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The Ghosts of Brooklyn Bridge

Local residents debate the dark side of an iconic city structure.

The Brooklyn Bridge is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in New York City.

Yet, for at least one local resident, this sought-after structure also carries with it a darker legacy.

"I remember walking the bridge with my father when I was a kid and he would say, 'If you listened closely, you could make out the ghosts of all the men trapped inside of it, scratching on the stone, calling for help,'" said Jack Mintz, a Brooklyn native and longtime resident of Fort Greene.

Though, Mintz was quick to point out that some Brooklyn Bridge history buffs might choose not to wallow in the bridge's not-so-picture-postcard past.

"It's one of the least publicized or acknowledged facts about the [Brooklyn] Bridge. Even so, some 50 people are buried beneath it," Mintz said. 

Just don't tell that to Alex Romero, a civil engineer and self-proclaimed bridge expert.

"There’s absolutely no proof that anyone was actually buried alive inside of the bridge. It's more spooky lore than fact," Romero said.

Although Romero did concede that over the 13-year period it took to build the span, there were a number of unfortunate accidents that claimed the lives of several workers.

"The most notable was John Augustus Roebling, a well known bridge designer of that time who developed a tetanus infection as a result of an injury he suffered while doing a survey for the bridge," he said.

Romero also quickly pointed out that there were a significant number of worker deaths attributed to 'Caisson Disease,' a decompression sickness today commonly referred to as The Bends.

“There's no official number because the builders of the bridge didn't keep those records. But a safe estimate would be between 20-30 people," Romero said.

But as the great debate continued, there was one thing both men could agree on.

“The Brooklyn Bridge is perhaps the greatest marvel of the late 19th century," Romero said.

On this point, Mintz found some common ground.

"When you look at it, and think about what it took to actually build the bridge, it's simply awe inspiring,” Mintz added.

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