It's the middle of the night and young woman is walking down a dark road toward a bridge that spans a fast-moving river. She has tears flowing down her face and she is holding something in her arms. As she walks out onto the bridge, the bundle in her arms starts to move and cry. She loves her baby, but she just can't take the crying anymore. Her husband left her all alone after the baby was born and life has just become too much.
She approaches the railing and looks over into the darkness below. In the moonlight she can just make out the river as it flows by. Before she knows what she is doing, she drops the baby over the side of the bridge, quickly following it into the abyss.
Many legends of what are known as "crybaby" bridges start out in a similar fashion. The person throwing the baby and the reason they are doing so may vary, but they all end in a similar way, directing people to go out to a lonely bridge, late at night and usually perform some kind of ritual to hear the sound of the long-gone infant crying.
Maybe you flash your headlights or honk your horn.
Maybe you have to get out and walk across the bridge in the dark.
Maybe it is some combination or something else entirely.
Ohio didn't invent the crybaby bridge, but we sure have a lot of them. So many, in fact, that one man dedicated years to discovering them all in a project called "The Crybaby Bridge Project". 33 known stories about these supposedly haunted bridges in Ohio alone!
So, what is so appealing about this legend that has caused it to be so well known in The Buckeye State?
Many of the legends of these bridges appear to have cropped up around the beginning of the 21st century, the same time the internet was becoming more accessible. Stories on message boards allowed what were once more local legends to become more well known, popular. Stories were being made up as well, spread around as a fun way to scare people since there really wasn't any harm being done. Many of the legends around bridges in Ohio can be traced back to the dawn of the internet, with no trace of them prior to that.
It would seem that many of these legends were made up for the internet then, right? But why so many in Ohio specifically? No other state even comes close to the number of crybaby bridge legends that Ohio has. Is there something about this state that makes people think about throwing babies off bridges?
To be honest, this one perplexes me like no other legend. I was able to find a couple of stories about mothers throwing their children off bridges in more modern times, but nothing prior to 1937. That isn't to say that it never happened, but just that it wasn't really a thing that was ever reported as happening.
If I had to bet money, I would say that the most likely reason these stories have become so popular is due to the subject matter.
The idea of a new mother having difficulty coping is one that hits close to home for a lot of people. Most parents can point to a time where they were at their lowest and needed a break. Not that they were thinking of throwing their kid off a bridge, but just being so tired and stretched that they didn't know how they were going to make it through. That makes the stories relatable.
Most people tend to be very protective of children in general, but especially of babies. It is in our nature to protect the young, even when they are not our own, so hearing a story about something bad happening to a baby really hits all the right chords.
The scary factor of being in the middle of nowhere at night makes it more fun to visit the supposedly haunted locations. Couple that with the fact that most of the bridges that have legends tied to them are easily accessible and public locations and it makes sense that these spots would have more interest. An abandoned building might have someone in it or some danger of getting arrested for trespassing, but a lonely bridge on a dark stretch of road is more or less "safe".
There are most likely other reasons I am missing from this list but you get the idea. A legend that is relatable and in an easy to access location is going to get more attention and spread a lot further.
As for why so many are in Ohio? That remains open to debate and conjecture.