San Francisco’s Haunted Golden Gate Bridge!

The bridge with the highest number of suicides in the world is located in San Francisco. Yes, it is the Golden Gate Bridge. At a cost of $35 million, the 1.7 mile structure was opened on May 27th, 1937. About ten weeks later, Harold B Wobler left his job on a barge, strolled onto the bridge, talked with a tourist, and then jumped over the side, becoming the first of currently well over a thousand suicides.

The Golden Gate Bridge is named so because it crosses the Golden Gate Strait, or the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The color of the bridge is actually classified as orange vermillion and is often called “International Orange”. Construction began in 1933 and due to special safety nets, only eleven people died during the construction. Ten of them were lost in one incident when a piece of scaffolding broke through the safety net. Suspended under the entire length of the bridge, the safety net was mostly unheard of in construction at the time. It saved nineteen people during construction. These men are now known as the Halfway to Hell Club.

About every two weeks, one person jumps off the bridge. The east side, looking at the city, is more popular for committing suicide. The first survivor was number 35, 22 year old Cornelia Van Ireland in 1941. As of 2006 only 26 people have survived. In 1988, Sarah Rutledge Birnbaum became what is likely the only person to have jumped from the bridge twice. She did not survive to make a third attempt. 1993 saw Roy Larson Raymond, founder and former owner of Victoria Secret commit suicide on the bridge. This was eleven years after he sold the company. Rumor has it that in the early nineties, even a dog ran out onto the bridge and jumped over the side. Its final path through the city was documented on its trek to take its own life.

Newspapers use to report the death toll, until the number grew close to 1000. Then the official death toll was stopped in order to avoid fame seekers from trying to be the 1000th person. The unofficial total is now over 1300 victims. Jumpers reach an estimated 75 to 80 miles per hour before crashing into the water below. The few survivors all went in feet first. Several suicides in 2004 were caught on tape during the filming of Eric Steele’s documentary The Bridge. Additionally, it is a proven fact that people have passed over the much higher San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge on their way to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. In the seventies, a morbid group called the Suicide Club held lavish parties every time a suicide occurred.

All of these deaths have obviously left their scars on the beautiful bridge. Some witnesses report that they can hear screams trailing off in the distance during fog shrouded nights. Although pedestrian traffic on the bridge is restricted at night, bicycles are still allowed onto the bridge.

And of course then there’s the ghost ship. In 1853, the Tennessee, a two masted clipper ship ran across rocks in the fog near the Golden Gate Strait. Now it passes ghostly under the Golden Gate Bridge, reportably unmanned, sailing through the fog. In November 1942, the USS Kennison passed by the ghost ship. Sailors and crew on board reported seeing the ship, watching its wake, but nothing was registered by the ship’s radar. The Tennessee seems to always appear on fog shrouded nights, its decks are always deserted, and it fades away about a minute after first appearing.

Ghosts not with standing, the Golden Gate Bridge is able to sway twenty seven feet in order to bear the winds which can reach one hundred miles per hour. The two gigantic cables consist of 80,000 miles of steel wire which is enough to take the strands and encircle the earth at the equator three times. The concrete in the piers and anchorages could pave a five foot wide sidewalk from San Francisco to New York.


The Golden Gate Bridge connects more than San Francisco and Marin County; it connects the world of the living to that of the dead. Since its opening in 1937, the 4,200-foot suspension bridge that spans San Francisco Bay has played host to on average 25 suicides per year, more than 1,000 suicides total.

Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point
The drop from the bridge is 222 feet at low tide. This is the equivalent to a 19 story building. Despite this, at least twelve people have jumped and survived. Ironically, people who deliberately jump are more likely to survive than those who accidentally fall off the bridge because they are more relaxed. Bridge officials say that most suicides try to be considerate of others and park their cars in the parking lot before walking to the middle of the bridge and jumping. They also say almost everyone leaps from the Eastern side of the Bridge. Perhaps this is to take one last look at the San Francisco skyline.

After a successful suicide it’s up to the Coast Guard, if the body landed in the water, and the Bridge personnel, if it lands on the ground or in the moat surrounding the South tower, to reclaim the body.

Moat surrounding tower
Often this is not easy as bodies can sink quickly or come apart on the rocks. The most macabre aspect of this is perhaps the Bridge personnel’s use of a crab pot and grappling hook to scoop up the body parts. Sometimes the crab pot comes back with crabs as well. Drawn to the now lifeless flesh, the crabs first consume the eyeballs then make their way to the soft skin of the cheeks.

The Bay’s deadly pull, however, predates the bridge and its jumpers. In 1853, the steamer SS Tennessee disappeared into the dense fog of Golden Gate Strait. Running afoul of the Gate’s notorious current and rocks she sank quickly (Tennessee Cove is named in her honor) only to rise again as a phantom. The phantom ship has been sighted by credible witnesses over the years, often passing below the bridge, its deck unmanned, only to fade into the fog minutes later.

On rare occasions, the SS Tennessee has passed other vessels plying the gate. One such incident occurred in November 1942, when crew members of the USS Kennison fixed their gaze on the outmoded SS Tennessee. Curiosity became amazement, amazement became bafflement: The strange ship left a wake, but nothing registered on the destroyer’s radar.

USS Kennison reported “Ghost Ship”
The Tennessee isn’t the only ship to go down in the treacherous waters. Dozens have run aground or sunk in the straight. In 1901, the steamer SS City of Rio de Janeiro hit rock off Fort Point. The commotion caused her 200 passengers to rush to the deck. Passengers fought for seats in the lifeboats only to overcrowd and sink them. Fist fights broke out over life jackets. In less than 18 minutes she was inundated by the Pacific’s frigid waters with a loss of 129 souls. Shaken survivors clung to debris and struggled to shore as the hiss of escaping steam and the screams of the dieing gave way to the still silence of the coastal fog.

The Golden Gate’s cold waters have swallowed more than sailors and suicides. On Feb. 17, 1937, 10 bridge workers rode a falling scaffold through a safety net. On foggy nights when the wind howls through the cables, one can almost hear the ghastly cries of men plummeting to their deaths.

Throughout its history the Golden Gate has beckoned travelers as a symbol of freedom, of new opportunity, of hope. Does the Gate beckon the dead as well?


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).