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Ghosts and aliens on the Brooklyn Bridge! A Halloween story

October 31, 2014 By Raanan Geberer Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bridge was marked by tragedy from its earliest days. Eagle photo by Samantha Samel
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Nowadays, when people talk about haunted houses, they’re most likely referring to sites, temporarily set up for Halloween, that are designed to scare people out of their wits using all the high-tech tools at the organizers’ disposal — flashing lights, pre-recorded screams, skeletons that appear out of nowhere, you name it. Here in Brooklyn, students at City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn each year produce “Gravesend Inn,” a huge hit with students and families.

Of course, there is an older tradition of haunted houses, meaning old houses that are supposedly inhabited by ghosts that are fleetingly seen by passers-by from time to time. One of the most haunted sites in Brooklyn is not a house, but the most famous symbol of Brooklyn worldwide: The Brooklyn Bridge itself.

The Brooklyn Bridge was marked by tragedy from its earliest days. During its construction, designer John Roebling died of a tetanus infection. His son Washington took over the project’s supervision, but fell victim to decompression sickness, or “the bends,” and became an invalid. During the building of the bridge, according to a website called The Haunted Brooklyn Bridge, 27 people died in accidents.

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The bridge’s bad luck didn’t stop there. A few days after it was opened, a traffic jam resulted in a stampede in which 12 people were trampled to death. And of course, over the years, many people have either jumped off the bridge or tried to do so. Some survived, others didn’t.

With all the deaths and tragedies, it seems natural that you would have ghosts, too. The website reads, “It is widely known and accepted that when you have great tragedies happen you often have residual hauntings.”

The Haunted Brooklyn Bridge website adds that screams and unexplained splashes in the water below are sometimes heard. And since the 1950s, some people have reported seeing a beautiful blonde girl in a white dress who seems like she is about to jump — until you realize you can see right through her. Finally, some people have reported seeing unexplained bright lights.

That’s about it as far as otherworldly beings from Earth on the Brooklyn Bridge are concerned. But on the subject of otherworldly beings from, well, other worlds, we’ve just begun. A sensational book from 1996, “Witnessed: The True Story of Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions” by UFO researcher Budd Hopkins, tells the story of Linda Cortile (whose real name was later revealed to be Linda Napolitano), who allegedly was lifted out of her Lower Manhattan apartment near the bridge by several “grey”-type aliens and then escorted into a UFO 12 stories above street level.

The UFO, according to the book, then hovered above the bridge and was seen by several passers-by, a few New York City police officers, a U.N. diplomat, a retiree who thought she was seeing a movie being filmed and others. Apparently, the aliens did their usual medical examination, returned Ms. Napolitano to her home and went on their merry way.

Of course, most people who drive, walk or bike over the Brooklyn Bridge will never have any otherworldly experiences. The closest I came to that took place in the 1980s, when I worked for the Housing Authority and drove an official city-owned car across the bridge. At that time, possibly because of repairs, the bridge’s roadway just consisted of a metal grid that made the car “fishtail” eerily to the right and to the left while going forward. That came to an end when the roadway was paved.

Happy Halloween!

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Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.


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