The Legend of monkey Jack
THE LEGEND OF MONKEY JACK
Johnny pulled his Chevy Bel Air up onto the creaking, wooden platforms , shut off the lights
and parked the car dead center on Ratliff Bridge. Donna was busy trying to tune in
WOWO's radio station out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana and finally heard the familiar voice of her
"This is Marv Hunter, your late night DJ at W-O-W-O, WOWO Ft. Wayne....50, 0000 watts
serving 82 counties" ...and this...is Sleepwalk.
The smooth, musical stylings of Santo and Johnny's instrumental song "Sleepwalk" drifted
out of the car speakers and into the dark summer night where two lovers parked for a little
romance after seeing a double feature at the Sky Drome Theater in town.
The Sky Drome in New Castle was the second hottest spot for teenagers and youthful
lovers, bested only by Ratcliff Bridge located in the center of the seemingly endless
country road, also known as Lovers Lane.
The feature movie Johnny and Donna saw that night was Raintree County starring
Elizabeth Taylor as the insane, but beautiful and irresistible southern belle "Susana
Drake", with Montgomery Clift as the protagonist and Rantree County hero John
Shawnessy. The movie was based on Henry County where Johnny and Donna were born
and raised. An also where Monkey Jack Bridge stood for decades.
The second movie was a horror film called "The Tingler".
Donna had buried her head on Johnny's shoulder for most of The Tingler. She hated
horror movies and would not have agreed to stay if nor for Johnny's love of them, and his
particular fondness of any movie with Vincent Price. She was thrilled when the movie
ended and her mind drifted back to the magical Raintree County.
Now parked on Ratcliff Bridge, they sat under the far reaching branches of a great oak
tree thick with summer foliage that almost completely shielded them from the moonlit sky.
A look in front and behind the car would reveal nearly complete darkness save for the soft
golden light that illuminated the endless rows of golden-topped corn stalks that lined the
country lane and were measurably much more than the "knee-high by July" height now in
the late August of 1959.
Since leaving the drive-in, Donna had started the cute at first, but now increasingly
annoying practice of speaking like the southern Susannah Drake character from the movie
they had just seen. "Johnny...can we stop and get a Cherry Coke", "Johnny can we go for
a drive in the country", Johnny darling, why are you stopping here on this rickety old
bridge", she said with a sweet voiced, slow southern drawl.
"Would you quit that Donna" said Johnny as he reached for the door handle.
"Why John Shawnessy" she said, "Wherever are you going?".
"I have to use the bathroom" said Johnny. "And stop calling me John Shawnessy you goof".
"That's not how John Shawnessy would talk" she said with her girlish grin.
"Okay" Johnny said, half amused and half irritated. "Excuse me Madam as I have some
business to attend to in this here cornfield".
They both laughed as Johnny got out of the car.
Johnny walked a few rows deep into the cornfield to relieve himself. He could still hear the
music, muffled now, from the car radio, but he also noticed just how quiet it was out in the
vast moonlit field. It was like a vacuum of silence. Calm and peaceful, but at the same time
a little disturbing. Then something broke the silence. A faint "CLINK" sound or maybe a
"CLANK". It sounded like it came from the old metal bridge, but was gone so quickly that he
wondered if he had actually heard anything. Still....it was unnerving. Johnny hurried up and
there was more than a bit of urgency in his step as he headed back to the bridge and the
safety of his car.
Once inside the car, Johnny casually, (at least he hoped if Donna noticed, it appeared
casual) locked the door behind him. Donna hadn't noticed as she was fixing her make-up
in the visor-mirror. Donna slid over closer to Johnny and he put his arm around her. She
was wearing the white sweater that he loved so much. The odd sound and disturbing
feeling he had felt before had dissipated.
"This is nice" said Donna and Johnny agreed.
Marv Hunter was back on the microphone at WOWO....."this one goes out to Bobby from
Cindy in Fairmount, Indiana...Cindy says it's Bobby's favorite new song.....so here is
another Bobby, this one Bobby Darin with his new smash hit Mack the Knife coming to you
from Marv Hunter at W-O-W-O....."
"This is such a crazy song, but Bobby Darin is the living end...I love him" Donna said.
"I love you too Johnny", she said and leaned over and gave Johnny a kiss.
At that moment, there was a loud screeching sound at the right rear of the car. It sounded
like metal on metal and it caused both Johnny and Donna to jump in their seat.
"What the hell was that?" asked Johnny, his heart racing from the huge adrenaline rush.
He made the motion of reaching for the door handle and Donna stopped him.
"Don't go out there..let's just go.....now....please!"
"No way" said Johnny...."something just scratched the hell out of my car!"
Donna quickly turned and locked her car door. "Let's just go..let's just go now. You can
look at the car when we get back into town".
In the ensuing silence, Bobby Darin was singing on the radio....."Someone's sneaking
'round the corner...tell me could that someone be Old Mack the Knife?".
Then another sound....the same loud screeching, only this time it seemed to be working it's
way closer and closer to the door on Donna's side of the car. It was a steady, almost
casual, creeping, screeching, metal tearing, teeth grinding sound and it struck blind fear in
both Johny and Donna.
"Johnny..it's that crazy monkey man with a hook for a hand!" "Please let's get out of here."
Johnny had heard the story of the psychopathic killer who preyed on young couples. Who
hadn't? The guy supposedly stalked and killed teenagers who were out parking on
deserted country roads. He started out strangling his victims, but one couple had escaped
his attack. The young man had rolled the psycho's hand up in the window and had driven
off, supposedly mangling the murderer's hand, leaving a blood streaked stain on his car
window. Lot's of locals had seen that gruesome stain, but none really believed the story
the couple told. They thought it was a joke.
