Each week as we count down to Halloween, we present a famous North Carolina urban legend or ghost story to get you primed and ready for the spookiest day of the year. This week, we climb up Beaucatcher mountain where spooky happenings occur around Helen’s bridge.
Asheville is the setting for many a haunting ghost story, but that of Helen’s Bridge is perhaps its most notorious. The bridge, located on Beaucatcher Road overlooking College Street, was the site of a terrible tragedy around the turn of the 20th century that reverberates to this day.
The Makings of a Ghost Story
The basics of the story tell of a woman, known only as Helen, that hung herself from a stone bridge close to downtown. The details of the story, however, change depending on the version told.
In one version of the ghost story, Helen lived in Zealandia Mansion, a castle-like house overlooking downtown Asheville. According to legend, Helen was the mistress of one of the estate’s owners. After becoming pregnant, Helen implored the man to formally start a life together, but was rejected.
Distraught, Helen decided to end her life rather than raise the child on her own. She walked down to the bridge at the entrance of Zealandia’s grounds and hung herself from the side.
In another version, Helen lived nearby Zealandia rather than in the estate itself. One evening while cooking, a fire broke out. Helen rushed to her daughter’s room but passed out on the way due to smoke inhalation. Her daughter, unfortunately, did not survive.
Once resussitated by firefighters, Helen learned of her child’s death. Devastated and disconsolate, Helen battled severe depression for weeks. Eventually, on a walk in the nearby woods, she came across the bridge to Zealandia. Overcome by grief, she hung herself from one of the bridge’s steel posts.
The Haunting of Helen’s Bridge
Many believe the bridge to be haunted by Helen’s spirit. Some visitors to the bridge report seeing her ghostly form frantically searching for her child. Others report seeing shadowy figures on the bridge or hearing a woman’s screams in the distance.
Most commonly, however, people report mysterious car trouble when traveling under or near the bridge. Suddenly drained batteries or engine stalls were said to occur. Others report mechanical failures, such as headlights failing or clocks reading the wrong time when visiting Helen’s bridge.
Where this story originated is anyone’s guess. Researchers have not found any evidence of a woman named Helen having lived either in Zealandia or nearby. No one really knows who Helen was or if she even existed.
Curious about other spooky North Carolina stories? Check out our pieces on The Devil’s Tramping Ground and the Brown Mountain Lights. For more spine-chilling fall activities, please visit our lifestyle section.