New Bridge at Devilís Hollow

 

                                    As printed in the Auburn Evening Star, July 31, 1984

 

                                        Will new bridge ruin Devilís Hollow legend?  

 

                                                                 By Mark Dollins

 

Dark, winding roads, a house on a hill, an eerie moonglow above a flowing creek and lots of old, gnarled trees:  this is the stuff of which good scary stories are made.

 

Itís the stuff that helped make Devilís Hollow, an area just south of the DeKalb County Line on Old Auburn Road, an age-old legend to many DeKalb County residents. 

 

Tales of murder, suicide and secret messages have flowed from this place for gener-ations.  It has been home to a 100-year old, rustic bridge that crosses Cedar Creek.  But there is something different at Devilís Hollow these days.

 

On July 20, Allen County officials dedicated a replacement for the old steel bridge Ė a focal point of the hollow and its legend Ė with a new, $460,000 structure, a beautiful, streamlined bridge made of heavy timber and concrete piers.

 

Allen County Commissioner, Richard M. Regedanz commented favorable on how the bridge blends in with the neighboring Izaak Walton League nature preserve.  In changing the appearance of the old bridge, though, some may wonder if part of the Devilís Hollow legend also has been altered.

 

Teenagers and adults alike have, for years, traversed the span of the old steel bridge Ė mostly at night, reports say.  Local historians and even officials from Indiana University have studied the mysterious tales that surround the area.  One such investigator is John A. Gutowski, a professor at I.U. in Fort Wayne.  In 1970 he and his American folklore class conducted a brief study on Devilís Hollow.

 

Gutowski and his class collected testimony from almost a dozen local historians and nearby residents.  The investigators discovered both similarities and discrepancies in the story of Devilís Hollow.  Among the common findings: 

 

            The focal character in the legend is an old man (insane, Nazi or a man with a

            Hook in hand) who lived in a hilltop house.

 

            The man murdered his wife (and child) or engaged in sabotage

 

            Because of guilt, grief (or for no reason) the man committed suicide by  hang-

            ing himself from the bridge (tree).

 

Interviews conducted with local residents produced simple explanations for several parts of the legend.  The mysterious fence that contains the secret message, one informant said, was built in that fashion only because the builder liked the design.  Another said it was the cheapest way of constructing the fence.

 

The eternal light that shines from the house is to keep vandals or mischievous youths at bay, another informant explained. 

 

Whatever the explanation, people continue to visit Devilís Hollow year after year.  They visit, many times, just to be scared.  One popular stunt used to be driving a car onto the old bridge and then coming to an abrupt stop, which triggered moans and groans from the bridge itself.  While the bridge may have a different look these days, the hollow will still hold memories of days gone by.  And it may, for some, still hold those supernatural qualities that make it a local legend. 

 

After all, scary stories are made of the stuff that is found at Devilís Hollow.