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Mystery at Overtoun: Dog Suicide Bridge
Episode 322nd November 2021 • Strange Phenomenon • Strange Phenomenon
00:00:00 00:32:55

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Something truly strange is going on at the Overtoun Bridge in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland: nobody knows why dogs keep flinging themselves off the large bridge that reaches from Overtoun House. Is there something in the foliage around the castle or could the sins of past owners be haunting the land?

Hosted by Ray Tarara

Written & Produced by R.J. Blake and Ray Tarara

Theme Music by Terra Monk

Special guests: 

Paul Owens - Paul

Dr. David Sands - The Animal Behavioral Clinic

Ian Fisher

Additional music by: 

Sergey Cheremisinov

Kai Engle

Ghost Stories Incorporated

Serge Quadrado


Full list of sources available at


RAY: It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in West Dumbartonshire Scotland. Families are out for a relaxing stroll through the Kilpatrick Hills, exploring the natural beauty of the moors and crags. Atop a hill, overlooking the River Clyde, is a 19th century house with an imposing presence. It stands apart from the natural beauty of the landscape with its gothic architecture. 

Spanning before the house is a bridge, made of dark mossy stone crossing a gully 60 feet deep. Below a waterfall can be heard softly in the distance. A woman approaches the opposite side of the bridge. Ahead of her, an excitable terrier leads the way. It’s a picturesque scene… except, something doesn’t sit right. The terrier has stopped midway across the bridge, staring into the distance as if something has caught it’s eye. 

Faster than anyone can react, the terrier leaps clear over the wall… down, down into the dark below. There’s no way the small dog could have survived the fall. 

This story mirror's countless true experiences of pet owners at Overtoun Bridge. What is causing dogs to throw themselves from what has come to be known as the “Dog Suicide Bridge”? Can science offer an explanation, or is there a darker, supernatural reason for this Strange Phenomenon?


The bridge and its mysteries have fascinated locals of Dumbarton for decades. A quiet tucked away town in the countryside… and yet, it is site to one of the most intriguing paranormal phenomena of the 21st century.

Ian Fisher, a retired cop who now runs a dog rescue near Dumbarton, gave us an overview of the town:

Castle, which was built about:

Ray: Overtoun Bridge is only a 10-minute drive from the historic town of Dumbarton. Paul Owens, local historian and author of The Baron of Rainbow Bridge, is an expert on the history of the area.

Paul Owens :

The town is also renowned as the home of the world's greatest dog leaping mystery at Overtoun Bridge, where huge volumes of dogs have inexplicably thrown themselves from the potter pits and walls of this ancient country bridge to their death and injury.

I first began visiting Overtoun Bridge when I was a child where my mother, Christina Owens, would take me to the Overton estate to help me learn to walk.

So in a sense, the fabric of Overton’s story has always been part of my life.

Ray: The number of dogs that have jumped from the bridge changes based on which source you read. We spoke with Dr. David Sands, an internationally established animal psychologist, who has visited, researched, and spoken extensively on the bridge. He had this to say about the actual amount of dogs which have jumped:

David Sands:

in the beginning in:

And they say mystery is 600 dogs jump from haunted suicide bridge.

So... but I'm not aware of, you know, an accessible, verified statistic, you know, to mean that you could look out online and say, this this number of dogs. 

counted since then. Since the:

Ray: While it is difficult to confirm the precise number, there is no doubt that there is a long history of dogs jumping from the mossy parapets.. Sadly, many of them, to their deaths. 

Paul Owen: Because Overton Bridge is located in the Scottish countryside, it's virtually impossible to possess an accurate record of the dog leaping spree that is occurring there. If the bridge was located in the center of the town near the shops, then such dog leaping incidents would have plenty of witnesses. But it is because of the remoteness of the location of Overton Bridge that makes it impossible to know for certain exactly how many dogs have leapt off the ancient structure. A few years ago, I spoke to Sergeant Christine Boyd at the police headquarters in Glasgow and I asked her if the police kept any records of the dog leaping incidents occurring at the bridge. I was informed that Strathclyde Police do not hold any such information

Ray: Pastor Bob Hill, Director of the Christian Centre for Hope and Healing, owns Overtoun House which overlooks the bridge. He was quoted in a Guardian article saying “people just come knocking at the castle door either screaming or in tears saying, ‘Please help me, my dog has leapt off!” 

