Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dingess Tunnel

Dingess Tunnel ca 1893
Dingess Tunnel is one of those super-haunted locations that everyone seems to know about.  Everyone...except for me!  Originally constructed in 1892 for the Norfolk and Western Railroad, the tunnel served as a major landmark along what was known as the Twelve Pole Creek Line, between Lenore and Wayne.  Nearly a mile long and now open to automobile traffic, the tunnel is today used as a major thoroughfare into the small Mingo County town of Dingess.  However, a long and seedy reputation of violence and death has permanently scarred the historic structure and ensured its position as a Haunted West Virginia place of interest!

As already stated, the tunnel was constructed in 1892 and according to local history, it was constructed largely by African American and Chinese immigrant labor.  It was these two ethnic groups, among many impoverished families of all colors and backgrounds who not only flocked to the area to work on the railroad tunnel construction, but also to work the coal mines in and around Dingess.  It is said that there were a fair share of accidental deaths while the tunnel was under construction...but that there's an even darker history to account for the high number of deaths surrounding the tunnel itself!

During construction of the tunnel and throughout its first 12 years of use or so, this was THE main route in this area of Mingo County. However, locals didn't take kindly to outsiders, especially if those outsiders were of a much darker skin tone. Local lore is filled with tales of an unknown number of deaths resulting in outsiders, especially African Americans, being shot to death at the entrances to the tunnel. This violent history continued well into the second half of the 20th century. According to an article for the e-WV Encyclopedia by Robert Spence, writer Huey Perry described it as a notorious ambush site in his 1972 memoir of the Poverty War, They’ll Cut Off Your Project. An example of these ambushes was felt by a contributor to an query about the tunnel. This person related a tale that happened to her family in 1968 when her husband, child, family friend and herself attempted to go through the tunnel with out of state plates. They were stopped on the other side by several men with shotguns, demanding to know who they were and why they were there. The husband told them they were there to visit family members, and after providing his driver's license as proof of identity and luckily LOOKING like the family he said they were there to visit, the car was begrudgingly allowed through.

In addition to the violence, the narrow tunnel has also seen its fair share of accidents as well. There is mention of an event in June 1905 where two trains collided, resulting in the deaths of at least three people, but I have yet to find any substantial information on it. I did, however, stumble across another train wreck at the tunnel that occurred on September 6, 1899. A freight train crashed, resulting in seven deaths, including those of the brakemen, Frank R. Archer and Charles Booth, fireman John Chafgin, and four unknown

From Panoramio

Over the years, the tunnel fell out of favor, and eventually out of use, as a railroad line. In the 1960s, a one-lane paved road was constructed through the tunnel as a main route into the modern town of Dingess.  Today, you can still take an incredibly frightening journey through the habitually dark one-lane tunnel...but keep your eyes open for one of the ghosts of the tunnel!

For years, the tunnel has had a reputation of being haunted by the souls of those who perished in at least one of the train crashes...and possibly those who perished as a result of the high level of violence!  The apparition of a man has been seen hanging at one end of the tunnel, and at least one person claims to have gotten a photo of a little girl standing in the tunnel.  Visitors have also reported experiencing various sounds, both heard audibly to the naked ear, as well as EVP evidence, including a voice saying "Hi" and the sound of organ music.  The tunnel has such a reputation that when the Ghost Lab crew visited in the summer of 2010 to check out an alleged haunted house, locals insisted they make a stop at the tunnel!

UPDATE:  The Logan County Facebook page posted an article from Appalachian magazine about the train collision!  Find the link HERE!

(To those finding this blog through the iReport article, I've noticed some comments in the comment section of that site stating that a ghost hunter's blog is not a legit source, and I wish to clarify.  The purpose of this blog is to combine the fact with the folklore, a tag line clearly stated in my header.  I've reported on the LOCAL folklore and thought I made it clear which parts were backed up by historic resources and primary documentation...and which parts were tales passed down by locals. I'm sorry if I have failed to make that distinction clear enough.  Although I pride myself on doing in-depth research on many of my haunted WV locations, we cannot forget that folklore, no matter how technically "false" it is, is a part of the culture and history of a location as well.)

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