CAIRO - For many years there have been tales of a young woman haunting the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that ran through the 1,376-foot-long tunnel at Silver Run in Ritchie County.
Today as part of the North Bend Rail Trail, the story of the ghost is one of the attractions along the former railway that is part of the American Discovery Trail.
D.J. Allen, co-owner of Country Trail Bikes in Cairo with her husband, said the ghost has been seen by many riders on the trail. She said some report seeing what appears to be a child.
"They used to do haunted tunnel rides on Halloween to the tunnel," she said.
Allen said she took a picture once and her photos showed what appeared to be orbs, a ball of light associated with hauntings.
"I didn't realize until later what an orb was and it was kind of eerie," she said. "There are people who take their dog to the tunnel and the dog will stand there, bark and refuse to go through."
Allen said ghost hunters are there many times trying to get recordings of the ghost or ghosts in the tunnel.
"There have been people who spent the night in the tunnel just to see what is happening," she said.
Allen said the tunnel, the third longest on the trail, is the best known for hauntings. She said the story of the woman in white is a tragic story.
"A woman was one her way from Grafton to Parkersburg to get married," she said. "Something happened to her along the way. No one knows what happened for sure but for many years as trains approached the tunnel engineers would see this image of a woman in a long, flowing white dress."
Allen said engineers would stop the train in time to avoid hitting the woman but she would disappear before their eyes.
"As this kept happening railroad officials thought the engineer was cracking up and they replaced him," she said. "They got a new engineer and the same thing happened to him - he would get to the Silver Run Tunnel he'd see the image of a woman in a long, flowing white dress."
One night, as the story goes, he decided to keep going on his way to Parkersburg despite what he saw on the tracks that night.
"He decided he didn't care what happened, so he went full throttle, full speed ahead," she said. "It was just about dusk when he got to the tunnel. It was foggy and there was a full moon and there was the woman in her gown and he kept going."
As he made his way, the Parkersburg terminal got calls reporting something white on the front of the train.
"By the time the train made it to Parkersburg, the fog had lifted but there was nothing there.
Allen said several years later some bones were found under a house near the tunnel. That discovery led to speculation about what happened to the woman.
"It's unknown what happened to her," Allen said. "Maybe she was pushed, or maybe she jumped from the train. Nobody knows what happened to her."
About five years ago Allen said she heard a new story about the tunnel.
"We never heard this before," she said. "Some people said they saw the image of a child. One lady came in to the store and she looked around to see if no one else was there and she began to tell me about seeing the child."
Allen said she doubts the woman would have told them about it if anyone else was there.
"Later that summer another lady came in did the exact same thing and told us the same story - the two ladies were not related," she said. "She said her sister lived on the other side of the tunnel and she said there is an old Irish cemetery at the top of the mountain. People who worked there are buried there as are people who died in a nearby mine explosion are there."
Allen said the woman said she saw the child sitting on a tomb stone.
"He was kicking his feet up," she said. "It scared her and she said she would neve go by there again at night."
Recently, Allen said a former resident told her the child had been seen for years by local residents.
"This isn't something new to some, I don't know why the child wasn't appearing for a long time but he knew about the child," she said. "Someone who said this woman who was on her way to be married wanted a family really bad. We don't know if there was an accident with a child there - we don't know the story of the child."
Allen said many people have had things happen near the tunnel.
"One time a group was hiking and they got separated, but when they got to the tunnel they thought the others were ahead of them when they were actually behind them," she said. "They heard voices in the tunnel and they went through and there was nobody there. People have said they've seen a bride in the tunnel.
"A family camped out near the tunnel last year and they had some instances of someone pushing them away, they were a little freaked out by that."
Allen said the tunnel is starting to draw ghost hunters.
"Silver Run has its own unique draw," she said. "It's remote and long, but a lot of people go through it. There are people afraid to go through it. I wouldn't go through it without a flashlight."
Allen said he tunnel is a marvel from a building stand point.
"It's neat to go through that tunnel to think of the work," she said. "That tunnel was built around the Civil Wart time, it's neat to think of the work that went into them. Of course, there were accidents, so you don't know what kind of spirits maybe lurking there."