After that the psychopath had supposedly created a "hook hand" prosthesis and used it to
kill his victims in an even more horrible fashion. The killer got his nickname because of the
way he crept up to the cars of his victims, crouched down low to the ground.
Only the one couple had escaped alive and the boy remembered seeing something
"ape-like" through his rear view mirror,creeping it's way up to his car door, an image he
said he would never forget.
No one knew where the name "Jack" came from, most likely from the famed Jack the
Ripper, but everyone knew the story was not real....right?
It grew, like campfire stories do, and each time it was retold, a new and even more
gruesome detail emerged.
Pure urban legend, just stuff to scare the girls. But now Johnny was becoming a believer
He was being converted and Donna with him.
The screeching stopped.
Johnny and Donna heard the 'thud' and saw the horrific image at the exact same time. A
face slammed against the passenger side window. Black eyes and wild hair. The
monkey-man thing stared into the car, a gaping mouthed grin of the insane across it's face
with thick saliva drooling down it's chin and slowly cascading down the window. The 'thing"
struggled with the door handle, jerking it so violently that it rocked the Chevy on the bridge
in the dark but moonlit night, while Bobby Darin blissfully unaware of the horror that was
taking place on Ratliff Bridge on a back road of central Indiana that hot August night
closed out his newest hit song.
"Look out old Mackie is back!"
Johnny's reaction was pure reflex....in a blind panic his foot stomped on the gas pedal.
Donna was now as far over on Johnny's side of the car as she could be. The Chevy spun
out in the loose gravel and when the tires finally caught hold of the wooden plank, then
shot off the bridge, and flew like a rocket down the road, leaving a huge dust trail and
whatever was outside the car quickly behind.
Turning onto Seven Hills Road, Johnny was unaware of anything except the loud screams
of Donna and her trembling body up against him.
It was Donna who spoke first, tears streaming down her face, "Oh my God Johnny, that
was him. That was Monkey Jack!"
"It was" said Johnny, I think it really was!".
"Take me home and we'll call the police" she said.
"NO! No police. Who's going to believe a couple of kids?"
"Just go inside and don't tell your parents. We'll talk about it tomorrow".
Johnny pulled up the driveway at Donna's house.
He got out of the car, his legs trembling a little under him at first, then some strength
returned. He went around to open the car door for Donna.
Donna watched him all the way round the car, turning her body as to not lose sight of him.
When he rounded the corner of the back end of the car his eye caught the sight of the
horrid gash in the car. His gaze followed the silver-colored, deep scratch in the car
scraping a jagged line through the maroon red of his cherished Chevy, from the fin up
to......then he almost went down with trembling legs again. Johnny's face went ghastly white.
"What is it Johnny? What?"
"Just get out of the car Donna. Get out on my side of the car. Go straight inside and don't
Donna did as Johnny asked and got out on the driver side, but once outside on the other
side of the car she could not help but look back.
Dangling from the door handle on the passenger side of the car was a hook! A bloody,
silver hook! At the base of the hook was a blob of blood and flesh. Long stringy
tentacle-looking things dangled down and stuck to the side of the Chevy, with a trail of red
running down and back toward the rear of the car, following right along the painted flames
that Johnny had stenciled onto the car himself and was so proud of.
They stood there in silence, hearts racing Marv Hunter was again on the radio. "This is
Marv Hunter and the time is 4:00 a.m.and that's all for tonight folks. Thanks for tuning in
and if you're listening in the car......... Thanks for the ride!"
As told to and recounted (and embellished) by Mark Sean Orr
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Mark Sean Orr®
Monkey Jack is the name locals have given to a long country road near New Castle,
Indiana and the bridge on that road that spans the once mighty Blue River. It was originally
known as Ratliff Road, but the name "Monkey Jack" is how most remember it, and the
name it is since known, by lovers of horror, folklore and campfire tales.
The road is blocked off now with barricades and the bridge is gone except for few planks
of the wooden flooring that refuse to give way to time and the elements.
Many different versions of this tale have been told throughout the years. This is the one
that my generation heard and believe to be as close to the truth as any.
So let's step back to the 1950's where two young lovers have parked on Ratliff bridge on a
beautiful night in Henry County the year 1959.
Great story. Not quite the same as I remember as I heard many different versions. Of
course I didn't start hanging out there and at seven hills till 69 or 70 so I'm sure it changed
in translation many times over. Thanks for the memories.
Traveled Monkey Jack lots of times.
Pay toll to the troll at the troll bridge , there was a smaller cement bridge before Monkey Jack
and we would toss pocket change as toll for the big bridge or the troll would get ya. It was
always fun to pass along the story to newbies and bring them along to scare them. No
Halloween was complete without a trip to Monkey Jack.
I would watch a movie about this.
I should write a screenplay for 'Monkey Jack' Mark Sean Orr. A friend tells me there are plans
to replace the bridge deck.
That could be in the oak grove movie.. i would watch it too but i would have to cover my eyes
and look through my fingers, coz i'm still a big chicken! they use to scare the crap out of me.
I've head this story. It's still as creepy as I remember!!!
~Linda S. Cummings
This brings back a few long forgotten memories!
~Gale A Poor
Had some good times there lol.
Karen Williams .........oh yeah!
I was to busy cruising Broad, lol. Had never heard of it till I got on here and then kept asking
why I had never heard of it...lol, must not have dated enough...
Yes. We remember Monkey Jack. Gene said he had a regular parking space there. Lol.
~Gene & Debbie Jones
|Monkey Jack Bridge in Henry County, Indiana. The stuff legends are made of. This photo
was taken in 1977. Whoever Brad is.....you're busted.....ha.
Photo from Richard Ratcliff's "A Henry County Sampler"
|Ratliff (Monkey Jack) Bridge in Henry County, Indiana.
Photo by Kenny Fields
As recounted by Mark Sean Orr