Explanations, History

Tunnel Vision

Clinton train tunnelThe damming of the Nashua River to create the Wachusett Reservoir at the turn of the 20th century changed the face of Clinton, a mill town in central Massachusetts, forever.

Thousands of workers were employed during the construction of the largest hand-dug dam in history, which is still considered to be a remarkable feat of engineering. Businesses, homes and churches needed to be moved when the valley was flooded, as well as the 4,000 bodies in the local cemetery. A new railroad trestle and tunnel needed to be built to accommodate the relocation of the Central Massachusetts Railroad line.

Completed in 1903, the tunnel stretches 1110 feet through the granite of Wilson Hill. At the time of construction, it was the second longest tunnel in the state. The steel trestle was 917 feet long and stretched over Route 70 and the dam, just to the west of the tunnel. This section of rail saw its last train in 1958. The trestle was demolished in the mid 1970′s – the concrete footings are all that remain now. The track within the tunnel has also been removed.

Clinton train tunnel inside.But the tunnel itself remains, now a favorite of urban explorers and local teens alike. Located a short walk up the hill from Route 70, the tunnel is a well-traveled tourist spot that presents a myriad of photo opportunities . . . and opportunities for a more “guerrilla” sort of art.

Though the graffiti is abundant by the entrance, it seems to grow sparse well before the smooth finish of the west portal gives way to the craggy, unfinished granite of the center and eastern stretch. It’s almost like the artists didn’t want to go any further in. Could there be any truth to the haunting stories?

Clinton train tunnel - granite surfaceWhen I first heard tell of the abandoned tunnel in Clinton, I read of the strange feelings that people would have when inside the tunnel, the sensation of being followed or watched, the cold spots, the strange noises, the feeling of making no progress when walking through – as much as one walked the end never seemed to get any closer. I chalked these things up to the usual Shadowlands exaggerations, and we started our journey armed with both open minds and the scientific method.

Clinton train tunnel graffitiOur observations are these: Though the tunnel was indeed about 10 degrees colder than the ambient air outside, we likened it to opening your basement door during the summer and being greeted with a cool breeze. There weren’t cold spots so much as a consistent cool flow of air throughout. As for the noises, we heard both pigeons and a constant dripping noise from the moisture seeping through the rocks; these sounds were amplified by the echo-chamber qualities of the tunnel itself. In regards to the the reported feelings that the tunnel seemed to go on forever, I thought personally that it felt just like the approximate quarter-mile that it actually is, but I can see where one’s eyes might tend to play tricks: both the principle of foreshortening and the fact that you can see the literal light at the end of the tunnel at all times make the distance to the end seem shorter than it is.

In summary, at no point did I personally feel anything frightening or menacing in the tunnel (other than the mold clinging to the roof above our heads. Eeew!). We experienced nothing paranormal while at the tunnel, it was actually quite a peaceful and pleasant experience. Our various equipment registered no quantifiable anomalies, other than a haze in two of our photographs, included below.

Clinton train tunnel - haze 1

Clinton train tunnel - haze 2

As a final note, I’ve come to no definite conclusions regarding these photos. We were using a digital camera with flash in a somewhat damp and possibly dusty environment with little to no natural illumination. I welcome our dear readers to leave any opinions regarding these photographs in the comments section.

And if any of you find yourselves in Clinton, definitely make a point to check this spot out for yourselves.


Posted by Katie
Monday, May 19th, 2008 at 7:48 pm
15 Comments
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  1. i was born in clinton in 1945, spent summers swimming and fishing in the nashua river and worked at the book factory on the river in my college years before entering the army in ’65. i was always fascinated by the dam and the trestle because my grandfather was one of the builders of the dam. now i am researching it and the more i learn, the more i am interested. thank you for posting the photos of something i never knew existed. do u have more? thanks from olympia, wa.

    Comment by earl w. — June 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

  2. Hi, Earl, thanks for reading. We do have a few more photos of the tunnel – they can be found in our Flickr Photostream. Either use the link under “Read More” above, or click here.

