Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New England Ghost Stories: The Hoosac Tunnel

The Hoosac Tunnel (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(If you're here for Melissa Maygrove's Follow Fest, thanks for visiting! My post is here. I have had an unexpectedly busy week and haven't been able to make all the Follow Fest rounds yet, but will get to everyone by the end of the week, I promise!)

As I wrote in last week's post about The Martha's Vineyard Ghost Ship, I am counting down to the release of my novel The Ghosts of Aquinnah in December by sharing stories of haunted places, ghosts, and unexplained phenomena that catch my interest.

This week I learned about the Hoosac Tunnel, which is a 4.75 mile long railroad tunnel that passes through the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

The tunnel was built between 1848 and 1874 and 193 people were killed during its construction. This led to the tunnel being known as "The Bloody Pit."

The most infamous tragedy that occurred during the construction of the tunnel was the central shaft accident in October, 1867.  A lighted candle in the hoist of the shaft ignited naphtha fumes and triggered an explosion. The hoist burst into flames and collapsed into the shaft, trapping thirteen men who were working more than 500 feet below the surface. The explosion also destroyed the water pumps and filled the shaft with water.

A few of the dead miners surfaced in the rising water, but some were not found until nearly a year later, when they were discovered on a makeshift raft they had built to float on the rising water. These men had survived the initial explosion and fire, but had eventually suffocated from the deadly fumes.

From this point on, workers reported eerie moaning deep within the tunnel. And some years later, a drilling superintendent and a physician visited the tunnel and reported a dim light which turned a strange blue color and took on the form of a headless human being as it came towards them. Both men insisted the temperature dropped to an icy chill as the figure hovered before them and finally floated off towards the shaft.

In October, 1874, not long before the tunnel was finally completed, a local hunter vanished. He was found three days later stumbling along the banks of the Deerfield river. He claimed that strange voices had lured him into the tunnel and ghostly figures had greeted him inside. The hunter insisted that one of the figures had grabbed his rifle and beat him with it. The man was dazed and in a state of shock, and had no rifle with him. His rifle was never found, and the hunter had no memory of how he ended up at the river.

The following year, a fire tender drove a wagon full of firewood into the tunnel late at night, only to come careening out a short time later. The wagon and the team of horses were found three miles from the entrance to the tunnel, but the driver was never seen again.

Honestly, these last two tales sound like they could easily be about men who were drunk or mentally ill, or perhaps victims of very human gangs of thugs. But then, who knows? 

Stories of ghostly encounters at the Hoosac Tunnel continued into the present day and visitors still report shrieks, moans, and howling winds coming from inside.

I've been in western Massachusetts many times and had never heard of the Hoosac Tunnel before, but I can't say I'd be in any hurry to go through it any time soon. I don't like tunnels in general as I feel claustrophobic when going through them, but this is one I'd definitely want to avoid.

If nothing else, the story of the Hoosac Tunnel illustrates the horrific working conditions for miners in those years. That alone is frightening to imagine. And with so many men meeting such a terrifying end there, I could understand if some angry spirits were still lurking around the Hoosac.

Thanks to everyone who has already signed up for my cover reveal for The Ghosts of Aquinnah next week! If you'd like to participate and share the cover any time between 9/30 and 10/5 please sign up below.


  1. Sounds eerie. A lot of people died building it, so any of them could be haunting. I don't mind tunnels, but one that long would bother me.

  2. I'm not a big fan of tunnels, either, especially after I first read that scene in King's The Stand. Still gives me the creeps.

  3. *shivers* That's creepy sounding.

  4. I think I'd just drive around this one. :)

    All signed up for the cover reveal! Can't wait to see it. :D

  5. Okay, so like... my skin is crawling O_O

    I'm not a fan of tunnels, as I too, am claustrophobic but I definitely don't see myself visiting this one either.

    If I'm anywhere close, I'll just reinforce the thought that those men were probably indeed drunk lol... fingers crossed?

  6. Such a sad and creepy story. I'd never want to be a miner.

  7. @Alex, that's what I think, after so many people were lost there it does seem possible.

    @Madeline, oh yeah, that terrified me!

    @Donna, isn't it?

    @Melissa, very! :D

    @EJ, me too LOL. And thanks for signing up!

    @SK, yeah, I'd hope so too LOL. Poor guys either way.

    @Sheena-kay, isn't it awful? Even now I feel like miners have to work in such terrible conditions, I can't imagine,

  8. *shudders* I think suffocating would be one of the worst ways to go. Woman, I would love to help with your cover reveal, but the blog is booked. If you want a Writerly Wednesday in January, you're welcome to it.

