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A Great American Haunting: The Watauga River Bridge

Updated on September 23, 2008

Elizabethton, TN is known for very little in the world. In the small town, located in the heart of Southeastern Tennessee, residents of the Stoney Creek community find little solice in the tranquil beauty of the mountainous landscape behind them.

The Watauga River Bridge, known to by residents as the Ol' Steel Bridge, is the home to the area's most unsolved mysteries to date.

The bridge was constructed in the mid 1920s and it became, quickly, the "lover's lane" of the area. Couples would hide under the bridge for a little privacy. It remained this way until the early 1930s when tragedy struck the community.

A young couple, Tom Jackson and Wanda Smithson, decided they were going to the bridge to be alone. According to family reports, Tom was crazy about Wanda and they believe that he was going to ask her to be his wife on that very night. Neither of them had a clue that this was going to be the last night they would ever see each other.

Tom went by Wanda's home, which happened to be only 300 yards from the bridge. They both left her home while her parents were in bed and went straight to the bridge.

After staying there for an hour, they got up to leave. They seen a dark figure coming around the corner of the bridge. Believing it to be another couple coming to enjoy the peaceful time alone, they didn't think anything of it. The figure got closer and before they realized that it was just one person, the figure lunged at Wanda and stabbed her in the chest, killing her instantly. Tom tried to fight back the person, but was stabbed several times as well.

Tom was able to get away and run up the embankment towards the bridge. A car was travelling across the bridge whenever Tom jumped into the car. The driver, who wasn't idenified in the police report, drove off once they seen the mysterious figure standing at the end of the bridge behind the car.

Tom died that night, but not before he told the police his story. The police went to the bridge that night to search the area. They found nothing. Wanda's body was gone, there wasn't any blood in the area, there was nothing at all.

The police were baffled by this and after almost 15 months of inspecting the area, they closed the case and stamped it "unsolved".

On July 18th, 1977, the first report of paranormal activity was documented. Beecher Davis, a Gate City, Virginia sheriff's deputy, arrived at the Carter County Sheriff's department around 1:42am in a panic. He stated that he was driving over the steel bridge when the passenger's side door flew open and then slammed shut. He slammed on the brakes and noticed an indention in the passenger's seat, as if someone were sitting there. He then caught a glimpse in his mirror of a dark figure that appeared to be wearing a dark cloak and hood. He said that it appeared to be inching closer to the car, but it didn't look like it was walking. He stated at that point, he got out of the car and nothing was there. He became even more startled at that point and drove off to the Sheriff's station.

There's been over 185 documented reports on this happening to people who were driving over the bridge after a certain time of night.

I put this to the test, though nothing happened on the particular night that I done it, the reports have been filed by several credible people, some of whom weren't from around here and didn't know the story.

How do you explain all of the accounts? What really happened to Wanda Smithson's body? Who was the mysterious assassin?

The answer's are all lost underneath the Ol' Steel Bridge in Stoney Creek. Will we ever know the answers? Only time will tell.

The steel Watauga River Bridge.
The steel Watauga River Bridge.
Area beside the bridge where the attack allegedly took place.
Area beside the bridge where the attack allegedly took place.


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  • diabloknight profile image

    Joey Parsons 6 years ago

    It's been awhile folks! I've been out of action and doing things of a different sort. Had forgotten about this site until Haunt Masters Club ( had used this article as a reference. Check these people out if you dare!!!

  • profile image

    Vickie 9 years ago

    We have been to this bridge many times and we have talked to someone/something who claimes to be Wanda,they told us what realy happened and where she is ,if the voices we heard are Wanda,s it would explan why their was no blood.E-mail me if you are interested in what we heard and also smelt