Purple Head Bridge Investigation

This one-lane bridge was built in 1897 by Edge Moor Bridgeworks of Wilmington, Delaware and King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio as originally a railroad bridge spanning the Wabash River near St. Francisville, Illinois.

The length of the bridge in 1441 feet and is a toll bridge operated from the Illinois side. The bridge was later purchased by Frank Stangle in 1970 who opened it up to vehicular traffic as a toll bridge. The existing railroad tracks were left in place and covered by wooden planks.

In 1995 it was sold to the city of St. Francisville and finally sold to the state of Illinois in 2009. It is known under several different names including the St. Francisville Bridge, the Wabash Cannonball Bridge, Stangle Bridge and Purple Head Bridge.



Address:  Located on Wabash Cannonball Road just northeast of St. Francisville, Illinois in Lawrence County, Illinois and Knox County, Indiana.

GPS coordinates: 38.60493, -87.62722





There have been numerous reports of “purple heads” floating around the bridge at both day and night. This might be due to the legend that a few people committed suicide on this bridge and through strangulation, their heads discolored into a purple hue as the blood was cut off from the brain. Sometimes these purple heads are seen in the rearview mirror of cars that park out there at night.

An urban legend was started that in order to see the purple heads, you must stop your car near the bridge and blink your headlights or blow your horn three time and then, it is said, the heads will suddenly appear.

Another story to possibly explain this phenomenon is a man who attempted suicide on the bridge but something went wrong. He was decapitated in his attempt and the body was never found. The head that is said to haunt this bridge is said to be from this poor individual.

There is a small memorial near the bridge of Revolutionary War officer named James Johnston who was a lieutenant-colonel who survived the war and lived out his life near the bridge. Those who visit the bridge are said to disturb his slumber and his ghost haunts the location.

Yet another theory is that the ghost is of J. B. Halter, a Catholic priest from the St. Francisville area fell off a Big Four train crossing the bridge in December of 1906. Allegedly, he had too much to drink and fell off the train when it jerked suddenly. He hit his head and laid there all night crying for help. When workers found him the next day, he was rushed to his friend’s home where he eventually died.

Some say that during the 1960s, the KKK was active in this area and a number of illegal lynchings took place from the bridge. This might explain some of the ghosts that are said to haunt the location if only some of these stories could be verified and documented.





The Ghost Research Society investigated Purple Head Bridge July 2, 2017 and the team members included: Stan Suho and Dale Kaczmarek, with help from Jason Snider, Jason Dickerson, and Courtney Bowen from Crawford County Ghost Hunters









Equipment set up: Since this is a one-lane bridge with no walkway, it was a little dangerous to go too far up the bridge on foot. When crossing the bridge drivers must be sure that no one else is trying to cross from the other side. With that in mind, all of the investigating this evening was performed from the superstructure back to the Illinois side of the bridge.

I set up an IR camcorder on a tripod shooting towards the Indiana side of the bridge. Also employed were the X-Cam SLS system, digital tape recorder and camera and the Ovilus X with DTD device.

Personal experiences:

Dale Kaczmarek: This place was very creepy but the creep factor was often broken by motorists and ATV vehicles crossing from one side to another. At one time Snider believed that he saw a ghost light on the far side of the river that wasn’t caused by an oncoming or departing vehicle. Later Suho and I both saw a red light in the distance and again, being keen observers and not jumping to conclusions, knew that it wasn’t caused by automobiles.

The most unusual event took place very close to the Illinois end of the bridge when the X-Cam SLS system picked up a stick figure apparently hanging side of the bridge. The figure seemed to be flaying around like someone would if they were hanging by their neck but the head was very stationary. After watching this for a bit, the figure suddenly just walked off to the left and out of view of the device!

Evidence collected:

Ghost purplehead.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in dictionary mode, the device suddenly spit out, “Ghost.”

Hanging SLS purplehead.MPG – while using the X-Cam SLS device, a stick figure was picked up apparently hanging from the side of the bridge that eventually just moved off to the left and out of frame as though it had simply walked away.

Loud yell purplehead.MPG – while attempting to set up a mobile hotspot for a possible live Facebook session, a loud and strange yell was recorded that was very near the group. No one apparently heard it as no reaction was evident from any investigators when it happened.

Words spoken by the Ovilus X in dictionary mode: digital, inches, Betty, real, alive, wood, soil, seem, class, stood, manual, passed, lost, shuttle, thick, ghost, industry, done, seen, porch, gravity, friendly, numb, reap, prop, Z, Washington, modern, sit, chain, harmonic, liberty, soon, manual, shuttle, cannot, alright, trade, new moon, wonder, explain, each, November, cents, members and anti.

Conclusions: I love bridges having written the book A Field Guide to Haunted Highways and Bridges. This was another bridge that was way out in nowhere-land but did have much more vehicular traffic than Air Tight Bridge. There were a number of possible visual sighting viewed during our visit as well as the amazing X-Cam SLS system footage of someone apparently hanging from the bridge.

Even though I have a phobia for bridges, and this is coupled at night when I can’t really see where I’m at, it was an amazing place and I wish that I could have walked farther done the structure for additional experiments. This was hampered unfortunately but the many cars that were crossing the bridge during our expedition. A more thorough investigation of this location with additional IR cameras, supplemental IR illumination and more equipment is definitely in order sometime in the future!

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