It goes without saying, but jumping from potentially lethal heights, is not regular canine behavior.

David Sands:

Dogs, the primary instinct is to survive. And I mean, there's a million years of evolution in a dog's behavior that is to survive.

But that doesn't stop them from getting themselves into trouble.

To add to the mystery, it appears the majority of the dogs jump from the exact same location on the bridge.

But it was one side of the bridge that leads down to the gorge where almost all the dogs that I knew of had gone over it. So it is typical, the first turret. And that was the most significant drop. 

Ray: Doreen Graham, of the scottish SPCA, was quoted in Paul Owens book saying, ”I haven’t seen anything like this before. It’s a mystery, and it’s a heart-breaking mystery; there are lots of heartbroken owners whose dogs have died. I would like to discover why dogs are jumping off the parapets on the bridge; there must be some logical reason for this that’s enticing them of the edge, and really that’s what we ought to find out”

Many have searched for a concrete explanation for the unusual animal behavior, yet none has been determined with total certainty. Add to this the stories of paranormal activity surrounding the bridge, and it is no wonder why this story has captured the world’s imagination.

But, Overtoun Bridge has a dark history… And the man who commissioned its construction, Baron Overtoun, paid for the bridge through the horrendous suffering of his factory's employees. Some believe that this sordid past has led to the bridge becoming what is known as a “thin place”. A location where paranormal activity occurs more commonly, due to a link between our world... and the next.

ertoun House was completed in:

But James White, Baron Overtoun’s father, wanted to expand the property. He dreamed of one day building a great bridge to cross the gorge near his estate. 

Paul Owens:

He was a wealthy millionaire, deeply religious Calvinist who owned a vast chemical empire, Rutherglen in Scotland. And there he produced chemicals primarily by chromate of potache or chromium dioxide, which was primarily used in the tanning and dying industries. It was from the manufacture of these chemicals that he made his vast fortune and the monies from which to build Overton Bridge on his princely country estate next to his castle.

Unfortunately for James White, this would mean construction would cross into a farmers property, and he refused to sign paperwork which would allow the construction

Ray: James White would eventually pass away, leaving a legacy his son Baron Overtoun would obsess over… He was determined to build the bridge. Eventually the stubborn landowner passed away as well, and his son signed the rights to Baron Overtoun so he could begin construction.

Paul Owens:

The bridge was important to Barton Overton because he was fulfilling his late father, James White’s dream.

This was a huge thing to him. And the baron made it his epitaph to build this colossal structure. And this would be his crowning achievement and his lasting legacy at Overton. The construction of this majestic bridge for Barton Overton, who was a deeply religious man, this building of a bridge was like a divine mission. He believed that God had instructed them to build this overpass. 

And it's a strange contradiction that within this holy isle, dark animal dog leaping deaths happened, plaguing this location for over a century.

Ray: The construction of the bridge would cost an estimated 1.6 million  U.S dollars today. These funds came from the chemical factory that Baron Overtoun inherited from his father. 

Paul Owens:

Although he was making a vast fortune out of the chemicals, hundreds and hundreds of men at his factory of horrors were being destroyed by the chemicals. Their cartilage of their noses were all wearing away from the faces. They were covered in chrome holes and were actually effectively being destroyed by the chemicals on a daily basis. So it is said that every stone at Overtoun Bridge was built from the dark chemical house of horrors which paid for it in the first place. So it is in a sense a very dark bridge indeed [laugh]

Ray: The poisonous fumes burned away their septums, and workers at the factory became known as “white’s whistlers” due to the whistling noise that their deviated septums produced. One worker had to build a wire cage around his body when he worked, because his skin was so eaten away by the chemicals that it hurt for his clothing to touch him. 

