It didn’t matter if it was foggy or clear, but it definitely only happened to me at night during the wee hours and only on Graveyard shift, as if that was an omen in itself. The visitor(s) always arrived when I was sitting alone in the Chief’s office, back before we gutted it and rebuilt it into a Test Room—it was more of an exorcism than a remodel, if the truth be told. Spirits, Sprites, Ghosts, call them what you wish, something is out there and at times they are restless and in need of human contact.
Before we go too far into this story, let me establish that I am not the superstitious type, nor am I prone to believe in ghosts, as such. What I have come to believe in is the presence/power of something that is no longer in this world that we inhabit. It is a part of another world, a world that is somehow associated with this one.
Welcome to My World
I was working rotating shifts in the Electric Shop of the Golden Gate Bridge for just over a year when the first visit took place. I was seated at a desk in our office filling out some paperwork when a cool finger of air came down the back of my head, around my ear, under my neck and across the bottom of my chin. The doors in both sides of the 10 foot long office were closed and there were no ventilation ducts in the room.
As the fickle finger of chilled air made its way around me a dark shadow appeared on the white papers that I was filling out. It was as though someone was in the glass of the door next to me, blocking the overhead lights by the main switchgear. I glanced quickly to my left, but there were no moving shadows and no more cool air.
My body was a different story, the hair on the back of my neck and arms was standing up and my pulse was racing. My body temperature dropped and suddenly I felt trapped in the small room. I took a deep breath, stood up and opened the door into the Powerhouse, thinking that I may find somebody/something prowling around. Yes, I know, it never works out well in the movies but I figured that I should do something and not just sit there.
The search was inconclusive: I was all alone—at least as far as I could see. This same scenario has played itself out on me over four different occasions and after talking to some co-workers about this phenomenon I found out that it has happened to them, too.
Accepting The Hard Truth
On average, 30 people a year commit suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. That puts the approximate number of people who have killed themselves at my workplace at 450 souls in the 15 years that I have been there. I have not been there for every death, but over the years I have borne witness to too many.
The first year that I worked there was the hardest in terms of acceptance. I had acquired a callous layer and didn’t even realize it until one day I was talking to a co-worker as he refueled our Bucket truck, at the same time a report went out over the radio that someone was “over the rail” near mid-span and about to jump.
Drew and I paused our conversation long enough to listen to the broadcast and mutually agree, “that sucks”. We continued talking as he told me about the Honeymoon he just had in Costa Rica, pausing now and then as we listened to new details over the radio, “call for the Ironworkers”, “the subject is non-responsive”.
As Drew regaled me with a description of their Photo Journey through a Rain Forest the situation on the bridge got more real, “the Ironworkers are over the rail and on the Chord”. Drew resumed his story as I listened to his every word, interrupted at last by the radio broadcast, “subject has become combative, call for an ambulance”.
I looked at Drew and he at me. “Oh, dear,” I said, “you don’t want to f—k around like that with the Ironheads”. Note: These guys are all volunteers, doing God’s work here on Earth.
The Worm Has Turned
The subject was returned to the sidewalk and taken away for medical attention and a 72-hour hold in a Psych unit. Drew finished his story as the fuel dispenser shut off and I realized in that moment that something in me had changed.
“Drew, how long have you been here at the bridge?” I asked.
“Just over a year,” he said.
“Yeah, me too. Maybe a year and 4 months,” I said. “We have changed, can you feel it?”
Drew said, “Yeah, that sort of thing used to bother me—I mean I am glad that our guys are OK, don’t get me wrong, but as far as the jumper…”
“Yeah, he’s just another in a long line, past and future,” I said, finishing his sentence.
We were both quiet, staring at the ground in front of us. I spoke first, “Is there hope for us, or are we destined to be increasingly cynical in life?”
“I hope that there’s hope for us,” Drew said, “I’m gonna have to ponder this day for awhile.”
“Me, too, man. Let’s not go down that Rabbit Hole, OK?”
“You’ve got it. I’ve got your back.”
“Me, you, too.”
A New Awareness
The first visitor arrived a week later when I had transitioned from Day shift to Graveyard shift. I told Drew about the visit, but he did not share the experience.
Over the years since my talk with Drew I have found numerous “shrines” on the bridge during the normal course of my day. People sometimes leave burning candles, vases of flowers and other mementos as tributes to loved ones, or friends, who have ended their lives on the bridge.
At first I would pick up the items, especially anything that was glass, and turn them in to the Sgts’ Office for their possession. One night, however, I did something different. I found an unlit candle in a glass sleeve at the base of the North Tower and I took it back to the shop. I was struck by the fact that someone did not light the candle and so I found a lighter and lit the candle wick. I let it burn for the rest of the shift on a steel plate and for each subsequent shift until it was totally used up.
That marked the start of when the night visitors stopped coming around. I have retrieved and burned every candle that I have found since then and have had no visitations in the last 6 years.
Am I just Crazy?
I don’t know the answer to that question. I do not debate Religion or Beliefs, I like to live and let live. Someone recently summed up my views on this subject when they said, “If God is small enough for me to understand Him, He is not big enough to get the job done.”
I am winding up my last Graveyard shift this week, in two weeks I will be a retired Bridge Electrician. I have one last candle that I have been burning this shift and I think that I/We will go out quietly into that dark night. Hopefully I have made peace with this world and the next.
There is Hope