Saturday, November 12, 2011

Flinderation Tunnel

Flinderation Tunnel from Facebook

There's an old, out-of-commission railroad line that passes beneath the Flinderation Tunnel near Salem, West Virginia. Officially known as the Brandy Gap Tunnel, it's located just off Flinderation Road and hence its local moniker. The 1,086' long tube was built in the 1850s as part of a main line of the B&O/CSX system.

It's sited about an hour away from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and in fact they were featured together on the same Ghost Hunters episode in 2009. The asylum is well known as one of West Virginia's hottest paranormal spots. Flinderation's claim to spooked out fame begins with a three-man track gang working in the tunnel, sometime in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

While the gandy dancers were doing their thing, a train roared through the narrow tunnel, its engineer unaware that there was any work going on inside. One man managed to escape the speeding train, but the other pair were mangled and killed by the Iron Horse.

The train itself derailed, and there are conflicting tales as to why. One story says it was because the track work wasn't completed; another says that it tipped off the tracks while dragging a worker's body under its wheels. No one has found any published verification of the train wreck story, but it was long ago and far from any large towns. Beside, a train derailment and a couple of railroaders accidentally shuffling off this mortal coil wouldn't have been big news during that era.

Another tale equally as gruesome claims that the tunnel was a regular gathering point of the KKK in the early 1900s. Not only did the klansmen meet there, but they used the dark tunnel as a lynching spot to create a little extra terror while performing their horrific deeds.

To add to the eerie mix, Travel Channel's Ghost Stories said that a cemetery once existed atop the tunnel. The show claimed that some of the coffins fell through the roof of the tunnel, and that a disinterred body may have once been lodged between the tunnel's roof and the cemetery above.

As you might imagine, Flinderation's karma took quite a hit because of these events, and the tunnel has the paranormal lore to back its hard luck history.

People claim to have heard phantom train whistles and have seen a ghost train (or at least its lights) rumble through the tunnel, along with the sound of metal scraping against metal. The spirits of a young boy and girl, giggling and laughing, have been seen and heard. Voices saying "Help me" and "Quit pushing" have been reported by paranormal investigators, apparently remnants of the long-ago derailment.

Other sounds such as deep grumbles, sobbing and screaming are heard as common occurrences and been captured by EVPs. Unexplained lights, bodiless footsteps, orbs and mists have been both sighted and photographed.

Flinderation Tunnel was officially closed and the tracks were torn out in the nineties. It was out of service for some time prior to then because of the decline of railroad traffic in general and, it's said, because the tunnel's dark tales made it a track that railroaders religiously wanted to avoid. Today, like so many other abandoned rail lines, it's a recreational run, part of the eastern end of the North Bend Rail Trail.

So you can lace up your Nikes, hop on your bike, or jump on your horse (it's also an equestrian trail) to check out the legends of Flinderation Tunnel. When you get inside, your creep-o-meter will red line. It's pitch black once you're a few feet in (and flashlight batteries are said to die inside), its path is muddy and treacherous, and water drips through the ceiling while the splashes echo noisily off the walls. Or is that a decomposing body falling through the roof...?

Heck, if you dig the chills and eerie ambiance of Flinderation Tunnel, you can "like" its Facebook page. Even apparitions know how to get out the word with social tools nowadays. And ain't that spooky?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homestead Carnegie Library

Homestead Library from Library Journal

Built in 1898, the Carnegie Library of Homestead - actually, it's located in Munhall - was designed by Alden & Harlow and constructed by William Miller & Sons, both well known artisans from Pittsburgh, at a cost of $250,000.

This library was Carnegie's gift to the workers and families of the nearby Homestead Steel Works. It was small consolation for a community torn asunder by the bloody Homestead Strike of 1892. Many didn't even want to accept the building, though it eventually became a well-used neighborhood gathering spot with its books, pool, gym and music hall.

It didn't take long for some bad mojo to strike. Robert Peebles "was found dead in eight feet of water" in the pool on November 28th, 1899, "under mysterious circumstances" according to the Homestead Messenger. No one has claimed to see his spirit hovering, but there are plenty of other eerie experiences connected to the complex.

Books fly off the stacks and switch positions on the library shelves for no apparent reason, and doors open and close without any human intervention. Loud disembodied voices have been reported (no doubt drawing a frown and a "shhhh" from the not-easily-spooked librarians). The ghosts of old steel hands, still dressed in their sooty mill outfits, wander about the structure.

The library isn't the only hot spot for the unexplained. The housekeeper claimed to have seen a shadow moving in the back steps of the old music hall in the library; shadow figures of both sexes are regularly sighted in the building. The voices of ladies giggling in the basement locker room have been heard, and by no less than the Syfy Channel's "Ghost Hunters" squad.

The TAPS team visited the library in May of this year, and in September aired an episode from Homestead including Carnegie's building. And they confirmed most of the above phenomena to be active during their midnight expedition.

So if you ever stop by to grab a book or catch a show in the music hall, remember that the old steelworker standing nearby may not be on break from pumpin' iron and sweating steel, but an ethereal reminder of Homestead's misty past.