Graphic by Abigail Potter / MTSU Sidelines
Many stories around town describing haunted buildings, landmarks and cemeteries depict spirits, ghosts and strange sounds from unknown sources. The story of the “Monkey Woman Bridge” adds a flair of its own: a hybrid monkey and woman who would disturb anyone who spent too much time around a specific old bridge in Smyrna.
State historian Marty Luffman, who specializes in Smyrna history, said he gets asked about the story a lot. Luffman said that while the story is “nothing but a legend,” it’s a fun story to tell.
The story unfolds in a number of ways depending on who is telling it, but Luffman’s account describes a “woman on all fours” who was “like a little spider monkey.” She appeared from under the bridge when couples would escape there in the dead of night to spend some personal time together.
Luffman said there was a cemetery nearby couples would drive to to make out on. The bridge, which was about a hundred feet away, housed the monkey woman.
“As legend went, you would be sitting out there making out with your girlfriend, and the windows would start steaming up, so you would roll the windows down to get a lot of fresh air in your car,” Luffman said. “Next thing you know, the guy would be sitting there laying back his head with his arm hanging out the window, and he’d just be tapping the side of the car, and the little woman would come up and crawl up his arm, to try to get in the car.
Next, the story goes, the person being harassed by the creature on his arm would slap the side of the car to try and shake the monkey woman off. Thus, anyone traveling to the bridge slapped the side of their cars, not to incite the monkey woman, but rather to shake her off the person’s arm.
While there are no known documented photos of the acclaimed monkey woman, one slice of credibility comes from the well known Murfreesboro journalist, Ed Bell. According to Frank Caperton, President of the Rutherford County Historical Society, Bell allegedly visited the bridge to discover for himself what happened.
Caperton said that during the ‘50s, Bell visited the bridge with his wife and had a bizarre experience of his own.
“He’s the journalist who (said) that something jumped on the hood of his car, banging on the windows,” Caperton said. However, Caperton acknowledged the story of Bell’s run-in with the monkey woman has likely been embellished over the years.
In addition, Bell “may have been nipping at the bottle a little bit, like he was known to do,” Caperton said.
The story continues when a construction crew allegedly discovered the remains of a woman near the bridge when the crew set out to move the bridge.
In 1976, Jesse Messick, a figure now known in Murfreesboro for curating the city’s annual Uncle Dave Macon Days music festival, was helping to build Cannonsburgh Village. According to Caperton, a construction company had planned to raze the bridge in Smyrna. The company manager told Messick he could have the bridge, and Messick accepted the offer.
Construction workers were “going up and down Stewarts Creek, and they came upon what looked like a camp,” according to Caperton. It was at the camp where the workers discovered the remains, the story goes.
Little else is known about the ‘monkey woman bridge.’ In the years since, the road which passes over Stewart’s Creek via the infamous bridge has been rerouted. One Mile Lane replaced the road, and a concrete bridge sits not far from the first bridge’s location. The old location of the bridge is now on a tract of private property, but the legend will likely never disappear.
This story originally ran in MTSU Sidelines’ September 2017 print edition. For more information, contact Editor-in-Chief Brinley Hineman at firstname.lastname@example.org.