Conquering the darkness: Silver Run Tunnel
Stretching for 72 miles between Wolf Creek and just outside of Parkersburg, the North Bend Rails to Trails is a scenic gem for bicyclists, hikers, and horseback riders. Trees and plants flourish all along the trail and it has an abundance of native wildlife. Once a Civil War rail corridor, the track was decommissioned in 1988 and bought by the North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation, who turned it in to the trail it is today.
But though the tracks have been torn out, the old rail tunnels through the mountains remain. There are an impressive 13 of them, though only 10 are accessible. Lined with brick and concrete (or just cut through the rock itself) the tunnels are the highlight of the trip.
This includes Tunnel 19 or the Silver Run Tunnel, which is said to be haunted.
The story goes something like this: On a foggy moonlit night in 1910, an engineer working for B&O railroad saw a woman with dark hair in a long white dress standing in the middle of the tracks at the far end of the tunnel. He brought the train to a screeching halt, but no one was there.
The company changed engineers. The second one, too, saw the woman in white and repeatedly stopped the train and found no one. Then, one night, he decided to do otherwise. He saw the woman in white, but made no move to slow down. Soon, phones began to ring in at the Parkersburg Rail Depot, reporting a train going by with something white on the front that looked like a woman. But when the train arrived at the station, there was no sign that anything had even touched the front of the train.
No one knows who the ghost is or what she wants, but Silver Run tunnel is still said to be haunted. Some people refuse to go in the tunnel and dogs will stop at the tunnel mouth and refuse to go further.
My own experience with the tunnel started the summer of my freshman year in college. In a fit of boredom, a couple of my friends and I decided to check it out.
After driving out as near to the tunnel as we could get, we dropped on to the trail through the weeds just a short distance away. A short walk brought us to the tunnel mouth.
All of the tunnels on the trail are daunting if nothing else. Damp and echoing, many of them curve just enough so the light at the end is not visible and the tunnel is pitch black.
It’s been a while since I’ve been afraid of the dark, but I was hesitant to go through. This was possibly a combination of my own active imagination and my flaky companions, who weren’t keen on going in either. But we’d come to do this, so we linked arms and started forward.
All of the tunnels on the trail are cold (something to do with being dark and damp), so there was no unexpected drop in temperature that is supposed to be the hallmark of supernatural activity. Just the same, when we were starting to get far enough away from the entrance that the darkness was becoming complete, we stopped, unwilling to go further.
For a long while, none of us said anything. Personally, I was trying to force my feet to go forward. Finally one of my friends said, “Let’s go back,” and the other girl and I agreed.
Now, I don’t like retreating. Not from things like this. I either sit it out or I see it through to the end. And I as stood in front of the tunnel, I started to get angry. My family raised me to be logical and logic doesn’t like things like ghosts. I was not about to be daunted by something dead. “No ghost is going to keep me from going through this tunnel,” I thought and started through, mad as a pinched hornet.
“Uh … Autumn, where are you going?” one of my friends said from behind me. I was too irritated to answer. A few moments later, I heard footsteps behind me and my friends caught up with me.
Again we went into the dark. We’d just started the curve of the tunnel, when I felt – I hesitate to say a touch, because there wasn’t anything physical there – but there was a kind a pressure, as though something was touching the side of my face. My impression was that of thickening darkness in the form of a many fingered hand, slowly spreading toward my eye.
Hell if I’m going take any of this. “Hey! Lay off!” I snapped loudly, willing it to do just that.
The feeling vanished and we walked through the tunnel without any further issues. The return trip was just as easy.
Examining the incident years later, I suspect that this was my overactive (and frequently independent) imagination playing tricks on me. If the tunnel is haunted, I suspect I have not yet met the ghost. But I am still a semi-frequent biker on the North Bend Rails to Trails and one day I intend to go through the Silver Run Tunnel again, this time alone.
If you’d like see if you can spot the Ghost of Silver Run Tunnel, or would just like to check out the North Bend Rails to Trails, check out their website at: northbendrailtrail.net for information and directions.