  9. @Crystal, oh, I would love that! I will email you, thanks for the offer. :)

  10. I'm loving these ghost story posts, Julie. I had to rush right over when I saw the title in my reader. So first, the sadness of the working conditions is horrible. But a little ghostly mystery is intriguing. I'd love to visit it!

  11. My grandpa was a miner back in the day. He would tell me about the canary they carried into the was the gas sensor. If the canary passed out (or sadly died)...then the men beat feet to get to fresh air!

  12. @Julie, I'm so glad you like them! Thanks. :)

    @Elizabeth, oh my gosh, how awful. I can't even imagine what it must have been like in those mines.

  13. I can't imagine working down in a mine or tunnel like that. And then to be trapped for days after an accident...I'd haunt people too, if that happened to me.

    Cool stories.

  14. Such a horrific way to die. Yeah, they'd have definite reasons to haunt.

  15. How frightening! I love it. I could read ghost stories like this all the time. Great inspiration!

  16. Aww, so tragic how those miners died! I wouldn't be surprised if there were any ghosts lingering after something like that. Ghosts or not, though, the Hoosac Tunnel definitely sounds creepy!

  17. Great story - I do love those creepy old mysteries

  18. I love spooky places and the spooky tales. I wouldn't want to go into one either though, but reading about them is fun :)

  19. Hi Julie .. love the name Hoosac ... but the story line - sounds as though some things happened that turned those men 'mad' or made them disappear ..

    Definitely not a place I'd like to be at in the dark and alone ... cheers Hilary

  20. @LG, I agree, if anyone has good reason to haunt it's these poor guys.

    @Nicki, I know, it's too awful to imagine.

    @Christine, thanks!

    @Heather, I agree, I'd never go anywhere near it.

    @David, glad you liked it.

    @Hilary, I like the name too, I read that it was an Algonquian name.

    @Joss, that's just how I feel. :)

  21. Wow! Real world horror story. Progress ain't always pretty.

  22. Love creepy stories.

  23. What a sad Story, and very creepy. Seriously I had goosebumps.

    Oooh I didn't know about the reveal. I signed up. :D Congrats!!!

  24. I remember when you first started writing ghost stories during the second A to Z, and I've been hooked ever since!
    It's horrible what happened to those men in the tunnel regardless of how it happened.


  25. @Cecilia, oh, thanks!! I will get you the info asap.

    @Julie, it really is, so impossible to even imagine. :(

  26. Sounds like a creepy tunnel. It's scary to think about the working conditions people have endured in the past.

  27. Sounds delightfully creepy! I'll take one for the team and go :)

    I imagine that any place where people died violently is probably haunted. That seems to be the way it goes.

    And count me in for the reveal!!

  28. Oh I get claustrophobic too... That on top of ghosts mean I'd avoid that tunnel like the plague. But I do love ghost stories, so thanks for this creep-fest, Julie. :)

    Shah, X

  29. Wow, Julie,

    This was a very haunting story. I totally believe in ghosts and those poor men had a horrific death. They are angry.... I can't say I blame them. Especially the ones that had survived on the raft. Their hopes for survival were strong and then to killed after all.

    VERY excited about your reveal next week. I hope you have an AWESOME weekend!

    I have a new intro and cover reveal today at my blog if you get a chance to drop by. I'd love to see you!

  30. I agree Julie, it's not a place I'd want to visit either. Those poor men.

  31. I'm still catching up with all the Alex and Follow Fest comments, but I'm glad I made it here in time to sign up for your cover reveal.

    I've been in the Berkshires, too. And very happy I've never been in that tunnel!

  32. How creepy! And what a great setting for a short story...

  33. Too claustrophobic, won't find me visiting any time soon!

    My grandfather was a coal miner, he died in a cave in when my father was nine years old.

    Looking forward to your book.

  34. @Tyrean, isn't it? I can't imagine.

    @Samantha, you're the brave one LOL. Thanks for signing up!

    @Shah, I'd totally avoid it too. :D

    @Michael, I'm so excited too, and thanks so much, I hope you've had a great weekend. How awesome you have another reveal, will be there to check it out for sure.

    @Annalisa, yeah, I will steer clear of it.

    @Carol, thanks so much for signing up!

    @Beverly, oh, it would be, wouldn't it? That's a great idea.

    @Yolanda, oh, how awful. Your poor grandfather, it seems miners had it about as rough as you can get. :(

  35. I don't really believe in ghosts, but that sounds super creepy.

    Following you from my new identity.

  36. Oh, good to see you, Tonja! Thanks for the follow. :)

  37. Oh, I love true ghost stories... really enjoyed reading this:)

  38. I am surprised (not really) that the tunnel was kept and maintained. I would climb around the mtn. than go through that tunnel!

  39. @TF, glad you enjoyed it. I love them too.

    @Susan, I agree 100%.


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