Friday, June 13, 2014

Hoosac Tunnel: The Bloody Pit, Part l

An Engineering Feat

This five-mile railroad tunnel is located in the Berkshire Mountains of northwest Massachusetts. 

In the 19th century it was the second longest tunnel ever built--this accomplishment is still touted in history books. 
Construction started in 1851 and twenty-four years later in 1874, it was completed.

The workers that dug through this tunnel used a variety of tools, including their hands. They used machines, gunpowder and nitroglycerine, which proved to be the most deadly, to blast through the solid rock.

Their methods became the “gold standard” for tunnels built after this, but the Hoosac Tunnel came at a high price. One hundred ninety-six men lost their lives during the construction. This was one man’s life for every one hundred and twenty-seven feet dug.

Under Construction
The use of nitroglycerine was the cause for most of these deaths.

Considering the tragic way in which these men died it is not surprising the Hoosac Tunnel has many stories, some folklore, some considered true about the ghosts that still linger in and around this tunnel.

Bizarre occurrences were reported as early as 1866 when the tunnel was still under construction.

Three workers, Ned Brinkman, Billy Nash and Ringo Kelley were working with nitroglycerine in the tunnel in 1865. This unstable “highly volatile liquid explosive” had just been introduced into the market and most did not know how to use it correctly.

Brinkman and Nash were planting nitro against the tunnel wall when Kelley set off the charge prematurely. Both Brinkman and Nash were killed in the blast. Kelley emerged from the rubble without a scratch.

What actually happened remains a mystery but many believed the deaths were not an accident. Most concluded that foul play took Brinkman and Nash’s lives.

Their suspicions were backed up when Kelley quit his job shortly after the incident and disappeared.

A year later, in March of 1866, Kelley reappeared. His dead body was found in the tunnel on the exact spot where Brinkman and Nash were killed. A look of terror was frozen on Kelley’s face. Dark bruises were discovered around his throat.

It was apparent very strong hands had strangled Kelley. Many felt the spirits of Brinkman and Nash had finally gotten their revenge.

After the deaths of Brinkman and Nash, many of the workmen in the Hoosac Tunnel began to feel it was haunted. These brave men who fearlessly used dynamite and nitro quit their jobs when confronted with ghosts.

The sounds of gruesome moans were heard throughout the tunnel. It was described as if someone were in great pain. Reports of this phenomenon became so common that the construction company in the fall of 1868, hired a detective to investigate.

Workers resting on wooden supports.
Paul Travers, a respected mechanical engineer and former Civil War officer was brought in to establish “a reasonable” explanation for what was being heard.

After a month the company was disappointed, for Travers report confirmed he had actually been frightened several times by unexplainable human moans while in the tunnel.

In Part ll of Hoosac Tunnel: The Bloody Pit I share more stories including more recent ones about the ghosts that are seen and heard around this tunnel.

Dan Asfar, Haunted Highways, Ghost Stories and Strange Tales, 1973 here.

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