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A historic Canadian railway tunnel, in disuse since the 1930s, suddenly becomes an Internet-driven, ghost hunting sensation. What was it that sparked such intense interest around this site? Paranormal investigator and author John Savoie was among those caught up in the fascination over this rail tunnel. The tunnel is located near the Welland Canal which was constructed in the late nineteenth century. The canal slices across the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. To understand the making of the legend around the tunnel in context of its history and paranormal studies, John has written The Blue Ghost Tunnel: The Making of a Legend, which will be soon be released as a printed book and an e-book. (Publication details will be noted here when it is available.)
At least since the 1950s, the abandoned tunnel has had a reputation among the community, especially among its young people who ventured to it at night as a party spot, but its spooky atmosphere remained a fairly obscure part of local lore. Until 1999. In that year a young man only known by the name Russ sparked mass interest in the tunnel, telling tales on his website about encountering misty apparitions, banging noises, green slime, and sexual harrassment from a demonic entity. He referred to it as the “Blue Ghost Tunnel,” and from his dramatic accounts (which Russ attempted to sell to publishers and to Hollywood), interest among paranormal enthusiasts became viral, spawning a televised investigation by ghost hunters on the Canadian television series Creepy Canada and countless night vigils documented on websites.
In his book, Savoie also looks at the history of the tunnel, the construction of the Welland Canal, the land on which the tunnel was built, and how historical events were distorted to fuel the urban legend of the haunted tunnel. Interspersed are John’s own experiences at the tunnel that suggest that despite the hype, there are things that are extraordinary about this tunnel. Featuring historic photographs, maps, and artful photography by Kevin Valencourt, the book is a valuable contribution to studies on folklore, urban legends, and paranormal experiences.
John has a blog related to paranormal investigation, Out of the Dark: The Ghost Hunting Chronicles. He is also the author of Shadows of Niagara: Investigating Canada’s Most Haunted Region, available through lulu.com and iTunes. He currently lives in Bragg Creek, Alberta, where he investigates the paranormal in Alberta, British Columbia, and the western United States.
I spoke to John as he prepares the release of the book.
Christopher Laursen: How did you personally become part of what was happening at the Blue Ghost Tunnel (BGT)? What did you originally think of the place?
John Savoie: I became aware of the tunnel through conversations with friends about suggested haunted locations that were accessible in Niagara and I became fascinated by the stories of the tunnel, the suggested consecrated cemetery and the remoteness of the location.
My first impression of the tunnel was one of awe. The dark, large-mouth of the tunnel was oppressive, even during the dusk hours. Inside the cold, damp atmosphere brought imagination into play. My relationship with the tunnel started off with fascination and fear, and later turned into belief, and then some ten years later turned to skepticism. What the tunnel had allowed me to do was to change my perception of ghosts and hauntings and to examine a totally different angle of why places are haunted.
Individual people experienced the tunnel in very different ways. In what ways did these experiences bring people together or create adversity?
The tunnel has produced a great deal of experiences for many individuals and paranormal groups and these experiences vary to such a degree that this single location has caused a great deal of tension and misunderstanding amongst ghost hunters, researchers and others interested in the paranormal. It is one of the most highly contested “haunted” locations I have ever come across. No where else can one expect threats of violence based on your belief of the occurrences and history of the location.
What I found particularly fascinating in the book is that originally it seemed that one person who we only know as Russ had spawned the intense attention around the Blue Ghost Tunnel in 1999. But you later found out that the tales around the tunnel went back quite a bit further. How did these earlier experiences emerge as you were assembling details, and in what ways did they impact the direction of your research?
I knew that Russ had not stumbled upon the tunnel, as he maintained online and through conversations with others. His story simply did not add up and it was evident he was trying to be the discoverer of the tunnel, as this would add to his story later on.
As I assembled the history of the tunnel and conversed with others who had visited the tunnel I learned that the stories about a haunting went back as early as the 1950s. However, these tales did not weave their way into the fabric of the legend that we know today. They were simply stories passed on between children and teens.
I tried hard to find evidence of the essence of the hauntings and followed a few leads that did not pan out. Without news clippings, police reports, historical documents and death records, I was lead to believe that these earlier stories were not based on fact. I included all the stories in the book because, they are now part of the urban legend.
Posted by Blog Poster Saturday, July 14, 2012 comments (0)