happen? We may never know the answers to these questions, but at least we can take comfort in the answers we do have.

Sources of information: /wiki/Overtoun_Bridge


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