Ker Hardie, the leader of a local labor party, declared “Whilst Lord Overtoun conducts family worship at Overtoun House… his white chrome-eaten victims toil and sweat in the malaria hole at Shawfield, adding to the wealth of their sainted master.”

The horrific working conditions are hard to fathom, and the Baron did his best to keep the truth hidden from inspectors.

Paul Owens:

Many people questioned him over a long period of time about the sanitary conditions about his workplaces and them, he would say either brush it off or he would say that there was no need, that the place was a perfectly clean and hospitable. And then when the inspectors would call round to check their factories, he would make some small changes, as if he was making a vast improvement, when, in fact there was no real improvement in the hideous conditions that these men had to work on. And so. As long as the money was being brought in by the chemicals, why change anything? Because in his life he was living in an enormous castle. He was driving up and down and horse driven carriage to church every Sunday.

Ray: In:

One night while he slept, he had a striking dream...

He saw a sort of caterpillar and it turned into a moth. And as he looked at it he began to see that he was that moth that was eating everything himself. I think the meaning of the dream really just is something to do with Baron Overton's self-consciousness that he realized deep down somewhere that he was in a fact living what he would call a very sinful lifestyle as a Calvinist Christian, although I think for much of his existence, he tried to push their stuff to the back of his mind that he wasn't the kind of guy who was eating everything in his path. And so he tried to and did a lot of them charitable works where he was giving all sorts of money to to people. Bible societies and you name it, to try and justify what he was doing. But I think the meaning of the dream is quite clear. It's really a self realization that he himself wasn't in a fight, some kind of monster that was creating his own divine paradise from that dark, sinister, a lifestyle which he was part of. 

Ray: On the final day of the bridge’s construction, Baron Overtoun placed a number of items inside of the bridge that were ceremoniously sealed within.

Paul Owens: Now this time capsule contained a number of strange objects, including a mysterious hoard of coins. A book and photographs of Baron and Lady Overton also placed inside stone of a bridge. There was a very unusual letter in which the words were written, “Every house is built by some man, but he that built all things is, God.”

Ray: Why these items were chosen to be sealed in the bridge is known only to Baron Overtoun. But there is something especially distasteful about the Baron throwing more coins, tainted with the blood of “whites whistlers”, at this vain project.  

Today, the bridge holds an ominous atmosphere that is in stark contrast to the land around it. Dr. Sands offered this description of the bridge and the nearby house as they appear today.

David Sands: You've got this sort of gothic looking house at one end. You've got this sort of very thick, sandstone walled bridge going across. It's not that great a bridge, you know. It's not some San Francisco bridge. It's it's sort of like a stone structure that runs. Well, what could we say, hundred, 100, 200 yards or whatever? It's surrounded by by woodland. 

Ray: After the completion of the bridge, the Baron’s lust for wealth would push him to join a shady alchemical venture in which he hoped to be able to turn metal into gold. The group was called KOSMOID, and they had big plans, including to build a city around their alchemical tower, based on the funds they hoped to create through secretive ancient practices. These practices stood in stark contrast to the strict christian image Baron Overtoun desperately strived to portray.

s. And Baron Overtoun died in:

Paul Owens: After the unexpected death of her husband, Barton Overton, from [not sure what he says], it was said she wandered across the bridge, heartbroken and alone. Could it be that what dogs are picking up on Overton Bridge is the sad memory or ghost of Lady Overton. Is the ghost of Lady Overton, the white lady, as she is known, who is returning to this bridge time and time again, still looking for her long lost, dearly departed husband. 

Ray: Could Baron Overtoun’s blatant disregard for human life have cursed the bridge? As Paul Owens says in his book, “Here was a holy and divine bridge built from the devilish and the diabolical.”

Paul Owens: So when you cross Overton Bridge, it is a thin place. It's a kind of melting pot of spirituality. It's a kind of rainbow bridge where heaven and earth have drawn very close. And sometimes when one crosses this particular bridge, they are touched with all kinds of strange sensations or strange spiritual presences at times. 

