Photo: Fred Andersson

During very special circumstances, I once passed a strange man on a bridge. He was short, chubby; his pants were huge (it looked like they went all the way up to his chest), and his bulging eyes studied me as I walked by. In his hands, he held a fishing rod, and I remember wondering to myself if it was even possible to catch any fish at that particular spot. I met him two more times, once inside a store, and he looked at me like we knew each other. The third time was late in the evening, and he was peeking up behind some boxes in the center of Märsta, where I live.

I often think about him, who he was, and where he is now. I haven’t seen him since, but maybe that’s just the point. A strange, almost otherworldly meeting on a bridge somewhere at the outskirts of our small town. I’ve touched upon the subject before, the liminal spaces of our world. Bridges are the perfect example, a path between two goals, leading over the dark depths (and sometimes not so deep at all) of the unknown. I’ve always had a deep respect for water and what might be in there, especially since Peter, a British guy who took care of us kids in the sect where I once lived, once joked that a man had drowned at the beach we were visiting and we should be careful not to put our feet into his rotten, soft belly. Peter, by the way, later was revealed to be a pedophile and is long gone.

Sorry, bridges. That’s the subject. This is one of those texts I write in a stream-of-consciousness style. Nothing is planned, and I never know where it leads. And by bringing up the writing style of stream of consciousness, it reminds me of another stream, the stream of water that journeys under bridges. The water can be dark and muddy; it can be clear as day — sometimes it moves forward, sometimes it has stagnated, making it overgrown with algae — that slowly suffocates the life within it. Much like our own consciousness. These liminal spaces, according to me, are places where everything can happen when crossing the stream — so near and yet so far away. The liminal space bridge keeps us safe from what’s underneath, or at least separates us from it. It gives us an opportunity to reflect and be introspective, all while looking down at what’s below us.

The bridge as a liminal space is a way for us to travel safely and still explore life, and maybe even experience something strange, without interfering with civilization in general. The bridge is there to help us overcome stuff but also move us forward to our intended — or unknown — destination. To me, the bridge symbol always makes me think of adventure — what’s on the other side? What will meet me? Or greet me? But not all bridges present in the realm of the unknown and the paranormal lead to self-discovery and fun and games. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the most famous bridge in paranormal history must be the Silver Bridge, Point Pleasant, West Virginia. While the story itself, with Mothman acting as a bad omen leading up to the bridge disaster where forty-six people lost their lives in 1967, is highly exaggerated, it’s still an interesting metaphor for how the search for the unknown can lead to death and destruction. Looking at Mothman as a harbinger of death and bad luck, a winged misdirection which leads to the dreaded rabbit hole of fourth-dimensional pareidolia and far-fetched pattern-seeking, he (or she) works as a warning to not go too far. The liminal space can be dangerous if you expect it to be dangerous, at least in minds controlled by apophenia.

While I’m skeptical about Mothman’s connection to the Silver Bridge collapse, I do believe that something was going on at the time. Maybe the presence of such an iconic bridge, in a land of mystery, helped those with premonitions sense what was coming. No matter what, the combination of Mothman sightings and the bridge collapse created its own mythology, and it’s here to stay. Another mysterious bridge incident happened in Sweden in 1981. I write about it in more detail in my new book “Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden,” but here’s the basic setup:

“Our three friends were laughing and enjoying their trip when they arrived at a part of the road built on an embankment. There’s water on both sides, and with a shorter bridge connecting to the island of Solö. The road is pretty narrow, and when they noticed a Volvo on the other side, they slowed down and pulled into the side of the road for a few seconds to let it pass. For a moment, the view of the approaching car was blocked by the slightly elevated top of the embankment and bridge. They waited, but the Volvo didn’t show up. After a few moments, they started the car and drove slowly up the narrow road and onto the bridge. No Volvo was to be seen. The time was 6:30 PM, and it was still bright outside, as usual during the summer months. Afraid there had been an accident, they searched the bridge to see if there was any broken fence, but it was intact. They drove around in the area for a while, still looking for the car, and found nothing that would indicate either an accident or a hidden parking spot. All of them saw the approaching vehicle very clearly, brown with a blue roof, and the sudden disappearance of it shook them to the core. There was no trace of it! Did reality pull a prank on them?”

There’s more to this incident, of course, but the presence of a bridge on the way to the Stockholm archipelago, something weird and extraordinary happening on the first day of vacation, sets up a mystery that until this day is unsolved. Did they encounter a rift in time and space, or something else? The thing is, of course, that the bridge is central to the story, and it leads to an even bigger mystery — involving the same witnesses and the disappearing car. This wasn’t just a normal journey, a traditional trip to yet another Swedish summer vacation — it became a path into high strangeness.

To be honest, I’m not totally sure where this text leads. One thing is for sure, bridges are an important part of our lives — they can be small wooden ones or big concrete monsters. I’m sure most of you agree that the sight of a bridge causes a sense of awe — if it’s big — or magic if it’s small and surrounded by nature. When I’m out walking and encounter a bridge, I always cross it, stop for a while, and look at the stream slithering through the landscape. Sometimes it happens I’ll grab a stick or a leaf, throw it into the water, and watch it float away on new adventures. In my imagination, someone else picks it up, does the same, and so it moves on through the world. Like fragments of our imagination. Maybe that stick inspires someone else to new ideas — or make a fishing rod out of it?

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of four books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats.