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Vampyre Bytes Series: The Richmond Vampire

Updated on June 9, 2014

Grave of W.W. Poole - Date on Plaque is 1913

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Train Tunnel Collapses and a Vampire Emerges From The Wreck

With blood dripping from its face, a vampiric form emerged from a horrific train tunnel cave-in on the ill-fated date of October 2, 1925 - at Richmond, Virginia. Eyewitnesses say the ghastly figure made its way, through the rain - dripping blood all the way - to Hollywood Cemetery and...

...disappeared into the mausoleum, then haunted the area on subsequent nights...

Ah, but there's a beginning to this story...

Church Hill Tunnel Photos


The Tunnel

The Tunnel involved in The Richmond Vampire legend is the "Church Hill Tunnel."

  • February 1872 – Construction began on tunnel
  • January 1873 – Several houses were lost and about half of a city block sank because of a tunnel collapse but the damage was taken care of in short order and work resumed to finish the tunnel
  • December 1873 – C&O Locomotive #2 drove through, dedicating the tunnel
  • 1902 – The C&O stopped using this tunnel, since by this time, use of the tunnel had come to be primarily for a quick route to and from the Fulton Gas Works
  • September 1925 – C&O begin work on increasing the size of this tunnel. The enlargement of tunnel is for the purpose of easing traffic flow from Marshall St. viaduct
  • October 2, 1925 – the Western end of the tunnel collapsed on the engine and men currently working in the tunnel. Many escaped from tunnel opening, one man survived from being on the train (he died later), but at least two die in the tunnel. This event marks the birth of The Richmond Vampire legend!
  • October 3 – 11, 1925 – Shafts are dug in what is hoped to be a rescue effort. Soon after October 3rd, officials have to admit the effort has turned to a 'recovery effort,' rather than a rescue event.
  • October 11, 1925 – Dead engineer from the October 2 tunnel collapse is finally located and pulled from the locomotive. The search for other men proves fruitless at this point and the 'recovery effort' is called off on this day.
  • 1926 – Sand is used to fill this tunnel and the Church Hill Tunnel gets sealed up
  • 1962 – Eastern end of tunnel is still used by C&O - but only as a transfer track; small (?) sinkhole in Jefferson Park
  • 1989 – A tennis court damaged and lost and two houses are damaged when a portion of the eastern end of the tunnel collapses
  • 2000 – Events held to mark the 75th anniversary of the (Oct 2 1925) disaster
  • The Church Hill Tunnel stretched from 18th Street to about 31st Street under the city of Richmond, and is underneath the park known as Jefferson Park but the park used to be the home space of a bakery called Nolde Bros. Bakery. The tunnel is about 80 feet deep, as measured from the top of the tunnel to the highest hill point in line.
  • Had the train disaster and Church Hill Tunnel collapse occurred just 20 minutes sooner, in all likelihood, children returning home from school would have been killed in the collapse.

The contents from the tunnel collapse and train wreck event (Locomotion #231) of October 2 1925 have not yet been successfully excavated in full. There is talk from time to time about the feasibility of excavating at this site.

Details on excavation possibilities here: Excavating Richmond's Buried Train

Locomotive No. 231

Locomotive #231 belonging to Cheasapeake and Ohio railroad company is the locomotive that was buried in the Church Hill Tunnel on October 2, 1925.

The train has not been successfully excavated from the site and lies below Richmond's streets about 160 feet from the 18th Street opening end below 18th Street.

Engineer, Thomas J. Mason was operating the train on October 2, 1925. He was found dead "at the throttle" 9 days after the collapse, when rescue/recovery crews of up to 300 workers managed to push far enough into the collapsed wreck to recover Mr. Mason. Tom Mason was soon buried at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in the local area.

The Legend - The Richmond Vampire

It was a rainy, overcast day in October when certain horrific events occurred in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A., in the year 1925. On October 2, C&O locomotive #231, operated by Engineer, Tom Mason, was heading into Richmond to pass through the tunnel known as the Church Hill Tunnel. The tunnel was a low-traffic route, as its size was being increased and the tunnel was being improved. There were workmen in the tunnel on this day and the locomotive that Engineer Mason was operating was a passenger engine type - although the units Mason was pulling were all flatcars - ten in total - and the flatcar units were empty.

Mason got the locomotive positioned under Richmond's Broad Street, deep into the tunnel underground, and continued travelling from east to west toward the western opening of the tunnel and stopped, as planned, about 80 feet from the west end of the tunnel. Here, Mason stopped the locomotive so that workmen could oncouple the flatcars and use them for hauling debris and excavated earth back out of the tunnel. These excavation duties were for the purpose of enlarging the Church Hill Tunnel and all was going well with this process.

Soon, the flatbeds serving their purpose, Engineer Mason began to direct the locomotive slowly underground to the western portal of the tunnel. As the 231 passed beneath 20th Street, suddenly a few interior bricks in the tunnel fell loose. These were from the old part of the structure of the tunnel roof and they fell, splashing in the puddles on the tunnel floor - but also, some of the bricks damaged and broke some connections for the underground lighting system. The tunnel was plunged into darkness by these errant falling bricks - four thousand feet of pitch black darkness.

Workmen that were able to and who were near the east entrance fled toward the east portal. Carpenters who managed to escape reported later that right after the tunnel lights went out, they felt a sudden and overwhelming, unstoppable gust of wind. Mason's fireman, Benjamin F. Mosby yelled to Mason, "Watch out, Tom! She's a-comin' in !!"

It was too late...

