It Will Shake Your Nerves and Rattle Your Brain: Virginia Haunted Church Hill Tunnel!
All aboard! Visit the haunted C&O Church Hill Tunnel in Richmond.
Tunnels and superstition seem to go hand-in-hand. There are many people who feel a sense of foreboding when entering a tunnel. Perhaps it’s the absence of light or the feeling of being closed in. In the case of the Church Hill Tunnel, there seems to be something more sinister at work. Built in the 1870s as a Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Tunnel, this landmark has been associated with tragedy and ruin. Here’s more on the haunted Church Hill Tunnel, which still exists today but has been blocked off for safety reasons.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway connected the rust belt during its glory days in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It brought prosperity and jobs all around the eastern United States, and this rail line was a godsend for the people of Virginia.
But on one October day, long ago, a terrible tragedy befell the Church Hill Tunnel line…
During routine repairs meant to keep the Church Hill tunnel safe, there was a massive cave-in. More than 150ft of tunnel blocked in hundreds of terrified workers.
Most of the men crawled underneath a train until they escaped out of the East exit. But not all were so lucky.
At least six laborers were confirmed dead, with their bodies pulled out of the mangled wreckage. But each rescue attempt caused more of the tunnel to collapse, preventing any more lives from being saved.
They never recovered the bodies of Richard Lewis and a man known only as H. Smith. Their bones remain stuck in the tunnel to this day, cemented in their final moments of horror. Their spirits are said to be spending eternity in limbo, never to move on without a proper burial.
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The Church Hill Tunnel stretches for 4,000 feet just below Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood. The tunnel was built in 1873 as part of the C&O’s railway system.
The Railway was motivated to reach Collis P. Huntington’s new coal pier in Newport News. The construction of the tunnel was almost immediately problematic. Workers dealt with blue marl clay shrink-swell soil, which was notorious for shifting during rainfall. Ten lives were lost to cave-ins before the tunnel was even completed.
On October 2nd, 1925 the tunnel unexpectedly collapsed as a work train was passing through. Four men were killed and the locomotive was trapped inside the tunnel.
Rescue efforts were made, although they seemed to only aggravate the collapse. For safety reasons, the tunnel was sealed off permanently in 1926.
The east end of the tunnel can be found north of Williamsburg Road near 31st Street, just below Libby Terrace Park.
While sealing the tunnel ensured that no more trains would be at risk of the collapsing structure, cave-ins continued to be an issue.
Today, this tragic episode gets brushed under the rug. Only the Richmond locals carry on the story. Perhaps they want to discourage nosy outsiders from agitating those who never left this mortal plane.
The railway permanently sealed most of the entrances. But some still lay open, overgrown in a dense urban forest.
Should you seek to visit this site, always go with a group. Those who travel alone may encounter the strange and unexpected. If the entrances are boarded up, why then do visitors hear a knocking coming from the inside?
Several houses and other structures have fallen victim to these collapses over the years since the tunnel was closed.
The east entrance to the tunnel is located north of the intersection of E. Franklin Street and N. 31st Street. The tunnel is sealed off just a few feet from this entrance.
The Virginia Historical Society has expressed interest in recovering the train from the enclosed tunnel; however, there are concerns that doing so might cause further damage.
WHEN I HEARD THAT THIS TUNNEL WAS UNDER ABOUT 4,000 FEET AT CHURCH HILL, I COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS WAS SOME CRAZY, REAL LIFE VERSION OF A POLTERGEIST FILM! IT IS INCREDIBLY INTERESTING TO ME THAT THIS NEIGHBORHOOD WAS BUILT PRETTY MUCH ON TOP OF A BURIAL GROUND, SO TO SPEAK. AS I BEGAN TO BECOME MORE AND MORE INTRIGUED BY THIS (BEING A REAL ESTATE AGENT) NEIGHBORHOOD, I DECIDED TO DO MORE RESEARCH ABOUT THE URBAN LEGENDS, IF ANY THAT HAVE COME FROM THIS TUNNEL AND IT’S COLLAPSING.
I READ OF RESIDENTS NEAR AND AROUND THE TUNNEL HEARING THE SLIGHT WHISTLE OF A LOCOMOTIVE UNDERNEATH THE GROUND AND LIGHT SCREAMS THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE THE SOULS OF THE PEOPLE THAT WERE TRAPPED AND KILLED INSIDE OF THE TUNNEL. APPARENTLY, THERE IS A LOT OF SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY THAT HAPPENS AROUND THE TUNNEL ENTRANCE AND EXIT IN OCTOBER. SOME WITNESSES HAVE EVEN SEEN A MAN TRYING TO GET IN OR OUT OF THE TUNNEL, PERHAPS TO TRY AND SAVE THE LOCOMOTIVE. IT IS SAD AND INCREDIBLY FRIGHTENING TO THINK THAT THERE ARE SOULS CAPTURED UNDERNEATH IN THE TUNNEL.
Given its tragic and complicated history, it’s no wonder that the Church Hill Tunnel is associated with paranormal activity. In fact, it’s even associated with the fabled Richmond Vampire.
Whether you believe the Church Hill Tunnel to be haunted or not, there’s no denying the tragedy that has surrounded its existence.
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