Investigation Report

Location: Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, near Taos, NM
Date: 21 January 2005
Weather Conditions: Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 64%
Geomagnetic Storm Activity: Inactive
Temperature: 20
Number of Photos taken: 32
Number with possible targets: 1?
Average EM Readings: 4 mg
Average M fields Readings: 1 mt
Average E Field Readings: 1 vpm
Cold Spots detected: None
Hot Spots Detected: None
Olfactory Phenomena: None
Visual Phenomena: None
Type of Investigation:
Ghost Hunt

All information and photos Copyright 2005 by Cody Polston, Bob Carter and SGHA. All Rights Reserved.

Location Description and History

Built in 1965, it was called the "Bridge to Nowhere," as there was not enough funding to continue the road from the other side. At 650 feet above the Rio Grande and 1200 feet across, it is the second highest suspension bridge in the United States.

The Rio Grande Gorge at this location is 1200 feet wide and 600 feet deep. Although the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is often referred to as a steel arch bridge because of the appearance of its main span, it is more properly described as a continuous steel deck truss. This bridge has truss spans of 300, 600 and 300 feet and a 36-foot steel I-beam approach span at each end. It has a total length of 1272 feet and a 28-foot roadway.

It was fabricated by the American Bridge Company and erected by J. H. Ryan and Son. The total cost of the bridge was $2,153,000. A high line spanning the gorge was used to position the steel box beam members during its construction.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge was designed by the New Mexico State Highway Department Bridge Design Section and it won first place for the most beautiful span in 1966 in competition sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Reported Phenomena

Area where the ghost of a young woman disappears.

Locals in the area say that the bridge is a hot spot for suicides and that the bridge is haunted by ghosts that tempt people into jumping to their deaths. However there is a specific ghost that is often seen on the west side of the bridge. According to witnesses, the ghost appears as a young Hispanic woman wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. She is often mistaken as a "real" person as she walks east on the south walkway of the bridge. When she reaches the center, she suddenly vanishes.

The most creditable witness is a State Trooper who encountered the ghost one evening while on patrol in October of 2001. He was heading west on the bridge when he passed a young juvenile Hispanic woman who was walking east on the structure's south walkway. Thinking that she may have had car trouble, he continued crossing before turning around near the bridge's identification marker. As he turned his patrol car around, the headlights illuminated the bridge ahead. There was nobody there.

Since it would have been impossible for the woman to completely cross to the other side, he accelerated back towards the location where he last saw her. The only logical conclusion would be that the woman had jumped off of the bridge.

After pulling over near the center of the bridge, the trooper used a high powered spotlight to search the area of the gorge below. There were no signs of anything unusual but it was possible that the body landed in the river and drifted down stream. He radioed in the incident and prepared a report. However no missing person reports were filed and no body was found. Three months after this encounter, the same State Trooper saw this woman again, walking on the same section of the bridge. Once again, when he proceeded to investigate, the woman mysteriously vanished.

Since that time he has heard stories from other State troopers that have had similar encounters with an identical woman. Other stories of this phantom woman have been told with elements of the story being very similar. Most of the stories are told by a few locals with the exception of several which have been posted on ghost forums on the Internet.

The Investigation

We arrived at the bridge around 9:30pm, parking our cars in the rest area parking lot on the west side of the bridge. After a short briefing we moved towards the bridge and began to walk across towards the center. Initially we got several readings on the Trifield meter, mostly spikes up to 4 nt. This was the only area of the bridge where we obtained any readings. As we continued out towards the center, we took photos and EM readings from the bridge walkway, which trembled with vibrations from passing trucks and cars. Near the center of the bridge there are several areas that jut outwards. After surveying these areas we proceeded back to the parking lot.

Reflection or ?

Moving towards the center

Ross brings up the rear

Dave moves to check out a reading

In the middle

Bridge Marker

"Haunted" section of the bridge

At the center

Initial Conclusions

Many of the stories of "ghosts" tempting people to jump from the bridge appear to be nothing more than urban legend. The ghost of the young woman is abit more interesting as the area where she is often seen is also the only location where we obtained any EM readings.

