Overtoun Bridge is a category B-listed structure over the Overtoun Burn on the approach road to Overtoun House,[a] near Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. It was completed in 1895 to a design by the landscape architect H. E. Milner.
Overtoun Bridge has attracted international media attention because of the number of dogs who have reportedly leapt from it, often dying upon landing on the rocks 50 feet (15 m) below; the bridge has also been the site of human murder and attempted suicide.
History and construction
Lord Overtoun had inherited Overtoun House and the estate in 1891. He purchased the neighbouring Garshake estate to the west of his lands in 1892. Carriages had been unable to gain access to the Overtoun mansion along the old eastern approach road as the incline was too steep; work commenced on constructing a new driveway as soon as Garshake was acquired.
Designed by the civil engineer and landscape architect H. E. Milner, the bridge was constructed using rough-faced ashlar and was completed in June 1895. It comprises three arches: a large central arch spanning a deep valley at the bottom of which flows the Overtoun Burn, flanked on each side by lower, smaller pedestrian arches.
Unexplained dog deaths
Studies have shown that since the 1950s or 1960s an estimated 50 dogs have leapt from the bridge. Dogs that leap over the bridge parapet fall 50 feet (15 m) onto the waterfalls below. The only linking factors for this unexplained event are that dogs mostly jump from the same side of the bridge, in clear weather, and they are breeds with long snouts.
The deaths have received international media attention. The canine psychologist Dr. David Sands examined sight, smell and sound factors. He concluded that although it was not a definitive answer, the apparently even surrounding ground and foliage masks the drop on the other side, especially to dogs with their lowered point of view, and makes it appear that the whole area is one even plain. That, combined with the odour from male mink urine was possibly luring dogs to jump to the other side.
Author Paul Owens in the book "The Baron of Rainbow Bridge: Overtoun's Death Leaping Dog Mystery Unravelled" argues against Sands "Scent Theory", and the widely held "Optical Illusion Theory" and instead offers a supernatural explanation for the dog leaping phenomenon. Author Owens who has 4 decades of personal experience with the Overtoun Estate, and who lived there for 13 years at the foot of the bridges West Drive proposed that Overtoun has historically been cloaked in a blanket of supernatural activity e.g. fairies, presences, spirits, earth energies, and ghosts, which supersensitive dogs are picking up at the bridge.
A local hunter, John Joyce, who has lived in the area for 50 years, disagreed with the "Scent Theory". He said in 2014, "[T]here is no mink around here. I can tell you that with absolute certainty." Local behaviourist Stan Rawlinson said in 2006 that dogs are colour blind and perceptual problems relating to this may cause them to accidentally run off the bridge.
The canine deaths have prompted claims of paranormal activity at the bridge. In October 1994, a man threw his two-week-old son to his death from the bridge because he believed that his son was an incarnation of the Devil. He then attempted to commit suicide several times, first by attempting to jump off the bridge, later by slashing his wrists.
- Category B structures are "buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered".
- "What is Listing?", Historic Scotland, retrieved 9 April 2015
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- "Overtoun House", West Dunbartonshire Council, archived from the original on 14 April 2015, retrieved 14 April 2015
- "Overtoun House, Bridge at Garshake Drive (Ref:24908)", Historic Scotland, archived from the original on 9 April 2015, retrieved 9 April 2015
- "Why have so many dogs leapt to their deaths from Overtoun Bridge?", Daily Mail, 17 October 2006
- Owens, Paul, "The Baron of Rainbow Bridge: Overtoun's Death Leaping Dog Mystery Unravelled," (Edinburgh: Scarlet Quill Publishing, 2018.)
- "Bridge of Death", The Unexplained Files, 16 September 2014, The Science Channel
- Williams, Zoe (19 October 2006). "The doggy bridge of sighs". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
- Dunning, Brian (24 July 2012). "The Suicide Dogs of Overtoun Bridge". Skeptoid. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
- Midgley, Dominic (25 June 2015), "What's caused 600 dogs to hurl themselves off this bridge?", Daily Express
- Khan, Maria. "Scotland: 600 dogs mysteriously jump off haunted suicide Overtoun bridge". International Business Times. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
- "Father who threw 'devil' baby from bridge sent to Carstairs". The Herald. 1 February 1995.
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