It is consider a right of passage, a very dangerous act of misguided bravery that is still practiced today. On any given night, a group of young people will sneak to the entrance of the Big Tunnel, drink *suicides, and play a game of truth or dare. The daree is required to walk through this long, curved tunnel until they reached the bend at the center, a bend so sharp that even daylight can not be seen from either end. Here, the daree is expected to stand in one of the *dead man holes that line the walls of the tunnel and wait in the darkness until the stroke of midnight when they might see the light. Described as a small misshapen glow swinging back and forth in the distance, the light is reported to grow larger and larger as it journeys from one end of the tunnel to the other. It is a warning; a warning to quickly run for your life or seek immediate safety in a dead man hole for a train is coming, a very real freight train making its routine nightly run.
Since its conception in 1857, the Big Tunnel has been cursed with many deaths and unexplained events. Its construction through solid limestone rock proved hazardous and some men lost their lives during the process. Many of the tunnel builders were immigrants or vagabonds, and the deceased with no known family or identification papers are believed to have been buried in the surrounding woods. Are the ghostly wisps seen around the tunnel those unnamed souls trying to jump a ride home on the next train?
Rocks falling on the tracks from the rough-cut passage created a constant threat of derailments. There was a time when watchmen were hired to routinely walk the tunnel and remove rocks from the tracks, their only source of light being from a lantern. There is a story that one watchman was killed working in the tunnel when he was caught off guard by the early arrival of a train. Before he had time to reach safety in one of the dead man holes, he was sucked under the train and decapitated. Because of his inattentiveness, the watchman is now doomed to spend eternity warning of trains passing through the tunnel.
During World War I, military guards were posted at each end of the tunnel as a security measure against sabotage. In April 1917, a national Guardsman was discovered outside the tunnel, shot and killed by an unknown assailant. The tunnel and surrounding area was searched, but no person or even evidence of another person having been in the area was found. The Guardsman’s partner, posted half a mile away at the other end of the tunnel, avowed his innocence, claiming he didn’t hear a shot or even the sounds of a fight. After a military trail, the Guardsman’s partner was found innocent. The case remains unsolved. Could it be the spirit of the murdered Guardsman, seen at the tunnel, looking for his unnamed killer and seeking justice?
During the dangerous depression era, another watchman, after reportedly rescuing a young woman from attackers, was found in the tunnel bludgeoned to death by his own lantern. Perhaps it is his light being seen, warning unsuspecting trespassers of the evils lurking within the tunnel.
Without a doubt, many people believe they have seen the light. Skeptics claim it is nothing more than the light of a train engine or passing cars, but those who have seen it swear that the light appears more like the flickering flame of a candle. Some even report seeing the ghostly figure of a man in uniform swinging a lit lantern as he makes his nightly rounds.
The tunnel is still in use and a very dangerous place. If you are foolish enough to venture into the darkness of the Big Tunnel, when you see the light, take heed. Jump back into one of the dead man holes, hold your breath, and realize the life and death fear of a train whizzing pass you from only a few feet away. When the train and fear have disappeared into the night, say a pray for the soul of the light bearer, before exiting the tunnel an older if not wiser person.