In 1925 — during an attempt to restore the Church Hill Tunnel to useable condition — tragedy struck. Located near Richmond, Virginia on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad’s, the Church Hill Tunnel was one tragic and infamous scene on October 2, 1925.
The sealed west entrance
While repairs were underway, the work train filled with several men became trapped when the eastern part of the tunnel collapsed. Two crawled out of the rubble however, one died hours later due to burn injuries caused by the ruptured boiler. The engineer was killed and other workers were never accounted for. As rescue efforts began and the community watched in angst, more cave-ins occurred. The only body recovered was that of Thomas Joseph Mason, the engineer. He was badly burned with a lever jammed into his chest.
Two men remain buried there: Richard Mosby and H. Smith. Rescuers never located the bodies of the African American laborers and they remain under the 190-foot section of the collapsed tunnel. In the end, it killed at least nine men.
The east entrance
The Virginia State Commission announced the tunnel would be sealed for safety reasons leaving inside the work train and 10 flat cars. Those who have ventured near the tunnel claim they can hear screaming voices saying “get me out.” Others have reported hearing the screech of locomotive wheels and the sound of digging.
One of the popular known entities that lurk in the cave is the infamous Richmond Vampire. This urban legend began immediately after the collapse of the tunnel. A story of a blood covered creature with jagged teeth and skin hanging from its muscular body. It’s said to have emerged from the cave-in and was seen running toward the James River. It was chased by a few men into the Hollywood Cemetery and is said to have disappeared into a mausoleum.
Inside the tunnel