September 06, 2009

The Haunted Hoosac Tunnel

Yesterday Tony and I drove out to visit Mass MoCA, the contemporary art museum in North Adams. We saw some good art, and had a tasty lunch at Brew Ha Ha, a coffee shop/diner across the street.

A sunny day in North Adams. Does supernatural terror lurk nearby?

North Adams is also home to the Hoosac Tunnel, a 4.75 mile railroad tunnel under the Hoosac Mountains that connects North Adams with the neighboring town of Florida.

It took many years to build the tunnel. Construction began in 1851, and was completed on Thanksgiving Day, 1873. It also took many lives - 195 people were killed during its construction.

Two particularly grisly incidents stand out:

  • In 1865, a demolitions expert named Ringo Kelley accidentally set off an explosion early, killing two co-workers, Ned Brinkman and Billy Nash. Kelley left town quickly. Exactly one year later, his body was found at the same spot where Brinkman and Nash had died. He had been strangled, and though the police determined he died between midnight and 3:00 a.m., they found no footprints or other clues. Creepy.

  • Two years latter, an accident involving a thousand foot shaft claimed the lives of thirteen men. The shaft had been excavated to lower workers into the center of the tunnel, but an explosion at the top sent a rain of three-hundred sharpened drill bits and other debris onto the men at the bottom. The shaft then flooded with water. When rescuers recovered their bodies the following year they saw that while most had been killed by drill bits and drowning, others survived by building a raft, only to slowly asphyxiate or starve. Gruesome.

In addition, 30 people have died or disappeared in the tunnel since it was completed. In 1875, a railroad employee fled shrieking from the tunnel and disappeared. In 1973, a man entered the North Adams end of the tunnel on foot, but never emerged and has not been seen since.

A beautiful view from the mountain above the Hoosac Tunnel.

It's because of stories like these that the Hoosac Tunnel is considered the most haunted locale in New England. There are stories of headless ghosts (a New England favorite), ghosts in mining gear, glowing blue phantoms, and small black whispering shapes. The first ghost was reported in 1872, and the most recent in 2007.

The 1872 report: "At first I believed it was a workman with a lantern. Yet, as the light drew closer, it took on a strange blue color and... the form of a human being without a head....The headless form came so close that I could have reached out and touched it, but I was too terrified to move"(from Joseph Citro's Weird New England.)

The 2007 report: "Very distinct in character by now were two glowing objects in human form moving towards us. We stared motionless as the figures came closer, then the spell was broken by the sound of footsteps in the gravel. My partners had seen more than enough and were rapidly moving towards the safety of daylight"(from Thomas D'Agostino's Haunted Massachusetts).

The Hoosac Tunnel entrance. It's dangerous and illegal to enter!

On our way back from North Adams Tony and I stopped by the Florida entrance to the tunnel. To avoid becoming two more victims of the tunnel (whether by ghost or train), we didn't go in. We didn't see any spirits, but a cold dank wind emanating from the tunnel could be felt hundreds of feet away. I confess, it was a little freaky.

Departing the Hoosac Tunnel. Just standing outside was creepy enough.

A good site for information about the Hoosac Tunnel is Marc Howe's Website, which describes its history, construction and ghosts in great detail.


Anonymous said...

The most haunted part of New\England ,as everyone knows, is the Bridgewater Triangle, being the Hocomock swamp, and the Freetown state Forest as the apex of the haunts

Anonymous said...


Peter Muise said...

Thanks for the comments!

I think the Hoosac Tunnel has the higher number of traditional ghosts, while the Bridgewater has the higher number of things like giant cats, Bigfoot sightings and UFOs. I guess I'd need a haunt-o-meter to measure the two places to see which is more haunted!

If I saw a pukwudgie, I would indeed be filled with fear.

Rich Clabaugh said...

I had not heard about this tunnel before, thanks for posting Peter!

Unknown said...

If anyone ever goes to visit this, please please PLEASE do not go inside the tunnel. It is an active rail line and trains do go through it every single day. A lot of people go in and you are risking your life by doing so.