A hundred feet of tunnel material came crashing down upon locomotive #231, engulfing the train, trapping Mason where he stood "at the throttle."

A man, his body in shock - emerged from the crashed-in tunnel:

Shortly after the collapse of the tunnel, a man-like form came out of the tunnel. Covered in blood - with jagged teeth visible and with flesh hanging from its body, this figure, barely recognizable as a human person - raced toward the James River...people tried to chase after the figure but it quickly took refuge in and disappeared into Hollywood Cemetery. It disappeared at the point where a mausoleum is located on the cemetery grounds.

The creature vanished where the mausoleum is built into the hillside of Hollywood Cemetery. The name displayed in that location is that of W.W. Pool.

Church Hill/Richmond Vampire

That's IT!

Well, mostly, this is the whole story.

"Where's the vampire??"

I don't know!

In all my searching online - for about 2+1/2 hours of reading literature about the Church Hill Tunnel disaster and trying to find information on "The Richmond Vampire," I have found NO ACTUAL accounts that sound like a vampire tale or that fit the 'vampire archetype' details or that constitute traditional vampire legend or storytelling.

In all honesty, I think this legend has an inappropriate title.

It's not really a vampire legend - althought there are a few discrepancies in accounts of the Church Hill Tunnel disaster, most of these discrepancies involve the panic-struck stories that circulated immediately after the disaster and while a rescue mission-turned-recovery-mission was under way for about 9 days in Richmond, Virginia.

This legend - the destruction of locomotive #231, etc., the details surrounding this whole event would more appropriately be called, "The Legend of Locomotive #231" or "The Legend of the Church Hill Tunnel Disaster."

Sorry to disappoint you...I know that I, too, was disappointed to examine this "Richmond Vampire" legend in great's not a vampire legend - it's a man-made tech/disaster legend.

One consolation...

If you go back up to the top of the page, here - and read the beginning part - it still sounds like an urban legend, a vampire legend "in the making."

Go back and read this first part, then walk away...and let your imagination go to work and conjure up the best Richmond Vampire you can think of!


Vid on Church Hill Vampire in Richmond Virginia

Details Pushed To Extremes

The only way to MAKE THIS EVENT FIT into the category of 'vampire lore' is to push the details of this story into extremes, assume that many stories were told about a 'vampiric survivor' of locomotive #231 and the Church Hill Tunnel Collapse...

...and to assume that in the 9 days following the disastrous event, the local townspeople imagined that the ghosts of dead workmen trapped and killed in the tunnel started to make themselves known in some way around this time in October 1925.

Perhaps the coincidence of a man who did escape the tunnel immediately after the major effects of the collapse happened - and this man heading toward the cemetery was an event in itself. An event which conjured enough in the imaginations of townspeople for them to start talking about this survivor becoming an undead, vampiric being...


All of the 'survivors' have been accounted for and all those who did not survive the catastrophe have also been duly accounted for - including the man who fled from the tunnel with jagged teeth, covered in blood, with large portions of skin hanging loose from major cuts and fatal injuries.

The "vampire" man was a Mr. Benjamin F. Mosby and he was recovered from where he collapsed after he fled the tunnel. He was barely alive at the time of recovery but soon expired in a local hospital.

The only 'vampiric' qualities the late Mr. Mosby might have showed were that his teeth were, indeed "jagged" and he was all covered in blood...his teeth were jagged because many were broken off in the violent disaster he crawled out of then fled from. He was able to move rather quickly because his entire body and brain were in a state of extreme SHOCK...and the blood covering him all over really requires no further explanation...

Indeed, no vampire legend here.

Just the legend of a traumatic, horrible tunnel collapse involving a number of workmen, a locomotive and its conductor...a rainy day involving death and the macabre visual scene of Mr. Mosby fleeing this accident, under state of physiological shock - Mosby appearing like a visual 'walking dead' person...


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I enjoyed the reality of the Richmond Vampire. I lived around that area. So I was really intrigued the further into your myth buster. Thank you for sharing.

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello dawnM - thanks for reading, considering and commenting. I think, yes, we invest a little time in believing the unbelievable - less time, on occasion, on looking for what makes the most sense.

    • dawnM profile image

      Dawn Michael 

      7 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

      Hi mythbuster, I was really getting into it, but quite interesing how we can see when the truth is revealed how all of the pieces that seemed so real, were eaisly explained. Great job on the facts story line and mythbusting, it looks like you put much hard work into it!

    • mythbuster profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Totally odd, blake4d. Can you tell I became totally "deflated" and depressed while writing this hub? All the magic of the story departed as I delved into the mystery-that-is-no-mystery lol (although NOT a laughing matter). As I researched (the part where the vampiric form emerges from the tunnel, dripping blood, etc) the appeal of something unknown and fantastical went further out of reach 'til it was no longer in sight. Simply - this legend was about the "trauma-speak" of those who witnessed a horrendous sight of a mortally wounded man walking out of a wreck - able to walk due to being in extreme physical SHOCK...who expired later, for sure, in the hospital when doctors weren't able to cope with the man's severe injuries.

      It's one of those few instances where the legend is better left in fragments, holds more appeal while the details are scattered and unquestioned. *sigh*

      I'll head over to see what you've been working on.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Kind of an odd hub, and a little anticlimatic (i cant remember how to spell suddenly). Reading this made me remember to ask ya to check out my newest Interview, i am probably going to start doing more of them...

      Its called "Dark Art - An interview with a modern american...' well I will leave some mystery to wet your appetite. I am very proud of how it turned out, and would welcome your opinions and insight.

      Keep on Hubbing MB



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