Ray: According to local legends, the land around Overtoun Bridge has had supernatural occurrences long before the bridges construction

Paul Owens: There's countless stories of supernatural and supernormal events occurring in and around Overton Bridge. I suppose the earliest mention of a supernatural occurrence took place in the 18th century, just northwest of where the bridge now stands when a local whiskey smuggler named Roderick McTavish encountered the strange, otherworldly experience of a band of fairies dancing in a fairy ring at Overton. It was said that shepherds and travelers who pass through Overton often had what could only be described as weird music being played by these fairies under very unearthly strain. A strange tone and McTavish, although he was startled by his own experience, it was said that he had posted and drank whiskey with to Faries in foxgloves cups until the cock crowed the next day when they all suddenly disappeared. And so this is what happened a long time ago. This is one of the only supernatural stories and so are dogs. Who are said to be supersensitive animals and possess a sixth sense or perhaps extrasensory perception. Are dogs experiencing supernatural entities such as the fairies around Overtoun Bridge. Much the same way that McTavish had done centuries.

Ray: Scotland is rife with fairy folklore and superstitious beliefs, have these beliefs left a tangible mark on the land and in the minds of locals, creating experiences and stories that span centuries? What is the meaning of these experiences, and why have they so fascinated human beings through the ages?

Paul Owens had a strange encounter as well:

researching a for my book in:

When I had this strange, otherworldly experience, I had no thought in my mind about ghosts or strange presences which are said to lurk around this pledge. There was something completely unexplained and out of the blue.

to the ominous atmosphere. In:

While this is certainly the result of untreated mental illness, across town there was something very strange occurring… Joan Thompson awakened from a nap, to a vision.

Paul Owens: John Thompson was unaware that a baby had been thrown from the bridge because she had been sleeping and had awaken briefly when she encountered an overpowering vision that shook her and standing before her she observed a white figure clutching a baby. Unaware that a baby had been hurled from Overton Branch the same day she was completely puzzled as to what this vision had meant or why indeed she had received that wheater after leaving that child had been thrown from the bridge. She took it to mean that the baby was now safe with God. The baby had died and went to heaven. No. You could really legitimately ask, was this another example of Overton, you know, projecting supernatural dreams or visions into the minds of local people? 

Because this has happened to other people in the community, including myself, who have had extremely strange dreams about Overton for no apparent reason. And then later it becomes very clear why you are given these dreams or visions. 

Ray: In:

Later, Alice’s dog Cassie would end up jumping from Overtoun Bridge. Alice ran to Overtoun House, banging on the doors and crying for help. And then it struck her, this was the exact scenario from her nightmare…

Is it possible for a location to exude some unknown power?

Curse or not, it is undeniable there is something strange occurring at Overtoun Bridge. It is a fact that dogs have jumped from atop the bridge at alarming numbers. So much so, that a sign has been enacted at the bridge warning owners to put their dogs on a leash when crossing. If not some paranormal occurrence, what else could be having such a strong effect on those who visit, human and canine alike?

We spoke with Dr. Sands to try and understand what in a dogs natural behavior might cause them to jump from the bridge:

David Sands: I felt it was likely to be a sort of combination of factors rather than one single factor. You know, as I said, there was common thread of the type of dogs that were very lively and athletic and and work in breeds. There was. Situations where you've got almost an an optical illusion, because us as a plane, the topography goes from level ground to this bridge crossing a gorge. So it's such a radical change. There's a lot of dense undergrowth. There will be a lot of smells and sounds from that. I walked on the bridge and I was off. There is a gothic gothic feel to the bridge and there's many images that show that. But it is a very, very solid structure. And the walls are decent, high. But jumpable, but by an athletic dog. And we're sort of very conscious of on the ground level of the bridge. If you can't see beyond the trees that are all round it. So there's not as if it's clearing where from the bridge you would see a view or or horizon. So I felt that was quite significant. And the walls are very solid, very thick. I could imagine in different weather conditions that that that could be a factor.

proposed by Dr. Sands in the:

There is just one problem with this theory. Mink are not commonly found in the area, and depending on who you ask, you’ll get wildly different answers on whether mink could or could not be the cause.

e did the original filming in:

Paul Owens: I myself, eh, do not believe that the scent theory and the theory about the mink holds any credibility.

