Overtoun Bridge has been dubbed ‘The Dog Suicide Bridge by some. It is an innocuous looking structure. One that seems like many in Europe.
Local researchers estimate more than 300 dogs have sailed off the Overtoun bridge; tabloid reports say it's 600. At least 50 dogs are said to have died.
Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge have an extensive, and interesting history. None of which, though, seem to lend the bridge to becoming a paranormal phenomenon.
The History of Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge
In 1859 a retired lawyer named James White bought Overtoun Farm with the purpose of building a mansion there. It was to be his retreat in the country. He first acquired 900 acres, then increased his land to 2,000 acres. White hired the architect James Smith (father of the murder suspect Madeleine Smith) to design and construct a house. Overtoun House was built between 1860 and 1863, though Smith, the architect, died before work was completed. The house was completed through one of Smith’s partners. White's family began living in the mansion in 1862.
James White owned the property for 22 years. In 1884 he died. His son John moved to the estate in 1891 after the death of James’s wife died. John White wanted expanded the property further, by coming to an agreement with a local pastor, Reverend Dixon Swan, the heir to the adjacent Garshake Farm lands. Under the deal, John White laid out the West Drive and its lodge. The eastern and western sides of the estate were split by a waterfall on the Overtoun Burn. To connect the two sides, a road was built and the Overtoun Bridge erected.
For reasons this author doesn’t understand, John White took the additional surname of Campbell, and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Overtoun in 1893. Since he died childless in 1908, he was succeeded by his nephew Dr Douglas White, a London-based general practitioner. John’s wife, Lady Overtoun, continued to live in the house until 1931. When it was left vacant, Dr White, who seldom visited Scotland, gave the house to the people of Dumbarton in 1938.
During the Second World War Overtoun was turned into a convalescent home for injured soldiers and locals. The house remained mainly isolated, and it was not damaged during the war.
In 1947 Overtoun was turned into a maternity hospital. A fire destroyed part of the house in 1948, although there were no deaths, and the hospital remained in operation until 1 September 1970. In 1975 the British government decided to use the house as a base for its Quality of Life Experiment. From 1978 to 1980, a religious group, the Spire Fellowship, utilized the home, and from 1981 to 1994, the estate was used by a group named Youth with a Mission.
The house fell into abandonment soon after Youth with a Mission left the area, but in 2001 Pastor Bob Hill from Fort Worth, Texas, leased the property from West Dunbartonshire Council to use as a Christian center for Scottish youth. The house was used in the 2012 film Cloud Atlas, where it doubled for the house of Vyvyan Ayrs in the 1936 segment, and Aurora House in the 2012 segment. Regeneration, which was partially filmed in Overtoun House, is a 1997 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Pat Barker. The house was also used in Caro Emerald's 2013 video for I belong to You.
In October 1994 a man killed his baby son by throwing him from Overtoun Bridge. As far as I can tell, this is the only reported tragic death associated with this bridge.
Since 2005 there have been a number of media reports of dogs making what appeared to be a suicidal leap from it. This was attributed to supernatural influence, or explained by the dogs being attracted by scents then losing balance on the sloping parapet of the bridge.
Looking for a ‘rational’ explanation, some say the Mink and other animals living near or under the bridge are the reason for the dogs taking this dangerous, possibly lethal plunge. Others say there haven’t been any Mink in the area for years.
No one has been able to come up with a concrete reason for why dogs are jumping.
All I know is, if I lived near Overtoun Bridge, I would avoid walking my dogs anywhere near it. I would hope anyone else would do the same.
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