Our next project was to determine if the reports of suicides were actually factual. These are some of the references we were able to locate through the Taos Daily Horse Fly, one of the local news sources. (This is not a complete list of the known suicides that have occurred on the bridge.)

Sept, 1990: Patrick Chase, 43, of Taos. Chase, a Taos loner who made smudge sticks for a living, disappeared leaving his vehicle at the rim of the Rio Grande gorge. No body ever found.

15 Nov 1990: Mike Finley, 45. Finley's body was found in the sage west of the gorge bridge. The report states that Finley committed suicide but it doesn't say how. He worked as a telephone technician in Taos.

16 Dec, 1991: Dennis Magnusen, 54, of Astoria OR Magnusen jumped to his death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

27 Aug, 1992: Katherine Seed Kimbril, 50, of Taos (for 8 years)
Kimbril's body found in Rio Grande Gorge, an apparent suicide. She left a four-page letter in her '67 Ford Fairlane addressed to her mother concerning the disposition of her possessions along with various other documents connected with witchcraft and UFOs including a statement saying that she was a "UFO breeder."

31 Aug, 1992: Matt Aurand, 20, of Dixon. Aurand disappeared and his truck was discovered at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. On 9 September kayakers find a body which authorities speculate may be Aurand's. No further information reported.

28 March, 1996: Elmer D. Parham, 75, of Fairview
Parham jumped from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to his death at around 12:30 pm.

15 Aug, 1996:: Alicia Lauritzen, 51. Lauritzen, a psychotherapist with two children, jumped to her death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

22 Nov, 1996: Charlie Sutherland, 21 and Kamala Sutherland, 21. The newlyweds jumped to their deaths from the Gorge Bridge; the bride suffered from bi-polar disorder.

14 Jan, 2000: Dwight John Juers, 30, of St. Paul, MN Juers,, described as a loner and a wanderer, apparently jumped to his death from the Gorge Bridge.

19 June, 2000: Tomas Montoya, 40, of Rio Rancho
Montoya, a lawyer from Rio Rancho, jumped to his death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge at 10:40 am.

3 Oct, 2001: Charles Smith, 37, of Santa Fe. Smith disappeared, abandoning a rental car at the Gorge Bridge containing his wallet and keys, in early October. Originally from Mississippi, Smith had lived and worked most recently in Santa Fe, though he had been in Taos for a while staying at motels. His father said he suffered from depression. On 8 November, his body was discovered in gorge by rafters.

November 13, 2002
Erik Sanchez was murdered when he was thrown off the Taos Gorge bridge during the course of a car theft. The crime began when two men, Luis Acosta, the driver, and David Sandoval, the passenger, tricked Sanchez into pulling over and stopping his car. Sandoval then forced Sanchez at gunpoint to relinquish control of his car, and Sandoval drove off with Sanchez in the passenger seat. Acosta followed in the other car. Eventually, Acosta left his car at his mother's house, and the two hijackers continued in Sanchez's car to the bridge, where they threw Sanchez to his death and took his car.

7 March, 2003: Herson Vigil, 31
Vigil shot himself in the head at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and his body then fell into the gorge on a Friday afternoon.

27 April, 2003: Mariana Augustini, 44
Augustini of Santa Fe and Vermont jumped to her death from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge leaving a suicide note in her car.

4 June, 2003: Susan Jayne Weiss
Weiss, of Santa Fe, (no age given), committed suicide by jumping off the bridge. Her body found in the gorge on 20 July.

It is indisputable that many people have committed suicide on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. While our research was unable to find a young woman matching the description of the ghost that is seen on the bridge, the list complied during our research is far from complete. While this site has some interesting stories, it does not seem to be overly active. It is possible that certain stories could have been embellished over the years and contributed to the development of another urban legend.

But where does the truth began and the legend ends?


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