I think it's fairly reasonable to realize that in fact, mink are not to blame for the dog leaping riddle at all. First of all, many local people who have been walking under the bridge for most of their lives... None of them have ever seen a mink there. And there are many people I've spoken to have also told me that they've been walking, what, maybe five or six dogs say under that bridge, and they've never once seen a mink in 30, 40 years. And that is something that's well known. Furthermore, the mink themselves are mainly nocturnal animals, which means that they only come out at night. They do not come out during their hours of daylight on land or water.

Ray: And while this theory has sparked great debate from skeptics and believers of the paranormal, Dr. Sands is adamant that he did not mean for it to be the all encompassing theory. But perhaps just one small piece of a larger puzzle.

David Sands: I mean, these questions were placed to me at the beginning, once I'd given my side of what I thought was going on, which was more a generalized idea that that, you know, I was always targeting misadventure, but the whole idea of the mink became the one focus. But I've said repeatedly that I felt that owner cues the fact that owners would stop on the bridge. And look, might might be a signal for the dogs to sort of react in a certain way, go off on their own or do something.

Ray: Dr. Sands believes a dog's eyesight may also play a role in these unfortunate incidents.

David Sands: And if you know a little bit about the physiology of the dog's eye, it's all about the rods and cones. They, they don't see as distinctly as we do because a lot of the senses are tuned, you know, their sense of smell. The hearing is far more sensitive. And so the eyesight itself is is not as significant. And, and the dog evolved hunting in in twilight, you know, dusk so that they're listening for movement and sounds and smells. They're looking for, and, so it was about that, that they can get onto a structure and not necessarily see the depth of field that we can, where if they jump off it, you know, there could be a drop on the other side. And that's quite significant with the Overtoun Bridge, because the topography is very unusual in that it cuts across a gorge. So you go from level ground and then the peak of the bridge, there's a 50 foot drop.

Ray: When reviewing breeds that jumped from the bridge, there seemed to be a connection….

David Sands: You know, the most excitable dogs are the working breeds, not work. You know, the livestock control in all the tracking dogs, sight hounds. And he said, well, that's interesting because the statistics who were looking out in the in the 60 dogs, there's a lot of collie's and Collie crosses, you know, that are used for livestock control. So I said that before I even knew about the, you know, the breeds involved.\

Ray: It’s clear that a combination of factors including a dog's lack of depth perception, strong sense of scent, and an instinct for hunting could explain the mystery at Overtoun….

But not everyone is so convinced the activity around Overtoun Bridge can be explained by science. Paul Owens has spent his entire life growing up in the area and has spent the past decade researching the bridge.. He believes there are mysterious forces at play, the kind of which we have yet to understand

Paul Owens: The theory is that I prescribe to is supernatural or paranormal because I've interviewed enough people who have had supernatural experiences while walking on the Overtoun estate. I myself have had supernatural experiences while standing in Overton Bridge. So I can only go by the experience of, of real people who have had genuine experiences, and I myself being one of them. And when you have real experiences like that, then it seems to me that this is something that must be taken very seriously. And there have been countless ghostly sightings on and around Overtoun. There have been countless people who've experienced strange presences at the bridge. 

David Sands: Well, I, you know, I tried to come from a scientific approach, but, you know, the people, if they believe in it enough, it becomes real. If you know what I mean. There is a psychology in it where you can almost, you know, absorb it yourself. I think it becomes a more exciting story when the supernatural ideas, you know, become involved.

It's one of the great things about being human, isn't it? That we we have these stories running in our heads and we're inspired by other people's stories. So I think has as a theme, as an interest. It's it is quite exciting.

Ray: Regardless of the explanation behind the tragedies at Overtoun Bridge, one thing's for sure…. This bridge holds power over us. We are fascinated, and even terrified, of what secrets it may hold. Perhaps one day we will unlock the true mystery of Overtoun Bridge… but for now, it remains a strange phenomenon.