The Ghost of Silver Run
Early in the 20th Century, in an area remote to
everyone but B & O Railroad workers and engineers is a place called Silver Run.
Imagine a time nearing midnight. A full moon hangs in indistinct, drowsy gases
directly over the Silver Run railroad tunnel.
Everyone calls you 0’ Flannery and you work as an engineer for the B & 0 railroad. Like your Ulster Irish ancestors, you have worked for the railroad most of your life and can hardly imagine a job anywhere else. You are hardened and pragmatic because that is the way the world has been toward you.
For the most part your route, between Clarksburg and Parkersburg, West Virginia is a ninety-mile stretch of curving, monotonous railroad. You see or encounter very little along the rails — except for an occasional dairy cow that breaks through a fence and loses her way.
As your engine makes the bend heading toward Silver Run tunnel you glimpse something pale and fluttering in dead center of the railroad tracks. As you draw closer you clearly see it is a young woman with pitch-black hair and white, bloodless skin. She wears a pale gown. She does not look at you at all. In fact, you wonder if she is a sleepwalker from one of the surrounding houses that has wandered out on the tracks.
You find that you are not able to move. Your hands grasp the engine full-throttle. Suddenly, you glimpse the ethereal woman who turns toward you with eyes cold and foreboding. She makes no effort to move. Instead, she flies up into the air like a great white bat and is spirited away into the night. Shaken, you remember the stories about the Ghost of Silver Run tunnel you heard from other engineers and you taunted them. You said you didn’t believe in ghosts and anyone who did was a damned fool. Only now you believe...
idea of phantom travelers is in every culture. The belief is that ghosts will
haunt travel routes, trains, highways and even airports that they have some
emotional connection to, such as having their destinations interrupted through
death or injury. The spirits will continue to appear where the traumatic event
happened in effort to resolve it.
Traumatic events, such as sudden death and even murder, can leave a residual energy of the deceased that somehow exists outside of our human conception of time. In this way, the actual apparition or ghost has no consciousness, and is more like a hologram or recording getting played over and over again. This type of ghostly appearance is like terrible scream that is heard but continues to resonate. Because of the shock or trauma it never loses the emotional power behind the event.
The following tales, such as the Ghost of Silver Run, are similar to many phantom traveler and ghostly hitchhiker stories reported over the last fifty years, all a part of urban legends of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Ghostly hitchhikers began to be recorded after the availability of automobiles in the U.S. However, stories of phantom travelers have been told throughout the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Some of these tales trace back to a belief in the Crossroads, a place where ghosts and devils lurk.
The appearance of phantom travelers in trains, planes, cars, buses and even motorcycles are very recent, of course, but they do hint at a parallel realm that we, as frail humans, cannot ftully understand. The explanation may be as simple as the phantoms contacting the living in ways the living can understand. Yet somehow the realm of the phantom traveler does exists outside our mortal ability to comprehend matters of a more spiritual nature. It seems the spirits of the dead are more than happy to remind us time and again of their existence by their unexpected visits and ghostly calling cards.
Not far from Parkersburg, in an isolated patch of Ritchie County is the small community of Silver Run, a lonely place where tales of a ghostly traveler still causes flesh to crawl. Accounts tell of a raven-haired apparition with skin as white as moon light, one that haunts the old railroad tracks. Dressed in a long gown, the ghost always appears at the mouth of the Silver Run Tunnel.
Anyone familiar with the history of northern West Virginia knows of the pivotal role the B & 0 railroad played in developing the north central part of the state. While the southern region of the state had its coal wars and family feuds, the history of north central West Virginia is calmer, more subdued, a bit more civilized perhaps...
That is, unless you believe in ghosts.
Today Silver Run is (no pun intended) a ghost town, where flowers with names like Tiger Lily, Snowballs and Black-Eyed-Susan’s strain under the dusty talc of Ritchie County’s backcountry roads. If you drive down Silver Run road today, you can still see the old tunnel and abandoned houses reclaimed by the weeds, as well as the remains of a once-thriving marble factory, a place that made marbles with names like “cat eyes.” Even still, one can imagine the inside of the factory lit up by the bright orange, molten lava of liquid glass. Such glass plants, so typical of northern West Virginia, even in their hey-day, looked like tin-sheeted, thrown- together, squatter’s shacks.
However, the little town of Silver Run did exist once, as did its very own ghost. And so, this is her story, “the Ghost of Silver Run.” Over lOO-years-ago, when the B & 0 railroad was a considerable force in West Virginia, and trains rolling through Silver Run was almost an hourly occurrence, an event happened so strange, it is still fresh in the minds of some older residents of Wood and Ritchie counties.
Nearing midnight one late August night, as mid-summer fog hung in thick, wet veils across the rails, an engineer making his way toward the Silver Run Tunnel spotted a young woman standing in dead center of the tracks.
This, by itself, was out of the ordinary. Mostly drunks wandered out on the rails at night, usually ending up scattered in pieces over the tracks, never knowing what hit them. But the young woman’s face appeared blank, stricken, as if she had lost her way, perhaps after having an argument. After all, the young woman did appear to be upset or confused since she made no effort to move away from the railroad tracks.
