This month’s urban legend is a little-known tale from Algoma Township, near Rockford, MI – how are you all liking this dive into the lore of the mitten state? I hope you’re all ready for this one. There isn’t a lot of information on it but it is semi-infamous locally, probably due to the legend having shades of the old Pied Piper fairy tale. That means this post will touch on child death, folks, so feel free to skip this one if you’re not up to reading about that. Let’s explore.
In the woods near Friske Road in Algoma Township is a small, metal footbridge that spans the Rouge River. Calling it a footbridge is perhaps generous – it seems to be barely wide enough to handle one person. The metal is latticed and looks to be repurposed from some other structure. The bridge also does not seem to be at any strategic point – there are no prominent footpaths leading to it or away from it, though perhaps those have been lost to time. Basically, what I’m getting at is that this bridge seems out of place and haphazard. Allegedly, the metal bridge was meant to be a replacement for a stone bridge that once stood in the same spot. So what could be haunting it and scaring so many Michiganders away (or towards) it? Let’s examine the legend as it has come to be known today.
The legend around Hell’s Bridge allegedly dates back to an incident in the middle of the 19th century, though I was unable to find any concrete dates. The story goes that children began to go missing from the nearby town for no discernable reason. While all able-bodied adults joined search parties, their children were left with an older man named Elias Friske, who was deemed trustworthy enough to keep watch over the children while their parents searched for the missing children. Under the guise of keeping the children safe, Friske tied them all together and led them to the bridge. Once they arrived, the children began complaining of a foul smell. Apparently taking maniacal glee in his handiwork, Friske moved some leaves to reveal the bodies of the children that had gone missing. And then, he began to systematically kill the remaining children and dump their bodies in the river.
When the parents returned from searching for the missing children, they discovered their childrens’ bodies floating in the river. Horrified, they followed footsteps in the muddy riverbank until they came upon Friske, covered in blood and claiming that the devil made him commit the murders. The townspeople then used the rope he had used to corral the children to hang him from the bridge. Some iterations of the legend claim that the rope snapped and Friske’s body disappeared in the water, never to be seen again.
Reports of activity at Hell’s Bridge vary widely. Orbs appearing in photos and videos seem to be one of the most widely present phenomena reported visitors. People also report seeing movement out of the corner of their eyes and hearing unexplained rustling or splashing near the bridge. Some even report hearing the screams or laughter of children on occasion. Which all seems pretty harmless, as fat as hauntings go – but there are also more ominous phenomena that some claim to have witnessed. A few visitors have claimed to see red eyes or hear deep laughter from the surrounding woods, and most people who believe in the legend believe these phenomena are manifestations of the evil spirit who had influenced Friske. Other reports also claim to see the faces of the murdered children beneath the water of the Rouge River. All of these phenomena happen late at night, most often around midnight.
So, what do you believe? Are you brave enough to stand on Hell’s Bridge at midnight? Your author is skeptical of the legend and whether there was ever a bridge there in the first place…but a visit is still low on their bucket list. Just in case.