Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sideling Hill Spooks

Photobucket
Sideling Hill Tunnel taken by Ross Sieber and shown on Wikipedia

Sidleing Hill is part of the Allegheny Mountains, and crosses West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It's part of what the early settlers called Side Long Hill in the mid 1700s, and the ridge was part of a cross-state trail back in the day that carried them over, not under, the mountains.

The spot we're interested in is located about a 1/4 mile from the old Sideling Hill Tunnel, a partially built Southern Penn RR tunnel that the Turnpike finished in the 1930s and opened in 1940, close to Breezewood.

It was deserted after a 1968 bypass took it out of business, and it's now part of a bike trail. The hill is in Wells Valley, Fulton County, and has been the site of a couple of work camps.

A CCC camp was set up there during the depression, and then during WW2, it was surrounded in barbed wire and reopened as a camp for CO's and German POWs. It's pretty much in ruins now, except for the Commandant's House, which park rangers from Buchanon State Forest still use.

Otherwise, all that's left standing is a wall, some crumbled foundations, and a few rusted pipes. You'll know you're there by the sense of angst that fills most visitors.

The spooks don't really seem to care about the camp's condition; it's still home to them. Two GI's in uniform have been sighted, roaming the campgrounds and then disappearing when you approach them, on eternal patrol of their POW barracks.

Others have seen an older man that runs towards them, yelling in German, before vanishing. He's probably asking if the war is over yet and whether he can finally go home. We suspect he'll never lay eyes on the Fatherland again.

Some report still seeing youngsters at work, digging and chopping trees. There was once a car accident while it was a CCC camp that claimed the lives of a pair of teen workers by the tunnel. Maybe they're still working off their karma at the camp.

The old tunnel, even without any spook stories, may be more frightening than the hillside camp. The original plans date back to the year 1881, and the Sideling Hill Tunnel was built by December 1884 for a RR line.

On July 6, 1885, a blast occurred at the end of the Sideling Hill Tunnel that claimed the lives of three people. Just sixteen days later, another blast occurred in the tunnel, taking the lives of six more workers. The bodies were so mutilated by the rocks during the blast that the people were almost unidentifiable. It never opened.

But the Turnpike Commission finished the job in 1940, using it until 1968. It was boarded up when it closed, but later reopened as a test facility for PennDOT. When it was abandoned for good, they kept the portals open.

Since 2001, it's been part of the Pike2Bike Trail, and features 6,782 feet of sheer black darkness, graffiti covered walls, and a debris-filled roadway. So if you're a bike fan, break out the ten speed and take a ride. Let us know if the old hole in the mountain or the deserted camp is spookier; the history of the tunnel are eerie, too.

If you'd like to do a little research first, read about the camp in Mark
Nesbitt and Patty Wilson's Haunted Pennsylvania.

5 comments:

Nick said...

This is somewhere I want to ride at some point

Ron Ieraci said...

Hey Nick - check out this link: http://www.thirdwave-websites.com/bike/PA-turnpike-bike-trail.cfm

It's a good primer on the area and has a lot of other links for bikers.

And let us know how your journey ends up.

rutters said...

in my opinion the tunnel is much scarier ive been there 20 or so times ive also been to the camp the tunnel is way scarier if your brave climb the bank on the right side of the tunnel and go around back to the right side and jump down the wall go inside and keep climbing up in the building there is a smaller ventilation tunnel above the large tunnel that will scare any one you can stomp your foot and the whole mountian will shake its very cool

Ron Ieraci said...

Hey Rutters - I can believe that's a heart thumping trip. Did they take out the ventilation fans, or is there some sort of walk-around where they're at?

Michael Adkins said...

Hey guys,

Can someone give me a location of the camp, we would like to check it out.