    Comment by Katie — June 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

  3. Very nice article!:)

    Comment by Tessa — June 7, 2008 at 10:51 am #

  4. I’m also a clinton resident and i’ve been to the tunnel before and felt things but i only went once and didn’t go completely through so i can’t say if its haunted or not but the local stories say that around 30 or 40 years ago a female rape/murder victim’s body was discovered in the tunnel in a trash bag

    Comment by Tim s. — October 27, 2008 at 12:46 am #

  5. i have a strange photo from inside the clinton tunnel any way i can e mail it to you…

    Comment by george — December 13, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

  6. Hi George, we would love to see it! Please send it when you get the chance. Thanks for reading :-)

    ~Katie

    Comment by Katie — December 13, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

  7. Hi folks, my mother and her family grew up on the eastern side of the tunnel in the house that is up on the right after you come out of the tunnel and go under Clamshell Rd’s bridge. I grew up literally above the tunnel a bit to the right. My brother and I and our friends would spend hours playing in and around the tunnel, and the only real scary part about the tunnel, aside from our own imaginations, is the access into the tunnel on the east end. Its a precarious 50 or so foot drop from the actual top of the entrance to the ground, all rocks are slippery either due to pine needles and leaves or the damp conditions even in the heat of the summer. So just a mild warning to those who venture inside or around the tunnel, please be safety conscious at all times. Bring a flashlight and if you dont feel comfortable climbing, go out the same way you came in. Just a few pointers, and I hope everyone who chooses to explore this lost “cave” so to speak, enjoys their time. PS- look for water snakes at each end of the tunnel and bats in the middle on the ceiling! Good times!

    Comment by Kevin — July 7, 2009 at 3:26 am #

  8. I went partway through the tunnel a few days ago and nothign ghostly happened. The water was running loudly(spring melt) rather than dripping. This spooked my dog who is afraid of running water, so i turned back. I will return another time without her.

    The other end got noticabley closer, the noise was just water, and it was cool in there, as you’d expect from a man-made cave. Especially since it March and a warm day, while the tunnel still had a winter chill in it.

    There were two large creepy white shapes in the tunnel which turned out to be blocks of ice.

    Comment by little gator — March 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

  9. Hi, i live in the nearby town Bolton. i have always heard stories about people going to the tunnel at night because it was creepy, but i didnt know where it was. so the other day me and my brothers and my dad were on a motorcycle ride and we dicided to stop and check it out because my older brother knew where it was. we walked all the way through and it was really cool. i dont understand if people just say its haunted because its abandon or if something happened there that would make it haunted. does anybody know if anything did happen there? because to me it just seemed like a peaceful old train tunnel. im really curious about it and i really want to go back at night and walk through it then.

    Comment by Tim — April 6, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

  10. Tim, there was one event we found. A foreman was killed by a dynamite blast during the tunnels construction. Also there is a rumor of a girls body being found in the tunnel after she had gone missing for a month. I did find an article about the girl going missing and eventually being found but, the article was vague about where she was found. We narrowed it down to the tunnel, or being in close proximity to the tunnel. Also if you are going to visit it at night I would recommend calling the Clinton police department and telling them when you will be there. They will stop and check.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Chris K — May 11, 2010 at 10:44 am #

  11. Hey Katie,

    A friend & I ventured into the tunnel on 9/3 & believe either it’s truly haunted or some one’s got it rigged up pretty well w/ special effects, including images, sounds & fog/mist. At one point on our way back through the tunnel, we both got a strange sense, to me it was of something supernatural. I started taking random pictures & in the screen of my digital camera I saw a white blur racing towards us on the side of the wall. (Yeah….it scared the crap out of me!) At the same time, the end of the tunnel from where we just came started to darken & by the time we had exited, it had completely disappeared. I have both before & after picts of the tunnel end as well as picts w/ an orb, a disembodied head & various faces & images….pretty wild stuff! And almost impossible to believe. If I didn’t take these picts myself, I’d say they were doctored. I would love to forward them to you to get your take on them. The only thing I have done w/ the picts is adjust the exposure & contrast, there’s no Photoshop or anything else. I’d like to share them w/ anyone who would like to see them and/or who might have a clue about the images.

    Btw, did George (above) ever email you that pict? I’d love to see it. Could you either post it or email it to me?

    Diane

    Comment by Diane — September 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

  12. I lived in a new townhouse on Wilson Hill for a couple years. We saw the trestle remains and wondered where on earth the tracks went. We never even saw the tunnel entrance until Fall when the leaves came down and then wondered where the East entrance was. Finally found it. The tunnel must go almost underneath where we lived. But before we knew the tunnel was there a couple times I heard faint howling noises. Wonder if it was wind in the tunnel?

    Comment by Jean — February 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

  13. Jean, funny you should mention the howling noises. During one of our trips we also heard a howling sound near the east entrance. After some searching we found the source of the eerie sound. It was pigeons nesting in crevices on the rock walls close to the tunnels opening. We were also determined that the mist is produced from warm and cool mixing within the tunnel.

    Thanks for stopping in and if you have any more interesting stories feel free to share.

    Chris

    Comment by Chris K — February 25, 2011 at 10:23 am #

  14. hi dian i do have a strange pik fr the tunnel they never posted it…

    Comment by george — April 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

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