|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.