West Virginia’s “Haunted” Tunnel & The Halloween Chaos It Once Hosted

Construction of Dingess Tunnel
Construction of Dingess Tunnel

Hidden deep within the coal filled Appalachian Mountains of Southern West Virginia rests a forgotten land that is older than time itself. Its valleys are deep, its waters polluted and its terrain is as rough as the rugged men and women who have occupied these centuries old plats for hundreds of years.

The region is known as “Bloody Mingo” and for decades the area has had as one of the most murderous histories in all of American history.

The haunted mountains of this region have been the stage of blood baths too numerous to number, including those of the famed Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, Matewan Massacre and the Battle of Blair Mountain. Even the county’s sheriff was murdered not too long ago while eating lunch in his vehicle.

Tucked away in a dark corner of this remote area is an even greater anomaly – a town, whose primary entrance is a deserted one lane train tunnel nearly 4/5 of a mile long.

The story of this town’s unique entrance dates back nearly a century and a half ago, back to an era when coal mining in West Virginia was first becoming profitable.

For generations, the people of what is now Mingo County, West Virginia, had lived quiet and peaceable lives, enjoying the fruits of the land, living secluded within the tall and unforgiving mountains surrounding them.

All of this changed, however, with the industrial revolution, as the demand for coal soared to record highs.

Soon outside capital began flowing into “Bloody Mingo” and within a decade railroads had linked the previously isolated communities of southern West Virginia to the outside world.

The most notorious of these new railways was Norfolk & Western’s line between Lenore and Wayne County – a railroad that split through the hazardous and lawless region known as “Twelve Pole Creek.”

At the heart of Twelve Pole Creek, railroad workers forged a 3,300 foot long railroad tunnel just south of the community of Dingess.

My grandmother, who lived in this area her entire life, once shared with me tales of this community’s horrific secrets: As new mines began to open, destitute families poured into Mingo County in search of labor in the coal mines. Among the population of workers were African-Americans.

Despising the thought of dark skinned people moving into what had long been viewed as a region exclusively their own, some of the residents of this community are said to have hid along the hillsides just outside of the tunnel’s entrance and shot dark skinned travelers riding aboard the train for sport.

Though no official numbers were ever kept, a countless number of black workers are said to have been killed at the entrance and exits of this tunnel.

Following too many train robberies, accidents and a string of unfortunate events, Norfolk & Western made the decision to abandon the Twelve Pole line and within months two forces of workmen began removing the tracks, ties, and accessory facilities.

Silence soon reigned in the rugged mountains overlooking the area. Gone were the whistles of locomotives and the rumble of cars. Nothing but a long winding bed of cinders, a few decayed ties, and several steel bridges remained.

For decades the skeletal remains of Norfolk & Western’s failed railway line stood as a silent testimony to the region’s ghastly ways.

In the early 1960’s, however, the resourceful men of the mountains commandeered the former railroad line and built upon its beds a road for motorists to travel upon.

Unfortunately, residents of this overlooked area  failed to secure funding from the state’s legislature to improve the tunnel and bridges, thus today residents of this community are forced to drive atop countless one lane train bridges and a nearly mile long one lane tunnel that dates back over a century.

Though the world has done its best to tame this free spirited community, only a handful of years ago, Halloween night brought with it utamed mischief.

For no other reason than the excitement of wrongdoing, many of the young men of the community would set fire to tires inside the tunnel every Halloween night — an action that would greatly complicate travel into and out of the West Virginia community.

After the main entrance to the tiny hamlet had been successfully blocked, teenagers would then engage in uninhabited devilry – ranging from throwing rocks through windows to setting fire to vehicles and structures.

Today, things in this area have calmed down considerably, but folks still remember the days when October 31 more closely resembled the night of a real life “Purge” movie than an innocent evening for tricks and treats!

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