Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Suicide Bridge in Born to Stand Out

TW: Mention of multiple suicides/attempts

In Born to Stand Out, there's a place mentioned by the name Suicide Bridge—which is a very real place from the area where I was born: Dorchester County, Maryland.

I was never really told specifics of what happened there (at least, my family would never really say.) They just replied that, "a lot of people killed themselves there" and moved on.

The bridge itself isn't very interesting. It's quite short and crosses Cabin Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River (where the best oysters in the world come from, in my opinion. You can't get any better!) 

From my research, the name of the bridge was originally Cabin Creek Bridge, but the events that transpired over the years gave it a colloquial name. That eventually became its official name somewhere down the road. It was always Suicide Bridge to me.

Back in the mid to late seventies, right at one end of the bridge, was a honky tonk bar. Later, in 1983, it was purchased and renovated into the only "fancy" restaurant I knew of in the northern part of the county (there's still a bar, too). People suddenly went to Suicide Bridge Restaurant on special occasions. It was THE place to eat before prom when I was in high school. Could you imagine it being your anniversary or your fiancé popping the question here? Ugh. A place where multiple suicides took place? SO ROMANTIC!

I've avoided writing about the rural area I grew up in because it's not a place I really enjoyed. As I described Matt's struggle at home, I realized the parallels to my own past, to some regard, specifically how much I wanted OUT. 

Hopefully the area has changed since I lived there, but I somehow doubt it. It's okay to visit every once in a blue moon, but not somewhere I'd ever want to live again.

From the restaurant's website, I found this article about the bridge's tragic history. Be forewarned, the article is a bit blunt, and likely has a bit of age to it.

Secretary - The first victim of Suicide Bridge was a postmaster from Hurlock, who shot himself and then fell into the waters of Cabin Creek. The second victim was a farmer who also shot himself and fell from the bridge to the swirling waters of the Dorchester county creek. 

Next was a man who some say willfully drove off the 21-foot-high bridge, while others say he met with foul play. Pete Moxey, a lifelong resident of the area was eight or nine years old when this incident happened. "It's the first one I remember. A fellow who was short, stocky and black with the nickname of "Frog." They say he jumped off the bridge and struck his head on one of the pilings. But the word was going around that there was foul play involved. I don't know" 

He remembers that once the body was found, "they put him on a table over there in a picnic area and did an autopsy, right in the open." Mr. Moxey was only a youngster then, so he was sent home before the autopsy was performed. (my addition: talk about some hinky shit going down there... no that doesn't give murder vibes at all... *eyeroll*)

The original bridge was a wooden structure built around 1888. The second bridge, also wooden and only one lane, was built around 1910. The third bridge was also wooden but covered with asphalt, was built in 1967 and dedicated in 1968. 

Locals apparently have always called it Suicide Bridge. Mr. Moxey said he was surprised at how quickly another suicide occurred after the third bridge was built. "It was up for 6 months  and then bingo, somebody went off," he said. "I helped pull that guy out of the water. He had been a long-time employee of Continental Can in Hurlock and was just coming off a long vacation," Mr. Moxey said. "Instead of going back to work, he drove here, parked his car and jumped off the bridge." After rescuers located the body, Mr. Moxey said, the ropes got tangled and he got into his boat to help bring the body out. The body was then placed on the dock. 

"The blood soaked into the wood on the dock and it wouldn't wash away," said Moxey. "It was there for about five years until I tore it down and built another one." Another man who was born and raised within a half of a mile of the bridge, moved away for quite a few years, came back, parked his car by the foot of the bridge and shot himself.

"I don't think the bridge is jinxed. Maybe it's just the name that brings them here," Mr. Moxey said of the suicides. 

In a more recent incident, Dave Nickerson, who lived across the creek next to the bridge, was awakened one morning by calls of, "Help.. Help. " Seeing a car parked on the bridge, he immediately got into his skiff and zoomed to the area where the calls were coming from. He pulled a woman from the icy waters who had apparently changed her mind about committing suicide. Nickerson immediately took her ashore, ran to her car, which was running and parked on the bridge and drove it closer to the skiff. When he tried to get the woman into the warm car she replied, "I don't want to get the seats wet—it's a new car!"

(The bridge was rebuilt again in 2005.)  

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