The following text was taken from Historic Haunted America by
Michael Norman & Beth Scott. Copyright 1995. I cannot confirm or deny of of the
stories written here. I can say of all the times I have visited the Hoosac
Tunnel I have never seen or heard a ghost. However the darkness, dampness, and
temperature have made me feel intimidated from time to time. Without further
adieu, the story:
very creepy image is on the wall of the tunnel near the Central Shaft. You
probably don't want to go find it for yourself, it is exactly 12,000 feet from
the East Portal. Courtesy Paul Stevens
In the rugged and beautiful Berkshire Hills of
western Massachusetts, where mists draw patterns on the peaks, ghostly legends
have prevailed since the earliest days of settlement. Around campfires and
the warmth of wood~ burning stoves,
old-timers tell of persons who vanished, never to be seen again; of weird night
sounds echoing down the valleys; and of grown men, sound of mind, filled with
One of the most popular legends is that of the
haunting of the Hoosac Tunnel at North Adams.
The digging of this railroad tunnel is a saga of
blood, sweat and tears. Begun in 1851, it wasn't finished until 1875. During
those twenty-four years, hundreds of miners, using mostly crude black powder and
pick and shovel, chipped away at the unyielding rock of Hoosac Mountain. By the
time the tunnel was finished, two hundred men had lost their lives in what came
to be known as "the bloody pit." Most died in explosions, fires, and drownings,
but one death may not
have been accidental.
In 1865, the explosive nitroglycerin was introduced
to America and used for the first time in the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel.
On the afternoon of March 20, 1865, explosive experts Ned Brinkman, Billy Nash,
and Ringo Kelley planted a charge of nitro and ran toward a safety bunker.
Brinkman and Nash never made it. Kelley bad prematurely set off the charge,
burying his coworkers alive under tons of rock.
Soon after the accident, Kelley disappeared. He was
not seen again until March 30, 1866. His body was found two miles inside the
tunnel in the exact spot where Brinkman and Nash had died. Kelley bad been
strangled to death.
Deputy Sheriff Charles F. Gibson estimated the time
of death at between midnight and 3:30
A.M. An investigation
was carried out, but with no suspects, the murder was never solved.
Some of the workmen, however, came to their
own conclusion. They knew
that Kelley bad been killed by the vengeful spirits of Brinkman and Nash.
Fearing the tunnel was cursed, they balked at entering it. Even visitors became
uneasy inside the dark, dank cavern with water dripping continuously from the
ceiling and streaming down the walls.
Paul Travers, a mechanical engineer employed on the
Hoosac project, toured the tunnel with a Mr. Dunn. Travers had been a highly
respected cavalry officer in the Union army. In a letter to his sister in
Connecticut, dated September 8, 1868, the engineer wrote," ... the men
constantly complain of hearing a man's voice cry out in agony and refuse to
enter the great shaft after nightfall. Mr. Dunn has reassured them time and time
again that the strange sound is nothing more than the wild winds sweeping down
off the mountainside. Our work has slowed to the point where Mr. Dunn asked me
to help him conduct an investigation into the matter.
"Last night Mr. Dunn and I entered the great tunnel
at exactly 9:00 P.M. We traveled about two miles into the shaft and then stopped
to listen. As we stood there in the cold silence, we both heard what truly
sounded like a man groaning out in pain. As you know, I have heard this same
sound many times during the war. Yet, when we turned up the wicks on our lamps,
there were no other human beings in the shaft except Mr. Dunn and myself. I'll
admit I haven't been this frightened since Shiloh. Mr. Dunn agreed that it
wasn't the wind we heard. Perhaps Nash or Brinkman I wonder?"
A month later, on October 17, 1868, the worst
disaster in the tunnel's history occurred. Thirteen miners died in a gas
explosion that blew apart a surface pumping station. Debris filled the central
shaft where the miners were working.
Glenn Drohan, a correspondent for The North Adams
Transcript, reported that a miner named Mallory was low¬ered by bucket and rope
to search for survivors. Brought back to the surface, and almost unconscious
from fumes, he gasped. "No hope."
Without an operating pumping station, the 538-foot
shaft soon filled with water. Bodies of some of the dead miners surfaced. More
than a year later the remaining bodies were found on a raft the men had built to
float on the rising water. They had suffocated from the vapors of deadly naphtha
Drohan wrote. "During the time the miners were
missing, villagers told strange tales of vague shapes and muffled wails near the
water-filled pit. Workmen claimed to see the lost miners carrying picks and
shovels through a shroud of mist and snow at [the] mountaintop.
“The ghostly apparitions would appear briefly, then
vanish, leaving no footprints in the snow, giving no answers to the miners'
"But, as soon as the raft-bound miners were found,
and given a ‘decent’ burial, the visitations ceased."
Yet deep inside the tunnel, the eerie moanings
persisted, and workers were terrified.
Four years after the gas explosion, a Dr. Clifford
Owens visited the tunnel, accompanied by James R.
McKinstrey, a drilling operations superintendent. Dr. Owens wrote the following
account, which was thought to have appeared first in a Michigan newspaper:
"On the night of June 25, 1872, James McKinstrey and
I entered the great excavation at precisely 11:30 P.M. We had traveled about two
full miles into the shaft when we finally halted to rest. Except for the dim
smoky light cast by our lamps, the place was as cold and dark as a tomb.
"James and I stood there talking for a minute or two
and were just about to turn back when suddenly I heard a strange mournful sound.