As the engineer turned on his whistle to warn of the oncoming train, the woman turned and stared at him but seemed frozen in time. Although the lady was visible only for a matter of seconds, the engineer saw that she was thinly dressed in a filmy dress. But what was most striking was her black hair and white skin. At the moment the startled engineer thought that his train was about to slam into the woman, he watched her fly up into the air only to disappear into the night.
As he tried to control his train, the engineer’s heart nearly lunged out of his chest. Striking down any person was bad enough, but hitting a beautiful young woman took on the shades of a nightmare. He could only imagine the horror of maroon blood spattered against that pearly, white skin...
After several frantic moments, the engineer brought his engine to a stop. He was
sure he’d find her dead body (or parts of one) along the tracks. With his engine
fireman beside him, the engineer embarked on a short search for the woman.
Neither man was anxious to see the destruction that a train would do to a human
body, but leaving it there until the light of the day would be a disgrace. This was someone’s child, it made no difference how lost she was.
After searching the tracks for a while the men concluded there was no body. It so happened that this mesmerizing, dark-haired woman was indeed a ghost.
Convinced he’d had too much coffee and too little sleep, the engineer pushed this unsettling occurrence out of his mind and continued with his duties over the time. But the ghost of the young woman had a message to convey at the Silver Run Tunnel, and made several more appearances at the tunnel over the following weeks. Each week a train came to a stop and each time the figure flew upward and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
When sharing his unsettling experience with other engineers at the 6th Street station in Parkersburg, the engineer was surprised to learn that the apparition had appeared to other railroad men nearing Silver Run Tunnel over the years and nearly all were familiar with the scene as he had encountered it. Some noted the ghostly appearances coincided with the moon phases, the spirit appearing most commonly during a full moon. August appeared to be the most active month for the apparition to reveal herself to the railroad workers. No one knew exactly why.
It so happened that one engineer by the name of O’Flannery hadn’t yet run into the Ghost of Silver Run. In fact, he had never seen any ghost at all and made no bones of the fact that he didn’t believe in ghosts, and anyone that did (according to O’Flannery) was a fool or at least a liar. After a pensive silence, one engineer challenged O’Flannery, saying to the effect that all engineers who had passed through Silver Run Tunnel saw the ghost, and up until then, they never believed in ghosts either.
O’Flannery wouldn’t have any of it. He laughed with bitter sarcasm and vowed that no ghost was going to stop his train— he’d run her down first.
Of course, those schooled in the science of spirits and apparitions understand that one does not challenge a ghost. Ridicule tends to cause spirits to step up their ghostly activity.
About two weeks later it was O’Flannery who was nearing the Silver Run TunneL The time was near midnight. An incandescent moon glowed inside the charcoal-colored clouds. A rich darkness surrounded the traveling train.
As he came upon the Silver Run Tunnel, O’Flannery noticed a flutter of pale movement along the railroad tracks. Much to his surprise, he saw that it was a young woman standing there. She made no effort to move. And, as described by other railroad men earlier, it appeared the raven-haired apparition flew into the air and was spirited away into the darkness, to be seen no more.
By this time, O’Flannery was, in
fact, unnerved. Sweat poured from his brow. He felt tremendously relieved to get
his train through the Silver Run Tunnel. Even so, O’Flannery was still a
boastful type who looked forward to bragging about how he ran the Ghost of
Silver Run down to the other engineers.
Later, as the
Irishman pulled into the 6th Street train station in Parkersburg, O’Flannery
noticed the place was in a bit of a panic bordering on bedlam. As he walked
through the door, he asked another engineer, “Hey—what’s all the commotion
The engineer answered, “Man, don’t you know? You hit a woman at the Silver Run Tunnel and she rode all the way into Parkersburg on your cow-catcher!”
O’Flannery was left uncharacteristically speechless. After all, the spirit had made a mockery of the man as she would many doubters to come.
Apparently, earlier in the evening, calls flooded the 6th Street train station in Parkersburg from smaller stations along the rails that reported a thinly dressed woman was riding the cowcatcher of O’Flannery’s engine as it passed by! As soon as the engine made its appearance at the 6th Street Station, the woman vanished.
Does the Ghost of Silver Run still haunt the old tunnel? Only those who still live there might know. Many say they still hear the whistle of a train coming up near the Silver Run Tunnel at night. Others claim they see the form of a thinly dressed woman floating eerily along the railroad tracks. But for the rest of us who have never seen her are left to contemplate her mystery, the one they still call the Ghost of Silver Run... --S.S.
A modern-day ghost hunt of Silver Run Tunnel 2006
Scene from "Creepy Canada" episode filmed at the Silver Run Tunnel at Cairo, West Virginia where the ghost of the raven-haired beauty haunts. Seen here are the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Hunters & Mid-Ohio Valley Ghost Hunters. From left to right: Kristall Chambers, Tom Moore, Jim Moore, Susan Sheppard, Virginia Lyons.
Link here to the Creepy Canada website: http://www.creepy.tv/
And the Mid-Ohio Valley Ghost Hunters: http://www.geocities.com/midohiovalleyghosthunters/movgh.html
Scheduled tour dates. September 26th & 27th, October 3rd & 4th, October 10th & 11th, October 17th & 18th, October 24th & 25th, October 30th, 31st, & November 1st. Tours meet at 7:30 p.m. All tours are Friday and Saturday night except for the 30th which is on a Thursday.
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