It was just as if someone or something was suffering great pain. The next thing
I saw was a dim light coming along the tunnel from a westerly direction. At
first, I believed it was probably a workman with a lantern. Yet, as the light
grew closer, it took on a strange blue color and appeared to change shape almost
into the form of a human being without a head. The light seemed to be floating
along about a foot or two above the tunnel floor. In the next instant, it felt
as if the temperature had suddenly dropped and a cold, icy chill ran up and down
my spine. The headless form came so close that I could have reached out and
touched it but I was too terrified to move.
"For what seemed like an eternity, McKinstrey and I
just stood there gaping at the headless thing like two wooden Indians. The blue
light remained motionless for a few seconds as if it were actually looking us
over, then floated off toward the east end of the shaft and vanished into thin
" ... I am above all a realist," he continued, "nor
am I prone to repeating gossip and wild tales that defy a reasonable
explanation. However, in all truth, I can not deny what James McKinstrey and I
witnessed with our own eyes."
On October 16, 1874, Frank Webster, a local hunter,
vanished. Three days later, a search party found him stumbling along the banks
of the Deerfield River in a state of shock. Webster said that strange voices had
ordered him into the Hoosac Tunnel, and once inside he saw ghostly figures
wandering about. Suddenly, something seized his rifle from his hands and beat
him over the head with it. When the searchers found the hunter he had no weapon
with him and he couldn't recall leaving the tunnel.
During that same year, with tunnel headings
completed, workmen removed rubble, completed the grading, and laid track. On
February 9, 1875, the first train went through the tunnel. It pulled 125 people
on three flatcars and a boxcar. North Adams had become "the Western Gateway" to
much of New England.
But even with the completion of the tunnel,
frightening tales still circulated.
In the fall of 1875, Harlan Mulvaney, a fire tender,
was driving a wagonload of firewood into the tunnel late one night. Suddenly
Mulvaney turned his team around, whipped the horses across their flanks, and
careened out of the tunnel.
A couple of days later, workmen found the team and
wagon in woods three miles from the tunnel. Mulvaney was never seen or heard
Joseph lmpoco, a former employee of the Boston and
Maine Railroad, believes there may be some truth to this legend. He went to work
for the railroad at the age of eighteen and claimed the tunnel ghosts saved his
life. Twice! In an interview that appeared in The Berkshire Sampler of October
30, 1977, Impoco told reporter Eileen Kuperschmid that he was chipping ice from
the tracks one day when he heard a voice say, "Run, Joe, run!"
"I turned and sure enough there was No. 60 coming at
me. Boy, did I jump back fast. When I looked there was no one there," he
Impoco said he heard the voice before he heard the
He added that he'd seen a guy with a torch pass by
and wave, but he paid no attention to him. The voice that had come from
somewhere saved his life.
Six weeks later, lmpoco was using an iron crowbar to
free freight cars stuck on icy tracks. Someone shouted, "Joe! Joe! Drop it.
Joe!" He dropped the bar and it was instantly struck and smashed against the
tunnel wall by eleven thousand volts of electricity from a short-circuited
overhead power line.
Later, while removing trees from the tunnel
entrance, lmpoco was nearly crushed when an enormous oak fell in his direction.
He outran the falling tree, all the while hearing a strange, unearthly laugh. He
was certain it hadn't come from one of his crew members.
Joseph Impoco quit his job and moved away. But every
year he returned to visit the runnel and to pay homage to the ghost who had
saved his life. He was certain that if he didn't go tragedy would befall him. In
1977 he stayed home. His wife was ill and she wanted him with her. In October of
that year she died.
In 1976 a parapsychologist from Agawam,
Massachusetts, visited the tunnel and claimed to see the figure of a man wearing
old-fashioned work clothes. The man appeared within a glowing white light. Could
it have been the "Apparition that Owens and McKinstrey had seen 104 years
Ali Allmaker, a philosophy professor at North Adams
State College and part-time ghost hunter, wrote in the Berkshires Week, issue of
July 6-12, 1984: "I have been in the tunnel only once, accompanied by a railroad
official, and can attest to the claim that it is an eerie place. I had the
uncomfortable feeling that someone was walking closely behind me in the darkness
and would tap me on my shoulder or, worse, pull me into some unknown and
unspeakable horror at any moment."
Allmaker also reported that, on one occasion,
college students took a tape recorder into the tunnel, turned it on and left.
When they retrieved the machine, sounds like muffled human voices were heard on
Although today's visitor to the area may be tempted
to enter the tunnel, he risks his life, in doing so because the Boston and Maine
Railroad runs a dozen or more freight trains through the tunnel every day. But
he can gain an appreciation of this enormous engineering feat by visiting the
Hoosac Tunnel Museum in the Western Gateway Heritage State Park that opened in
North Adams in 1985.
And if the visitor talks to certain old-timers,
he'll learn that reports of chilling winds, shrieking noises, and floating
apparitions still occur. Perhaps the Mohawk Indians had correctly named Hoosac
Mountain. In their language it means "the Forbidden Mountain." And did they
also, as some believe, put a curse upon this place to keep it safe from white
Minor points: Hoosac actually means place of rocks, not
forbidden. The tunnel was completed in 1874. Also the miners who died in the
central shaft died from the fire consuming oxygen, not from naphtha fumes.
Copyright 2000 - 2005 Marc Howes|
Trespassing is illegal and
dangerous especially when inside the tunnel with a train! If you go inside and
see a light run and hide! that is unless of course its the portal, then you
don't have to run nor hide. Trains burn diesel fuel and produce among other
things carbon monoxide and deafening amounts of noise! Trains also have people
in them and people have eyes used for seeing things.. Like trespassers! Just be
careful use your head and stay safe.